HC Deb 10 April 1984 vol 58 cc180-1
2. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of United Kingdom defence equipment expenditure is spent in the United Kingdom; and how many jobs are supported both directly and indirectly in British industry as a result of that expenditure.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

In recent years national contracts placed with United Kingdom industry plus our share of collaborative projects have amounted to almost 95 per cent. of defence equipment expenditure. The remaining 5 per cent. is spent on contracts placed overseas. We estimate that for 1982–83, the latest year for which figures are available, this expenditure sustained about 225,000 jobs directly and a further 180,000 indirectly in British industry.

Mr. Townsend

I thank my hon. Friend for those important and significant figures. Will he confirm that about 10,000 firms have contracts of some form with the Ministry of Defence? Is there not some obligation on those hon. Members who wish our defence expenditure to be in line with that of our NATO allies to explain to the British people the job losses that would result from such a policy?

Mr. Pattie

The number of companies that my hon. Friend mentioned is right. He is also right to draw the attention of the House to the job losses that would follow from the type of defence policy that was enunciated by the Labour party during the election.

Mr. Douglas

On defence expenditure and British industry, will the Minister consider persuading his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to make a statement in the House about the peregrinations of Mr. Levene, who is acting like an Avon lady knocking at the doors of British industry and hawking the royal dockyards? The Secretary of State should make a statement to the House rather than use the subterfuge on which he is presently embarking.

Mr. Pattie

My right hon. Friend will have heard what the hon. Gentleman said and will judge the right moment to make any statement on the royal dockyards and Mr. Levene's involvement.

Mr. Viggers

Does my hon. Friend agree that industrial arguments are important, but that basically, when the chips are down, the most important argument is that our armed forces should have the right kit?

Mr. Pattie


Mr. Ashdown

Will the Minister hazard a guess as to how many of the jobs that he has mentioned depend on European collaboration projects, such as the EH101 and MRCA? Does he agree that the future of our defence industry will depend largely on expanding that European collaboration even further?

Mr. Pattie

The estimate we have given is that about 15 per cent. of the 95 per cent. of defence equipment expenditure goes on collaborative programmes. I think that that should give the hon. Gentleman the answer he wants.

Mr. Farr

What proportion of the content of Trident will be co-produced, excluding the submarines, which are the launching vehicles?

Mr. Pattie

As my hon. Friend knows, 55 per cent. of the Trident programme will be produced in the United Kingdom. That includes the submarine, the warhead for the missile, the fire control system and various other advanced systems in the submarine.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Apparently, Mr. Levene is an adviser to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Heseltine

indicated assent.

Mr. Davies

I am glad to see that confirmed. Is there not a clear conflict of interest between Mr. Levene's position as chairman of a working party that is looking into the defence procurement and as a former chairman of the Defence Manufacturers Association and managing director of a major arms manufacturing company?

Mr. Pattie

No. The right hon. Gentleman should know that Mr. Levene is not a former chairman, but a deputy chairman of the Defence Manufacturers Association. His position has been regularised, confirmed and agreed with the National Defence Industries Council, which met earlier this year. If that council sees no conflict of interest, it is not likely that there is one.

Mr. Denzil Davies


Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot allow a second question on this subject.