HC Deb 19 July 1993 vol 229 cc7-8
4. Mr. Fabricant

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the effect of defence procurement on Welsh industry.

Mr. Redwood

It was estimated in 1991 that defence procurement accounted for some 4,000 jobs, or 2 per cent. of manufacturing, in Wales.

Mr. Fabricant

Has my right hon. Friend made any assessment of the effect on defence procurement jobs that would have resulted had the Labour party—the "caring party"—been elected at the last general election?

Mr. Redwood

It was estimated at the time of the last general election—I do not believe that the Labour party has ever withdrawn the policies involved—that 115,000 jobs in defence-related industries would have been wiped out in the United Kingdom, to say nothing of the jobs lost in the Army, Navy and Air Force. We can truly say that, when it comes to jobs in Wales, the Opposition are the demolition men; we are standing up for Wales and winning new jobs for it.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that all Opposition Members welcome defence cuts? We also recognise, however, that they have a tendency to put people out of work. The truth is that the Government have not succeeded in turning swords into ploughshares. What is more, market forces will not cure the evil; we need active intervention by the Government.

Mr. Redwood

I am sad to learn that the hon. Gentleman welcomes job losses. As for his second point, he is entirely wrong: we are taking steps to try to encourage companies to diversify. We are keen to diversify both the Welsh industrial base and the product ranges of individual companies. A Ministry of Defence secondee is currently helping the Welsh Development Agency with that important task. However, we also want the country to be well defended—and that is better news for jobs than it would be under Labour.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Wales is part of the United Kingdom's defence export industry, which creates thousands of jobs across this country? Those jobs would be destroyed if we listened to the Labour party. Does my right hon. Friend really believe that Government intervention could help, when historically it has proved very expensive and has ended up destroying jobs in many once fine companies, such as British Shipbuilders and Rover?

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend is right: defence exports are important to Wales, as they are to the rest of the United Kingdom. Having sound defences here provides a platform from which we can export suitable products.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Secretary of State aware that, over the past 10 years, 50 per cent. of the defence procurement budget has been spent in south-east England and an average of 2 per cent. in Wales? If cuts are made in Welsh military and defence establishments, will the right hon. Gentleman try to secure more investment expenditure from that budget? What is his policy in that regard?

Mr. Redwood

Of course we will try to encourage Welsh companies to respond to procurement opportunities through the offer of support available from Ministry of Defence expertise, the Welsh Development Agency and elsewhere. I will battle for more jobs for Wales over the months and years ahead, in the way that I have been doing since I was appointed.

Mr. Murphy

Bearing in mind that many thousands of Welsh people who work in defence-related industries, including the royal ordnance factory in Glascoed in Gwent, depend very heavily on contracts from the MOD, does the Secretary of State agree that British forces should buy and use British equipment?

Mr. Redwood

Wherever possible, that is desirable. We also have to think about European Community procurement rules and value for money. I want British companies to do well, to win the competitions and supply the goods. I will not be shy in arguing for British success.