HC Deb 02 April 1996 vol 275 cc142-3
10. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of the defence procurement budget is spent on equipment designed to military specification; and what scope there is to reduce this percentage. [22315]

Mr. Arbuthnot

To deliver the battle-winning equipment our forces need in demanding environments we have to prescribe certain military standards and specifications in our contracts. We aim to make maximum use of civil standards.

Mrs. Lait

Is my hon. Friend aware that many commercial specifications are now more reliable and are available at less cost than are military specifications? Is he further aware that the US Secretary of Defence recently issued a directive instructing US forces to use commercial specifications whenever possible? When will we follow in those footsteps?

Mr. Arbuthnot

My hon. Friend is right. The US has about 31,000 military specifications, and it is working to reduce that number. However, we have made significant strides in that direction ourselves, and we have fewer than 2,000 military specifications. We are working to reduce the number of our military specifications, and we are doing so at a higher rate than the United States. My hon. Friend is right that we want to rely heavily on civil and commercial standards whenever possible.

Mr. Jamieson

Is the Minister aware that much of the defence procurement budget is spent in my constituency on repairing vital military equipment? So when he makes his statement today about the award of the Trident contract, will he also make a statement about the privatisation of Devonport dockyard and end the deeply damaging delay?

Mr. Arbuthnot