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Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty

4. Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone): What discussions he has had with his(a) Russian and (b) European counterparts since the US Administration decision to withdraw from the ABMT; and if he will make a statement. [31894]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I last discussed missile defence with my European counterparts at the NATO Defence Ministers meetings on 18 December, and with the Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, during his visit to London on20 December. The future of the anti-ballistic missile treaty is essentially a bilateral issue for the United States and Russia. We welcome the fact that they are continuing to work together to establish a new strategic framework based on openness and mutual trust.

Mr. Clapham: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the difference in view between Europe and America comes about because American military strategists have placed too great an emphasis on the capabilities of their perceived enemies, and have not considered intentions or the fact that diplomacy can reduce the risk, whereas the Europeans look towards a more constructive engagement? When he next meets his American counterparts, will my right hon. Friend convey to them the European view and make it clear that although there is a place for smart bombs, smart diplomacy is much more important in creating world peace?

Mr. Hoon: I do not accept my hon. Friend's over-neat division between a so-called European view and an American view, not least because President Bush has made it clear, for example, that he wants the United States' friends and allies to be protected against the ballistic missile threat. That implies that the distinction between Europe and the United States is not as my hon. Friend might suggest. Clearly, differences of emphasis exist, as they do between all members of NATO. Each country looks at these questions in the light of its national interest, as it should. Equally, I find that there is a remarkable unanimity of purpose among NATO allies when these issues are discussed.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): The Secretary of State will recall that, 18 months ago, in response to a Foreign Affairs Committee report on weapons of mass destruction, the Government said that they believed in preserving the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Since then, the United States President has said officially that he will withdraw from that treaty. What is the Government's position now?

Mr. Hoon: I have set out the Government's position, which is that this is essentially a matter for the United States and Russia. At the time of the Select Committee's report, the United Kingdom's position was that we saw

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some value in continuing the treaty. However, we recognise that it is up to the parties to the treaty to determine whether it has a role. What they have decided, which we very much welcome, is that there needs to be a new strategic framework, which the United States and Russia continue to discuss. We greatly welcomed and supported those discussions.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): In October 2000, the Government said that they

Last week, the Foreign Secretary dismissed the treaty as a 30-year-old "product of its time." Have the Government officially published their reasons for that complete reversal of policy, or, to use the Minister for Europe's phrase, is this a case of us being "a patsy" for the United States?

Mr. Hoon: I am sorry that my hon. Friend sees the world in such stark terms. Clearly, the world moves on and events require us to think through the policy implications of those changes. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary set out in his speech at King's college last week. He said that

I am sorry that my hon. Friend does not appear to recognise that.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): The Secretary of State says at one moment that the anti-ballistic missile treaty is purely a matter for the two Governments concerned. The next minute, when reminded by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge), he suddenly says, "Oh no. That is quite incorrect. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary changed that policy last week in his speech at King's college." However, the United States Defence Secretary, Mr. Rumsfeld, was asked at his daily press briefing on Friday:

Mr. Rumsfeld replied:

At which point, his staff said, "Time to go, sir." Clearly, the Foreign Secretary's speech had little effect in America and, apparently, little effect here.

Will the Secretary of State not accept that, in addition to the Foreign Secretary saying that the anti-ballistic missile treaty had had its day, he went on to say that he thought there was room, without question, for ballistic missile defence? Does that not constitute a fundamental change of policy by the Labour Government? Is it not proof that they are moving increasingly to what my right hon. Friend Iain Duncan Smith—[Interruption.] I am sorry. Are they not moving to what my right hon. Friend the leader of the Conservative party said some time ago? Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to tell the House, in words of one syllable, whether he supports the United States development of ballistic missile defence?

Mr. Hoon: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman appears to know the name of his leader.

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What my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said is something that I have said at the Dispatch Box at every Defence Question Time that I have done: missile defence could have a role to play as part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The Government have said that consistently, and will continue to do so.

Procurement (Jobs)

5. Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): If he will make a statement on the number of UK jobs sustained through MOD procurement. [31896]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): The number of UK jobs sustained through Ministry of Defence procurement for equipment and services has been estimated at 255,000. That includes the numbers employed directly in UK industry on MOD contracts and those employed indirectly through the supply chain—that is, subcontractors and others who supply the main contractor.

Mr. Hoyle: I recognise how important UK manufacturing is to defence, but can we ensure that contracts are sustained and that UK contractors have easy access to them? I am thinking of the truck industry in central Lancashire, which is dependent on such contracts, as well as Royal Ordnance at Chorley, which has security of supply, and many others in the aerospace industry.

Dr. Moonie: It is our duty to obtain value for money from procurement spending. As the biggest single customer of the UK industry, the MOD has a continuing interest in ensuring that its supplier base, which includes specialist defence companies and general companies in most industrial sectors, is efficient and competitive and enables the achievement of maximum value for money in defence procurement. However, value for money is never just about price; other considerations are taken into account.

Angus Robertson (Moray): May I begin by associating my party with the Secretary of State's comments on the death of Princess Margaret?

Will the Minister of State explain how many of the 255,000 defence-related jobs in the United Kingdom to which he referred are in Scotland? Will he also comment on his written answer of 1 February to my question about procurement expenditure? He said that in Scotland such expenditure is only 4.3 per cent. of the UK total—half our population share. Does he believe that that expenditure is too much, too little or about right?

Dr. Moonie: I thank the hon. Gentleman, who speaks for the Scottish National party, for unintentionally promoting me, but alas, I am still an Under-Secretary, not a Minister of State.

I have no doubt that we would spend more on procurement in Scotland if there were more companies there producing goods that we could buy. If the hon. Gentleman considers shipbuilding—the major Scottish industry that supplies us—he will notice that we have been generous in our spending on the Clyde. Of course,

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defence spending is not just about procurement; in Scotland, a substantial proportion of such money isspent on Faslane, Lossiemouth in his constituency and Leuchars, which is near my own.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): As my hon. Friend has said, work has been brought to the Clyde through the type 45. Will he join me in congratulating the taskforce on its efforts to secure employment for those on the Clyde who unfortunately became unemployed? Can he also explain why the contracts for the type 45 have yet to be signed?

Dr. Moonie: I can certainly say that the Clyde shipyard's taskforce has made a useful contribution to the debate on the Clyde's future. I can assure my hon. Friend that the contracts for the first six type 45 destroyers are still being negotiated. Placements are due shortly and the programme is on time.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): The Minister is aware from his recent and welcome visits to my constituency that it has a large military involvement. On procurement issues, he is also aware that there is considerable concern about the demolition of previous Army barracks. Will he meet me and a delegation of my constituents, who are worried about certain procurement decisions relating to the choice of demolition contractors for some of those projects?

Dr. Moonie: I am certainly prepared to take an interest in that matter. If the hon. Gentleman writes to me with the details, I shall be happy to contact him.

Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow): Is the Minister aware that the average age of a skilled worker on the Tyne is 50? If we are to save the shipyards as a strategic asset for the UK, we need to put MOD orders in UK yards. Will he confirm that that will be the policy, and assure us that he will not revert to the stupid policy that put £400 million of taxpayers' money and hundreds of shipyard workers' jobs into Germany?

Dr. Moonie: I can assure my hon. Friend that I am well aware of the problems regarding skilled labour. In common with long-standing defence policy, all warships will be constructed in this country.

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