A debate on ‘Defence aerospace industrial strategy’ has been scheduled for Thursday 16 November 2017 in the Main Chamber. The debate has been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee after a representation from Ruth Smeeth MP and Robert Courts MP.Jump to full report >>
The Government has not published nor indicated it is intending to publish a standalone Defence Aerospace Industry Strategy.
The Ministry of Defence committed to a “refresh of our defence industrial policy” in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). Ministers have suggested this is ‘forthcoming’.
In September 2017 the Government published the National Shipbuilding Strategy, fulfilling a separate SDSR commitment. The Shipbuilding Strategy focused primarily on the procurement of the Royal Navy’s next generation of frigates but also included a 30 year ‘masterplan’ for the replacement of the surface fleet.
In October BAE Systems announced plans to slow production on Typhoon combat aircraft and Hawk jets, resulting in a number of jobs losses.
Ruth Smeeth MP and Robert Courts MP referred to the above when calling for this debate. Ruth Smeeth said “there is a strategic gap in terms of how we move forward to get a steady drumbeat of domestic orders that ensure we retain a sovereign skill base in the UK.” Robert Courts worried about a capability gap if there is no strategy for next generation aircraft. Both members noted there is no military aircraft equivalent to the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
Developing and delivering into service combat aircraft takes decades. The current fast-jet fleet of Tornado and Typhoon were first conceived in the late 1960s and 1980s respectively. Lightning II, the new combat aircraft which will begin to replace Tornado from 2019 and fly from the Navy’s aircraft carriers from the 2020s, can trace its procurement programme back to the late 1990s.
Separately, the Government is also developing an Industrial Strategy, on which it published a Green Paper, Building our Industrial Strategy, in January 2017. The Paper references plans for the defence industrial policy refresh.
The Ministry of Defence has begun exploring possible options for future combat aircraft. The 2015 SDSR announced plans to keep Typhoon aircraft in service until 2040. The MOD has worked with France on an unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrator and launched a Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS), designed to “sustain design engineering capacity and skills as part of its planning for a future combat air capability.”
As well as the above, the Ministry of Defence is also contributing to the National Security Capability Review, which is the National Security Advisor’s broader review of defence and security capabilities. This was the subject of a debate in Westminster Hall on 19 October 2017. During this debate MPs raised concerns about the UK’s helicopter manufacturing industry and future helicopter capabilities.
The Defence Committee has reopened its inquiry, interrupted by the 2017 election, into defence acquisition and procurement.
The Government (2010-2015) laid out its approach to defence acquisition in a 2012 White Paper (National security through technology, Cm 8278). This replaced the Labour Government’s 2005 Defence Industrial Strategy. The White Paper committed to using open competition and buying off the shelf where appropriate while retaining the use of single source procurement when it judges it necessary to protecting the UK’s operational advantage and freedom of action (for example submarines or warships).
The Government (2015-17) pledged in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to “refresh our defence industrial policy” while remaining committed to the principles set out in the 2012 White Paper.
A consultation was held last winter and the outcome was published in April 2017.
More recently, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood referred to the “forthcoming refreshed defence industrial policy” on 8 November 2017, adding it will include and explain how the Government’s approach to defence procurement “is designed to help the UK's defence and security industries grow and compete successfully.” (PQ110528).
Commons Debate packs CDP-2017-0224
Author: Timothy Robinson