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Defence Questions

10th July 2017

Harriett Baldwin answers MPs’ questions on defence matters.

Dreadnought Submarines

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)

12. What progress is being made on implementing the Dreadnought submarine programme. [900304]

Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)

16. What progress there has been on the programme to build four Dreadnought submarines. [900308]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Harriett Baldwin)

Thanks to the vote a year ago, the Dreadnought programme to replace the four Vanguard-class nuclear-armed submarines is on schedule. Construction on Dreadnought, the first of her class, commenced as planned in October 2016 at the BAE Systems yard in Barrow-in-Furness.

Sir Desmond Swayne

Will the handover from Vanguard to Dreadnought be seamless?

Harriett Baldwin

Certainly if I and the 80% of people who took part in the vote a year ago have anything to do with it, it will be. I gently draw the House’s attention to the fact that both the shadow Defence Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition voted in the opposite Lobby on that day.

Mr Speaker

Perhaps the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) would be good enough to circulate to all parliamentary colleagues his textbook on succinct questions from which they would greatly benefit.

Mrs Latham

The Dreadnought submarine programme is important to my constituents, many of whom work at the Rolls-Royce Raynesway facility which is building the pressurised water reactors that will go into those submarines. Rolls-Royce has been investing very heavily in the new facility to meet the demands of this programme. When will the Government make a decision?

Harriett Baldwin

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the fact that companies not just in Barrow-in-Furness but up and down this country are involved in carrying out highly skilled work in this incredibly elaborate programme. I had the pleasure of visiting Raynesway and her nearby constituency and I know how many people in Derby and in Derbyshire depend on that programme. I can assure her that we are making substantial investment in the site.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op)

We were looking forward to discussing this very issue with the Minister during the general election campaign. I do not know what happened to her; perhaps she can come up to see us next time. Will she put the Government’s full support behind our campaign now to raise education standards in the Furness area where, for generations, school leavers have had below average English and maths results, which is simply not good enough if we are to remain on track for the Dreadnought programme?

Harriett Baldwin

The hon. Gentleman is very kind to invite me for another visit to his constituency. I shall look forward to it. He rightly raises the important issue of the skills that we need as a country for these highly skilled and important jobs. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), will be very happy to meet him to discuss what we are doing as we ensure that we put in place that pipeline of skills.

Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)

I welcome the investment in the Dreadnought-class submarines, which will bring investment to Devonport dockyard in my constituency. Does the Minister agree that we also need to deal with the legacy of current and previous submarines and accelerate the slow pace of the submarine dismantling programme?

Harriett Baldwin

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, who is the son of a submariner, on his arrival in this place. It is wonderful to have someone taking such a close interest in the matter. He will be aware that it is the subject of ongoing commercial negotiations. We will keep the House informed.

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Defence Suppliers: Innovation

Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con)

14. What steps he is taking to encourage innovation by defence suppliers. [900306]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Harriett Baldwin)

With an equipment plan worth £178 billion and a rising defence budget, there are great opportunities for innovative suppliers. The £800 million innovation fund will provide the Ministry of Defence with the freedom to pursue innovative solutions in an open, competitive process.

Nigel Mills

Will the Minister ensure that there is greater risk appetite in which projects are selected for funding to ensure that our armed forces have the best technology available to them?

Harriett Baldwin

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight this issue. It is one of the things that we weight when we consider awards through the innovation fund to ensure that the projects with the highest risks but the biggest potential pay-off are the ones that are invested in.

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Topical Questions

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab)

T3. Given the delays in procuring the full order for Type 26 and Type 31 frigates, and given that HMS Ocean is to be paid off because of acute staffing shortages, just how does the Minister envisage that the Royal Navy will be capable of discharging its duties of protecting the UK at home and abroad? [900320]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Harriett Baldwin)

I would have hoped for a few more words of welcome for the announcement of the Type 26 frigates, which will be ready for the out-of-service dates and replacement dates of the existing Type 23s. As the hon. Lady knows, HMS Ocean was always due to come out of service next year, and other amphibious capability will obviously be available.

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Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the RAF will retain its existing surveillance capability—Sentinel—which proved so effective in Mali, and that the existing fleet will be maintained and continued?

Harriett Baldwin

I can confirm that. I had the pleasure of going to north Wales recently to extend the Sentinel contract to 2021.

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Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)

What conversations has the Minister had with British steel producers to maximise the use of British steel in the new Type 26 frigates, and what percentage of the steel that will be used to build those frigates will be British steel?

Harriett Baldwin

Again, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the news on the Type 26 frigates. He will be aware that we publish on gov.uk the full pipeline in terms of our steel requirements. We do encourage our prime contractors to see where they can use British steel, and I am sure that in due course he will be pleased to see progress.​

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