HC Deb 19 March 2001 vol 365 cc18-9
15. Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston)

How many jobs were (a) created and (b) sustained as a result of procurement decisions in the north-west since 1997. [152712]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie)

It is estimated that 350,000 jobs are dependent on defence expenditure and equipment exports. Over 60,000 new contracts are placed each year. The Ministry of Defence does not record the number of jobs created or sustained as a result of each individual procurement decision, but it is estimated that a substantial number of jobs in the north-west of England depend directly on defence equipment expenditure by the Ministry of Defence, and that many more will be created as a result of our recent procurement decisions.

Maria Eagle

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while the Eurofighter is important to the future effectiveness of the RAF, it is also important to the future of the economy of the north-west, where it is sustaining and creating thousands of jobs? Will he assure me that, unlike the Conservative party, he will remain committed to the project?

Dr. Moonie

I am happy to give that absolute assurance. Hopefully, the development of the A400M will mean a long-term future for employment in the aircraft industry in the area for many years.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Are not the defence industries in the north-west, as elsewhere, important not just for jobs but for improving the technological base of industry as a whole? Will the Minister—in the words of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—seek to be helpful to the United States in regard to any research programme, development and, ultimately, work that could ensue from ballistic missile defence?

Dr. Moonie

Perhaps the best example I can give of a tangible project with which we are dealing, as opposed to the fantasy to which the hon. Gentleman refers—at present, anyway— [Interruption.] If we could have fewer moronic remarks from Opposition Front Benchers, I might be able to answer their hon. Friend's question.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are determined to pursue the development of the joint strike fighter, with collaboration from companies in the United States. The project should provide a promising aircraft for our future needs.