HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 cc10-1
7. Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

What role his Department has had in the promotion of arms sales by BAE Systems in the last two years, with particular reference to spare parts. [76699]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)

The Government are committed to encouraging and supporting legitimate United Kingdom defence exports. The Defence Export Services Organisation—DESO—within the Ministry of Defence is responsible for co-ordinating such support. In line with that policy, DESO has provided varied assistance to BAE Systems during the past two years, across a number of potential overseas defence requirements.

Paul Farrelly

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. He will be aware of the United Nations panel report, issued a fortnight ago, into illegal exploitation of resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report had wide press coverage and alleged, in particular, the busting of EU sanctions by Mr. John Bredenkamp, a Berkshire-based arms dealer. It stated that, earlier this year, that gentleman had brokered the delivery for the Zimbabwean air force, either directly or via a third country, of spare parts for Hawk jets made by British Aerospace. Will the Secretary of State undertake to investigate those serious allegations with the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, review any relationships between his Department and Mr. Bredenkamp, as well as any role anywhere in the export of Hawk spares by British Aerospace; and report back on his conclusions and thereby play his part—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the Secretary of State could manage an answer.

Mr. Hoon

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I had got the message.

The Government certainly take seriously all credible reports of misuse or diversion of UK exported equipment. All our overseas missions have standing instructions to look into and report on any allegations of such misuse in the countries that they cover.

As regards the specific allegations made by my hon. Friend, the Government are investigating the matter.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton)

The Secretary of State may remember that BAE Systems in Woodford, on the edge of my constituency, is a major employer of my constituents. Will he take this opportunity to remind the House that legitimate sales by BAE Systems are good for jobs and investment in this country?

Mr. Hoon

I entirely agree with that observation. I only wish that the hon. Gentleman could have communicated that fact to his hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) a few minutes ago.

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton)

Can the Secretary of State tell us whether BAE Systems provided any parts or equipment for the grounded fleet of Apache helicopters? If so, will he tell the House what were the principal contributions made by British Aerospace?

Mr. Hoon

Certainly, BAE Systems contributes to the Apache programme, but may I make it clear to my hon. Friend that the problems mentioned by the National Audit Office in no way relate to the viability of Apache as a piece of military equipment? Indeed, the report indicates that Apaches are being delivered broadly to time and to cost. The specific problem that we have to deal with arises from the difficulties of securing appropriate software for the training simulator—a problem that would have arisen in any event, but one that we are obviously seeking urgently to resolve.

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