4 Jul 2005 : Column 1











4 Jul 2005 : Column 1

House of Commons

Monday 4 July 2005

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Second World War

1. Meg Hillier (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): What events are planned to mark the 60th anniversary of the second world war; and if he will make a statement. [8651]

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): It is extremely important that all of us in this country recall the sacrifices of our past and pass on the culture of remembrance from generation to generation. That is why the Government are organising a series of events this week to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war. They will be centred on national commemoration day, on 10 July. It will bring to an end the first ever veterans awareness week, which will concentrate this year on second world war veterans.
4 Jul 2005 : Column 2

Meg Hillier: Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is extremely important to recognise not only the veterans who are still alive but the memory of those who gave their lives in conflict for our future? Will he join me in applauding the work of the late Sir Donald Thompson, a former Member of this House, in establishing the War Memorials Trust, of which I am a trustee? Will my right hon. Friend also promise that he will work with colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that all war memorials—not just listed ones—are preserved, as the conflicts that we are discussing move from living memory to history?

John Reid: I should like to associate myself with my hon. Friend's tribute to Sir Donald, a former Member of this House, whose tireless efforts on behalf of the War   Memorials Trust—a charity dedicated to the conservation and preservation of 65,000 memorials throughout the country—has ensured that those who gave their lives for our freedom are not forgotten. In a real sense, this week's veterans awareness week is intended to be a living memorial not only to those who gave their lives, but to those—military and civilian—who suffered great hardship and made great sacrifices for this country. It is a fitting tribute to them.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I hope that when we do commemorate the many veterans who sacrificed so much, the Secretary of State will remember the many Poles who came to this country. According to some estimates, one in five of the pilots who fought in the battle of Britain were Polish. My own grandfather was among the Poles who came over during the war, and I hope that we can remember them as well.

John Reid: Absolutely. The hon. Gentleman may be pleased to know that I was the first Defence Minister ever to attend the Polish memorial ceremony at Northolt, on Remembrance day 1997. So I do remember the Poles, along with the Czechs and the many other
4 Jul 2005 : Column 3
nationalities who came here. But as the hon. Gentleman says, none were more prominent than the Poles, particularly those who served in the Royal Air Force.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry (Portsmouth, North) (Lab): We in Portsmouth have just commemorated the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar. One of the most moving aspects of last Wednesday's drumhead service was the work that veterans had done with local schoolchildren. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is very important that we keep alive the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of their country, and that our schoolchildren learn what such conflicts were like?

John Reid: Absolutely. I had the great pleasure of attending, with Her Majesty the Queen, the review of the fleet, which took place off Portsmouth, and the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), attended the drumhead ceremony. It is of course vitally important that we recall the lessons to be learned, as well as the memory of those who served in combat for us. First, we should recall the terrible, tragic and huge cost of war. Secondly, we should recall the price of appeasement, which resulted in many more lives being lost than would have otherwise been lost. Thirdly, we should recognise that these memories have to be retained for generation upon generation, because it is on them that we build partnership and peace with former enemies. Thankfully, such efforts have preserved peace in Europe for 60 years.

Joint Strike Fighter

2. Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): If he will make a statement on the ownership of the intellectual property in the joint strike fighter. [8652]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Intellectual property rights in the joint strike fighter system are owned by the contractor generating them, whether UK or US companies. Ownership of subcontractor-generated information is a commercial matter between the contractor and subcontractor. The Ministry of Defence can use the IPR generated under the JSF contracts and subcontracts for purposes associated with JSF, whether nationally or collaboratively with other partner nations.

Mr. Blunt: Will the Minister confirm that owing to lack of access to the intellectual property invested in the joint strike fighter—the UK has now invested some £2 billion in this programme—and owing to the lack of a guarantee of future access to such property and to other elements of the JSF programme, if we ordered this aircraft today, we would not have sovereign control over it? In other words, we would not be able to upgrade and update it in the light of British requirements, once it was in service with us. It is unacceptable for the UK to have such a substantial part of her future defence requirements operating without sovereign control and the fact that this matter has not already been sorted out is a pretty poor return for British assistance to the US. Will the Minister make it clear that it is unacceptable for purchases to go ahead on this basis and will he inform the US Administration that the House believes it to be
4 Jul 2005 : Column 4
indifferent at best that her No. 1 partner in this programme and No. 1 partner in operations around the world is being treated in such a fashion without this issue being resolved?

Mr. Ingram: I well understand the heat generated by the way in which the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter. We constantly make representations to the US Administration through our defence and other contacts. Discussions are under way to ensure that the information transfer, which is crucial to our maintenance of the fleet, is completed to our satisfaction. We are at an early stage as yet, but the determination that the hon. Gentleman requests certainly exists within the Ministry of Defence and elsewhere in the Government.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree that not to have the intellectual property rights and the know-how and ability to service the aircraft as well as build them to supply other nations amounts to a serious setback—not only to the loyal workers at Warton, but to the rest of Europe. The failure to reach agreement on the intellectual rights will put those workers' jobs, and the Royal Air Force as a whole, at risk. Furthermore, we will not have the operational capability to work off the new aircraft carriers. If we fail to get agreement from the Americans, will my right hon. Friend look further into the intellectual property rights and design that was put forward for Typhoon to operate off the carriers and view that as a fall-back position?

Mr. Ingram: We are not yet at the stage of having to consider fall-back options or failure, but I take my hon. Friend's point that this is a very serious issue. I reiterate my earlier answer that we are determined to succeed—for all the reasons that my hon. Friend set out. Negotiations are at an early stage and we have very good relations with the US Administration. There are blockages elsewhere in the political processes of the United States and we all have to work earnestly to ensure that those blockages are removed. This will be an important part of our and, indeed, NATO's defence capability.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): Subject to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) being resolved, does the Minister agree that his own Department's RAND Europe study made a compelling case for Britain to have a final assembly and check-out unit for the joint strike fighter, together with a maintenance and repair unit located here? Will he confirm that, in any further investigations that his Department is making, BAE Systems Warton would be one of the key locations examined in a feasibility study?

Mr. Ingram: One thing that can be said with a finger of certainty is that, whenever this matter is raised, the right hon. Gentleman pops up to speak about it. He is right that we commissioned the RAND study, which has pointed out what needs to be done to move the agenda forward in respect of establishing maintenance, repair and upgrade facilities in the UK. The review on how best to develop that is under way and we hope to conclude by September 2005. It would be wrong to be too predictive
4 Jul 2005 : Column 5
about what will come out of it. No doubt when the subject comes up again, the right hon. Gentleman will be there pushing the case for BAE Systems.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) (Con): Would the Minister describe the technology transfer relating to the joint strike fighter as disappointing?

Mr. Ingram: There are Government discussions about it, and I have already answered the question twice earlier. We are at an early stage in the discussions and I have expressed my views about some of the blockages, particularly the protectionist tendencies of some politicians in the US, but it sometimes applies to the UK as well. We all have to work earnestly to ensure that those who are putting pressure on the Administration understand the importance of ensuring that this platform is delivered on time so that we can maintain the facility and use it for our own needs, which will also help to support NATO objectives. These are big issues and it is not right to put on the record the type of comment that the right hon. Gentleman elicits.

Next Section IndexHome Page