HC Deb 07 May 1996 vol 277 c12
12. Mr. John Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British jobs are sustained by his Department's contracts; and if he will make a statement. [26930]

Mr. Arbuthnot

The most recent available figures are for 1993–94, when an estimated 395,000 jobs in the UK were sustained by the defence industry, including 315,000 sustained directly by my Department's spending on equipment and non-equipment items.

Mr. Greenway

In an ever-changing and uncertain world, does my hon. Friend agree that a credible defence policy demands a substantial home-based defence industry? Will he assure the House that, after all the upheaval of "Options for Change" and defence cost studies the Government have no intention of seeking further substantial reductions in defence expenditure, which could only have a catastrophic effect on jobs in the defence procurement industry?

Mr. Arbuthnot

A credible defence policy depends on the election of a party which believes in defence, and my hon. Friend has established that our party does. The Labour party, sadly, does not. It has called for reductions in defence spending which would reduce our capability out of all recognition. The Transport and General Workers Union at its conference called for a cut of £18 billion. That would leave the defence of this country in the hands of civilians, because we would not be able to afford any armed forces or any equipment. Either that, or we would be able to afford about half our equipment, but we would not be able to afford the civilians or the armed forces to run it.

Mr. Barry Jones

What is the status of the future large aircraft project? Have the French sorted out their problems? My constituents would like a positive answer.

Mr. Arbuthnot

Once again, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his assiduity in working for his constituents. He brought a delegation to see me only two weeks ago. I have spoken to the French about this matter. They have yet to decide their law of programmation. As soon as they do, we shall be clearer about precisely what the French position is. I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman brought a delegation to see me about this very matter.