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Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Does the Minister agree that it is absolutely wrong, at ministerial or official level, that a lease should be signed on a building in Bristol before the end of the consultation period after which people might be moved from Telford to Bristol? Is he aware that the Comptroller and Auditor General has been asked to investigate? How can the consultation process be open and transparent for Defence Logistics Organisation workers in Telford when the deal has been signed already down in Bristol?
Mr. Ingram: I ask the hon. Gentleman to calm down a bit. Knowing that a work stream is being undertaken that could result in the collocation of two major headquarters, we have considered whether we can benefit by procuring at this stage in the market. We have made the decision to take up that office space. Of course, if the collocation does not proceed, we will release that space back to the market. If we wait or do otherwise, the office space to meet our needs might not be available. The correct management and ministerial decision was taken to give us the opportunity of ensuring that we are in the best position. If that proves not to be the right decision, our judgment is that we will not suffer a loss. Indeed, we might well make a profit, but that is not what drives us. We are trying to get the best balance. We have not reached a conclusion on the consultationfar from itand we hold rigidly to that position.
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman read the paper on which he campaigned at the last electionthe James reportwith all its initiatives to dispose of real estate, other assets and many of the existing working
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structures, without any attempt even to examine the territory. It simply said, "Let's privatise this; let's dispose of that; let's get rid of this." He campaigned on that in the last election; he is now asking me to be very careful with his constituency, saying "Do it to others, not to me." That is the principle that he applies.
I want to make some progress and to talk about the defence industrial strategy. The rationale for publishing the DIS is clear. Since the strategic defence review was undertaken, the environment has changed considerably. This nation no longer faces the dangerous but relatively predictable threat posed during the cold war. The threat now, however, is no less dangerous: those involved can strike at any time and they fight unconventionally.
The way in which our armed forces have taken on the new challenge presented by the war on global terrorism is testament to their proven adaptability and flexibility. Equally, we must ensure that the equipment capability requirements of the armed forces can be met now and in the future. We need to identify the core skills and industrial capabilities that are required onshore to sustain the armed forces' ability to operate with an appropriate level of sovereigntyindeed, we have done so with the DIS.
The DIS provides industry with the certainty to plan ahead and invest for the long term. We want to attract skilled and enthusiastic people to the industry. As a result, we intend to work with the industry on how we do that and on schemes to develop our people. The DIS involves a studied assessment of each individual industrial sector. Where our requirements have been set, they are measured against our procurement activity, and where there are mismatches they are set against the sustainment work required.
In certain sectors, industry has to move now, to ensure that the industrial base is appropriately structured for the future. Now is the right time to do that, while many of our companies are busy delivering the series of new platforms that the Government are procuring. Whatever the rate of new production, we need to ensure that the technologies that give our equipment its cutting edge, which are often provided by smaller enterprises in the supply chain, are nurtured and developed.
The discipline of systems engineering will continue to be vital in seamlessly integrating new technology to our current infrastructure. The outcome of all that will be that, for the first time, industry will have a much clearer idea of our priorities, enabling both industry and investors to plan for the future in confidence.
At present, we are in the middle of a substantial investment programme in new equipment for the armed forces: not least, with the components of carrier strike, the CVFcarrier vessel futureand the joint combat aircraft, Astute attack submarines, the A400M transport aircraft, Typhoon and complex weapons, such as Storm Shadow, and forecast spending of more than £2 billion a year over the next decade on our drive towards network enabled capability.
Yesterday, HMS Daring, the first-in-class of our Type 45 destroyer fleet, was launched. I regret that I was unable to attend, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence was there and it was a fantastic experience, not just for those who had helped to plan and build the ship, but for the tens of thousands of
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people in Glasgow who watched that unique dynamic launch. It was inspiring and it sends the right message to taxpayers about what they are getting for their money.
Daring's launch was a great advertisement for the skills and commitment of the thousands of people involved in the programme. It will be the most powerful destroyer that the UK has ever built and all those involved in the programme can be extremely proud of what has been achieved. Daring's on-board living standards, which have generated much positive press interest, also help to demonstrate the priority that we are giving to improving the quality of life of members of our armed forces. The equipment will take the armed forces into the 21st century with the kit that is needed to meet a varied and dangerous threat with certainty.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I also had the great privilege of attending the launch yesterday and am grateful to BAE Systems for making that possible. I entirely endorse everything that the Minister said about the great efforts of the work force and design team, and I am sure that none of us will ever forget yesterday's experience. Bearing in mind the fact that we are now operating with a fleet with considerably fewer frigates and destroyers than the strategic defence review predicted would be necessary in 1998, even though our commitments have increased, is the Minister in a position to let the House know what the final total of Type 45 destroyers to be constructed will be?
Mr. Ingram: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman had a good day in Glasgow yesterdayI just wish that I had been there to see it. He is always welcome to go back to Glasgow and I am sure that he will be well received by the people of that great city.
The original plan was for 12 vessels in the class. After the re-examination of our needs and the budget, the number was recalculated as eight. We have ordered six, but the Secretary of State has said that he would like to see eight. The hon. Gentleman will know that we will have to consider appropriately the possible benefits in the future to ensure that we can get the best price, but we are not at that stage at the moment because we do not have the sums in the defence budget. We need to address the priorities in all the other areas.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are spending £6 billion through the equipment plan. That considerable sum must be shared among all our needs for land, air and sea. Scrutiny and examination of the situation will continue. The chiefs themselvesthe military plannerswill have to consider the capabilities that each service requires and make their case, taking account of the known priorities. There must be balance across the breadth of defence. The equation is not new; it has probably been there since time immemorial and will continue for decades, if not centuries, to come.
Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con):
I echo the comments of the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) about the Type 45 destroyer, with which the Navy is absolutely delighted. We are also delighted, especially because it fills the Americans with a huge amount of envy. Will the Minister take his remarks further because although the Royal Navy is delighted with the destroyer, it is aware that a balance must be struck between capability and
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presence? For example, I understand that we have only one ship in the Atlantic, with its duties divided between the Caribbean and the Falklands, whereas we used to have two. I know that it is extremely difficult to resolve the equation, but would be interested to hear the Minister's further remarks.
Mr. Ingram: Such tasking has been in place for a considerable number of years and seems to work extremely well. I had the privilege of visiting HMS Richmond a year and a bit ago when it was on the allied patrol task (north) deployment. It did a tremendous job when it was involved in the post-hurricane relief effort and also contributed to our counter-narcotics activities in the area. HMS Cumberland has just come back from the deployment and it carried out tremendous work, too. The evidence shows that successful missions are being carried out. We must strike a balance by targeting where we can give best effect. Clearly, the Navy would like to have more boats, but the Army and Air Force would like to have more of other things, too, so the priorities must be balanced. The Conservative party had to balance priorities when it was in government. I will not make the political point about the legacy problems from which we are suffering due to overrun, costs and projects running well behind time. Those problems are still creating huge difficulties for present-day and even future procurement programmes. When the hon. Gentleman makes points of criticism
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