13 Sep 11. According to the latest survey from the UK’s principle aerospace, defence and security trade organisation ADS overall employment in the area of UK defence not only generates around £22bn in annual revenues for the nation but is also responsible for the direct employment of no less than 110,000 people. Defence manufacturing is a hugely important business for the United Kingdom and it is something that despite the surge in growth of service industries over the past twenty years that we are still very good at. In fact we are the second largest exporter of defence equipment in the world and Oxford Economics estimates that including all those indirectly employed in the industry the total number defence related jobs total 314,000. All in all defence business adds a whopping £35bn of economic value to the UK.
And yet despite the very visible strength, success and value of defence and security equipment technology derived for the UK economy and of what this adds to the potential for exports, to the exchequer in the form of taxes, benefits to the trade balance, to GDP and most importantly, employment why is it that successive UK governments often play only lip service to the benefits of defence to the economy? In a speech this afternoon to the bi-annual Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition (DSEi) Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox will re-iterate that the Coalition government is right behind the defence manufacturing industry. Genuine words of support will of course be welcomed and it is certainly true that unlike the Brown government the value of defence exports to the UK economy is far more greatly appreciated by this government.
It is also true that a variety of defence ministers including Mr. Gerald Howarth MP and Mr Peter Luff have through countless visits to foreign countries lent a great deal of support to the quest of the UK defence industrial base to sell its defence technology abroad and that the Secretary of State has himself ensured that all parts of the MoD are committed to assisting the defence export cause. To ensure this UK and that words are turned into active support UK armed forces chiefs are now accountable to Dr. Fox to show the level of support that they are providing. Along with various visits by Dr. Fox to foreign states the Prime Minister has also visited a variety of foreign countries such as Turkey India and more are planned. Boosting a relationship that goes back over fifty years one may hope that very soon the PM will make the long promised visit to Britain’s largest defence export partner, Saudi Arabia.
Given the untimely delay of the promised Defence Industrial White Paper the speech by Dr. Fox this afternoon will be listened to with eager anticipation by all present. Words are sometimes easier than actions of course but this is not to say this government has not done well in terms of tis support. If there is a criticism it is that the government still hides behind what we may term political correctness as opposed to what it should be doing – putting defence exports on a pedestal as being in the national interest.
The UK takes its responsibility with regard to defence equipment exports very seriously. The UK Export Control Organisation (ECO) is the responsible authority to ensure the efficiency of export controls and the monitoring of co-operation at both European and international levels. The ECO is the official UK representative in terms of monitoring the various international and UN based treaties and export control regimes to which the UK is a signatory. Constantly monitored by the parliamentary process and strengthened last year by the intense action from government to outlaw bribery and corruption suffice to say that strategic export controls in the UK is a system that quite definitely works.
The bottom line is that a full process exists to ensure that exports of defence equipment and any transfer will require a licence from the government t