Today, Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti spoke in a general debate in the House of Commons on Defence Spending.
General debates consider neutrally worded motions that usually begin, “That this House has considered”. They let MPs debate a subject without committing the House to an opinion or course of action.
In his speech, Jack welcomed the £24 billion multi-year increase in defence spending. He also commended the thousands of defence jobs in Filton and Bradley Stoke, and the sector's dedication to innovation and Britain's place in the world.
You can watch Jack's speech above, and the full text is below.
May I begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary on his notable victory in securing the support of the Treasury for a £24 billion multi-year increase in defence expenditure? This demonstrates our commitment to safeguarding our country and working credibly with our allies at a time of, as others have said, increasing international instability. It also represents an £85 billion investment in equipment over the next four years, and that is what I will focus on.
The Government are not only honouring their manifesto pledge on defence spending but are exceeding it by £16 billion. Through the choices they have made they are using taxpayers’ money wisely to invest in the capabilities we will need for the future, and clearly every pound spent with a UK industry benefits the Exchequer by supporting local economies such as that in my constituency. According to the Royal United Services Institute, the Exchequer recovers at least 35% of the value of domestically sourced contracts, so I hugely welcome also the Government’s decision to invest in future technology; £6.6 billion will be spent on R&D over the next four years, which we need to confront the challenges of the grey zone and disinformation activities by states that are clearly hostile to the sort of society we have and the values, way of life and essential freedoms that we and our allies seek to protect. In this new age the term “military capability” takes on a more enhanced meaning, as it now embraces Britain’s cyber-domain and space activities, which is why it is great news that there will be a new agency dedicated to artificial intelligence and a new space command.
I am proud to represent and serve an area that plays a major role in the defence of our country; there are 8,000 dedicated public servants at MOD Abbey Wood; Defence Equipment and Support does a great job in ensuring that our forces have the equipment they need. My constituency is also at the heart of one of the largest aerospace clusters in Europe; defence contractors such as Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing, MBDA, Rolls-Royce and Thales to name just a few provide highly skilled jobs in my constituency and throughout the wider south-west region and support a large number of jobs in the supply chain. At least 30,000 jobs are supported by defence spend alone in the south-west region. The MOD already spends £20 billion with industry and commerce, and defence directly or indirectly supports 207,000 jobs. This additional funding from the Government will also benefit the wider economy throughout our country.
I also welcome the Government’s defence and security industrial strategy and the certainty it will offer industry to do its share of investing in the jobs and technology of tomorrow. That will help bring into reality the Prime Minister’s ambition for the UK to be a science superpower in the 21st century. As chairman of the all-party group on sovereign defence manufacturing capability, I am pleased by the Government’s recognition in the defence and security industrial strategy that the country needs
“a sustainable defence industrial base to ensure that the UK has access to the most sensitive and operationally critical areas of capability for our national security, and that we maximise the economic potential of one of the most successful and innovative sectors of British industry.”
As co-chairman of the all-party group on apprenticeships I welcome the opportunities that this additional investment will create for our highly skilled science, technology, engineering and mathematics apprenticeships into the future. It is essential for our country and our strategic viability in the future that we bring on and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and technicians who will be designing and building our future capabilities. The all-party group is currently conducting an inquiry into the MOD apprenticeship programme. The MOD is the largest provider of apprenticeships in the UK; there are currently 20,000 apprentices undergoing training, and 53% of the UK’s defence companies of all sizes now provide apprenticeships, which is great.
Over the next four years we will be investing £2 billion in the Tempest programme for the next generation of combat aircraft, and jobs are already being created because of the programme. Industry is investing £800 million in the programme, which is a sign of great confidence. Some 1,800 jobs have been created so far and PwC has estimated that 5,000 jobs will be directly created by this programme and 21,000 indirectly in the wider supply chain. However, the programme is not just about aircraft; it is also about embracing the possibilities of technology and artificial intelligence, as the programme comprises both manned and future unmanned capability. The future of combat air is a bit like the old tanks versus horses moment, in that we need to choose to invest in the future and what modern technology can offer us rather than continue with outdated capability. The fact that other countries, such as Italy and Sweden, are keen to participate in the Tempest programme shows that we can forge, and are forging, new partnerships with like-minded nations and allies who want to invest in the next generation of combat air systems.
As we continue to invest and increase our investment in our own industry, we should also remember that, as other Members have said, the opportunity for exports not only supports jobs in the UK, which will deliver on the Government’s prosperity agenda, but, crucially, enables us to build partnerships with allies and friends around the world. Like many other Members, I was honoured to attend the Armed Forces Day flag raising on Monday, and it is appropriate that we should be discussing these matters today. Yesterday, we were discussing the Armed Forces Bill, and this is all taking place during Armed Forces Week. I hope that our proceedings, conversations and some of our debates will send out an important message to our armed forces and their families that we value them, and thank them for their service and sacrifice, and that we all, in all parts of this House, want to do as much we can to properly equip the men and women who serve our country.
Global Britain will mean nothing if we do not partner with our allies and friends across the world, The increasingly competitive nature, on many fronts, of the modern world looks set to and will increase. Just this week, aircraft flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth have struck targets in Iraq, as part of the ongoing campaign against Daesh, and obviously our “friends” the Russians in the region have been watching our deployments and how we undertake some of our missions. The incident in the Black sea yesterday, whatever it was, shows that the UK will continue to stand up for international law and rules. I welcome the ambition of the MOD to ensure that our armed forces spend more time working around the world, widening and deepening our relationships with our counterparts.
In conclusion, if the UK is to continue to be a reliable and credible ally, we must be ready to respond to unexpected challenges; challenges often come out of the blue and are not predicted. This is not just about personnel, but about having the tools and technology to be ready and to deal with future emergencies, challenges and crises. I commend and thank the Government for committing to invest further in the equipment and technology that we need to remain a credible force for good around the world, with all our responsibilities, and to protect the freedom and wellbeing of our people.