PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS FROM PS2 THE UK’S LEADING GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS ORGANISATION
[Relevant documents: The Sixth Report from the Defence Committee, Session 2003–04, HC 572, Defence Procurement, and the Government’s response thereto, Cm 6388]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr Watson.]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The professionalism and bravery of the men and women who serve in our armed forces are beyond question. We are rightly proud of the job that they do. The Government are committed to providing them with the capabilities and the support that they need in today’s increasingly dangerous world. That is why we are investing in defence.
This July’s spending review saw the defence budget increase by £3.7 billion over the next three years. That is the longest period of sustained real growth in planned defence spending for more than 20 years. It is our job to make sure that that extra money is spent in the best way possible. We must ensure that it makes a difference at the place where, every day, our armed forces make a difference: the front line.
We will spend more than £6 billion this year on new equipment and more than £8 billion supporting it. The management of those resources is a huge task. In giving our armed forces the best equipment that we can, we are also committed to delivering value for money to the taxpayer. In doing so, we support the British economy, helping to maintain key parts of our manufacturing and technology base.
Our procurement performance and the armed forces’ equipment are rightly subject to a huge amount of scrutiny. However, sometimes there is unfair and unbalanced criticism. Yes, there have been disappointing delays and cost growth on some of our major legacy projects, but there have also been significant achievements.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP) rose—
Mr. Ingram: No, let me get on with the statement. It is nice to see the hon. Gentleman in his place, as he did not participate in the last debate and did not attend Defence questions. I know that he is the SNP’s defence spokesperson, so he has obviously realised that he has a job to do. I will allow him to intervene later. Let me provide some recent examples from Operation Telic in Iraq. First, we have seen the successful employment of the devastatingly accurate Storm Shadow missiles for the first time. Then there has been the delivery of the Mamba artillery locating radar system six months early, allowing troops to identify enemy positions, which saves soldiers’ lives. Also, the world-leading Bowman personal role radio provided a significant boost to our infantry’s capability. The US Marines were so impressed that they bought some of that equipment.
Angus Robertson: I want to pick up on a point of scrutiny. Is it the case that the UK Government, unlike the US Government, still do not publish a comparative report on defence offset and its impact on the economy and defence manufacturing base? Are not foreign contractors obliged to submit regular reports to the Ministry of Defence every six months, updating their progress on UK offset obligations? If it is possible for the US to publish those details and scrutinise offset there, why is it not the case here?
Mr. Ingram: I think that the best thing would be for me to write to the hon. Gentleman about that. There are reasons why we adopt our particular position. It is not because of the lack of intensity of pressure on companies to deliver, or an unwillingness to see the achievement of all the objectives of a procurement stream being implemented within the UK. My experience tells me that there are good reasons why we do not necessarily put these matters under public scrutiny. The hon. Gentleman shrugs his shoulders as if this were a great mystery. My experience in Government tells me that we do not do things lightly, but after long and careful consideration. Sometimes ther