Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Quesitons 160-166)


21 NOVEMBER 2007

  Q160  Mr Jenkin: I thought you might say that.

  Baroness Taylor of Bolton: You were right, I did say it! The reason I want a delay is because I want to dovetail everything together and hold discussions on the new planning round. Having been here two weeks I am not prepared to make snap decisions. So I want to look at what we are doing on the planning round, hence the decision on the Industrial Strategy. We are confident that we can get agreements between the departments. We are confident that we can get the service level agreements about the kind of support that we will provide. We have been working them up in some detail between the departments and my colleague, Lord Jones, and I have been looking at these issues in some detail. We will be moving to making a decision about those before long.

  Q161  Mr Jones: Is it not a fact, Minister, that honestly the forces of conservative—both with a big "C" and a small "c"—are whipping this up into a situation whereby they think if they keep squawking hard enough the decision will be changed, but is it not a fact that this actually gives industry and MoD some great opportunities which should be grasped rather than just this silly argument of keep going on? Is it not also a fact of life, whether they like it or not, that DESO and the MoD brought a little bit of this on themselves, in the sense that what this also gives an opportunity to do is a little more transparency to the position of arms exports, which I would personally support? As someone who supports the arms industry in this country as being very important to the UK economy, it will actually give public confidence too, which was not there before.

  Baroness Taylor of Bolton: I think you are absolutely right to say that this decision will not be changed. The decision has been made and it has been made because it was thought right to put defence exports in with all other exports within the department—

  Mr Jenkin: Political correctness.

  Q162  Mr Jones: It is not at all.

  Baroness Taylor of Bolton:— that has the expertise. I do not think we should underestimate the expertise that the department has throughout the world on issues of this kind. I think, therefore, that with the MoD supporting the work of that department, where appropriate and as specified in the service level agreements that we are going to establish, that will put the industries in a very strong position.

  Q163  Chairman: One final question on this: Minister, you say the department has the expertise. UKTI does not usually do government-to-government contracts, but defence agreements are usually government-to-government contracts. How are UKTI going to adapt themselves to that new role?

  Baroness Taylor of Bolton: I hesitate to disagree with you but it is not the case that the majority of contracts now are government-to-government. We do have government-to-government projects, and it will be possible for us to maintain the position of having a Memorandum of Understanding government-to-government, but the day-to-day responsibility will have to be worked out in detail. You can have government-to-government relationships and agreements in the new system and there will be occasions when that happens, but they are not the usual projects, and government-to-government projects these days are considered to be exceptional.

  Mr Jenkin: Is that in numbers of projects—

  Chairman: I think we have finished now.

  Q164  Mr Jenkin: Is that in numbers of projects or is it in value terms?

  Baroness Taylor of Bolton: Certainly the number of projects is very small.

  Q165  Chairman: Minister, thank you very much for coming before this Committee so soon into your regime, and for, if I may delicately say so, answering questions so thoroughly competently.

  Baroness Taylor of Bolton: Thank you.

  Q166  Chairman: We are grateful to all of your team. It is a very important issue. Can we remain in contact, please, about the timing of further discussions with this Committee about implementation arrangements and about the timetable for ratification by the UK?

  Baroness Taylor of Bolton: Yes. I think that we will have to try to keep things very tight on that, and we will keep you as informed as we can.

  Chairman: To you and your team, thank you very much indeed.

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