Defence in Scotland

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Mr. David Stewart (Inverness, East, Nairn and Lochaber): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising the issue about potential sites in constituencies. Could I raise a general point about potential sites in the west highlands? He will be aware of project ISOLUS—Interim Storage of Laid-up Submarines—which talks about the future of decommissioned nuclear submarines. Would he agree that it would be crazy, simplistic and unwise for the project to extend to the west highlands as the SNP suggested during the general election?

Mr. Ingram: My hon. Friend will recollect the letter that I wrote to him on 13 August 2001. In hindsight it might have been better if that been placed in the Library. Clearly there are scare stories about what may happen in Loch Ewe and the surrounding area. I explained in the letter that no proposals have been put to me or my ministerial colleagues to suggest that we should break up and store decommissioned submarines at Loch Ewe or anywhere else in the western highlands. Clearly it would be inappropriate to rule out any site in the United Kingdom until we have received proposals from industry, but I can assure my hon. Friend that neither Loch Ewe nor the western highlands generally is under consideration. An existing nuclear site is the most likely option, but it is only a likelihood at this stage.

Mr. Salmond: On the subject of nuclear submarines and as a test of unity on the issue, will the Minister remind us of the result of the previous ballot of the Scottish Labour party on Trident? What was the

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majority, what was the vote either way and at which conference did the vote take place?

Mr. Ingram: I speak for the Government—[Interruption.] SNP Members ask a question and then start shouting before I have said two words. The hon. Gentleman obviously already knows the answer. If he had included that in his preamble, we might have had a debate about where he is coming from. I will touch on the Government's position on nuclear defence posture, which is important in view of what the Scottish National party is saying about the future of thousands of jobs on the Clyde. All those jobs could be put at risk, not just on account of nuclear defence but the nuclear industry as a whole. Some Members would close down the sites tomorrow if they could and put thousands of jobs at risk. [Interruption.]

The Chairman: Order. Will hon. Members please maintain order for the benefit of those who are speaking in Committee? If they do so, they will later have an opportunity to make their own contributions to the debate.

Mr. Ingram: I fear not, because some hon. Members—certainly those in the Scottish National party—are present just to ask questions, not to make contributions.

I should like to touch on Scotland as the home of the nuclear deterrent. Our four Trident submarines are the ultimate guarantee of our security, and a squadron of nuclear attack submarines and many mine-hunter craft are also based at Faslane. Several major Army units are based in Scotland. The traditions and links between these regiments and the areas in which they are located are among the oldest and strongest in the United Kingdom, if not the world. The 1st battalion, the Royal Highland Fusiliers is based at Fort George in Inverness; the 1st battalion, the Highland Regiment is in Edinburgh; and, next month, the Royal Scots will move to Dreghorn barracks in Edinburgh. That will be the first instance for some time that three of the six Scottish regiments are based in Scotland.

Scottish regiments also serve throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland and are regularly based further afield. The first battalion of the Black Watch has recently enjoyed a successful tour in Kosovo and the 1st battalion, the Highlanders is currently serving in Kosovo. Furthermore, 45 Commando, based at Arbroath, is currently deployed in support of operations against international terrorism, and the Royal Marines from Faslane are supporting the fleet in the Gulf.

We are in the process of restructuring to ensure that our forces in Scotland provide greater benefit both to Scotland and to UK defence as a whole. Hon. Members have been informed that the 51st Highland Brigade is being expanded and will be renamed the 51st (Scottish) Brigade. It will be based at Forthside in Stirling and will be responsible for all TA soldiers—of which eight battalions are in Scotland—and cadets, as well as providing administrative support to all regular Army units and training organisations located in Scotland. The 52 Lowland Brigade will be re-roled as a Light Brigade, and renamed 52 (Infantry) Brigade, continuing to be based at Edinburgh.

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We also have a number of important RAF bases in Scotland, including Kinloss, which will continue to be the home of our Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, and Leuchars and Lossiemouth, home of our Tornado F3 and Tornado GR4 aircraft. On current plans, Eurofighter—also known as Typhoon—will replace the Tornados at Leuchars. Royal Navy and RAF search and rescue helicopters are based at Prestwick and Lossiemouth.

Angus Robertson: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ingram: I understand that the hon. Gentleman intends to make a contribution to the debate, so I will not take any more interventions from him. Let him present his arguments in his contribution and I shall hear what he has to say then.

All those sites are important to our role and mission, but also to their local economies. The Royal Navy submarine base at Faslane, for example, is one of the largest single-site employers in Scotland, employing over 15 per cent. of the local economically active population. RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss are not far behind, employing almost 10 per cent. of the working people in their areas.

Mr. Salmond: On a point of order, Mr. Hood. If I heard the Minister correctly, he seems to be introducing a new rule of order to Grand Committee debates; that visiting Ministers do not take interventions from hon. Members who are about to make contributions. However, it is in your hands, Mr. Hood, to determine who will make contributions. How can the Minister possibly know that?

The Chairman: What interventions the Minister takes is a matter for him and not for the Chair.

Mr. Ingram: I was referred to as being a ''visiting Minister''. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) occasionally visits Parliament; compared with his, my voting record is good. In this parliamentary session, I suspect that he has been a bit more hyperactive because of his party's appalling voting record in the previous Parliament. Whether his hon. Friend the Member for Moray is called is a matter for you, Mr. Hood, but it is a matter for me whether I accept interventions.

The Ministry of Defence has a considerable civilian presence in Scotland, performing a wide range of functions. For example, the Defence Aviation Repair Agency site at Almondbank employs well over 300, and the Army personnel centre in Glasgow employs more than 1,000. The defence munitions sites at Beith and Crombie together employ about 800. In addition, Scotland provides some of our most important military training facilities for low-flying training and other activities—at Cape Wrath, for example—that contribute directly to our operational capabilities.

Scotland remains a good source of recruits for the services, with manning levels in Scottish regiments among the highest in the Army. In 2001–02, about 2,500 officers and other ranks were enlisted by Scottish recruitment offices, more than 15 per cent. of the total. We are still surveying the armed forces as part of the 2001 census, and figures for all three services are not

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available. However, I can tell the Committee that nearly 12 per cent. of the Army have classified themselves as being of Scottish nationality. That does not include those Scots who might have given their nationality as British. Scotland makes a major contribution to our non-Regular forces. There are 60 reserve units with more than 4,600 volunteers, and 230 cadet detachments with 9,500 members in Scotland.

In total, nearly 25,000 MOD personnel work in Scotland in 27 of the 32 unitary authorities. They include more than 15,000 military personnel from all three services, and more than 9,500 civilians. In total, nearly 10 per cent. of MOD people working within the United Kingdom do so in Scotland. Those figures have risen in the past few years despite an overall fall in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. In addition, about 6,000 Scottish jobs are directly dependent on defence equipment expenditure. Most of those are skilled jobs, with pay rates above the Scottish national average.

That is just the direct employment; a significant number of jobs are supported by the defence presence in Scotland. Multiplier methodology suggests that at least an additional 15,000 jobs are supported through induced and indirect effects of MOD employment in Scotland. If those jobs are added up, the total defence-related employment in Scotland is almost 46,000, which means that nearly one in fifty economically active people in Scotland is supported by the MOD presence there. That is more than five times the number of people directly employed in the Scottish whisky industry, double the number of people involved in the extraction of crude petroleum and gas, more than the number employed by banks and building societies or the electronics industry in Scotland and double the number of jobs that another large employer, British Telecom, claims to support in Scotland.

On defence procurement, the spend on equipment is a major element of the Scottish economy. MOD payments directly to Scottish companies are worth about £600 million per year. That is important business, and supports many key industries, not least shipbuilding on the Clyde. Nearly 2,400 contracts have been awarded directly with prime contractors in Scotland during the past three years. I am pleased to say that the value of new contracts for equipment placed with Scottish primes has been rising year on year, from £207 million in 1998–1999 to £248 million in 2000–2001. The figure of £600 million a year includes only payments made directly to Scottish firms; it does not capture the highly significant value of work for Scottish companies from sub-contracting to companies based elsewhere in the UK. The exact value of the work is hard to capture, but it is considerable.

During 2000–2001 the MOD placed contracts with 296 different companies based in Scotland. That is a testimony to the strength of the Scottish industry and the skills and hard work of the Scottish work force. Familiar names such as BAE Systems Avionics, Babcock Rosyth Defence and Rolls-Royce continue

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to win important and valuable contracts. Last August I had the pleasure of signing a contract worth £230 million with Thales Optronics at its Glasgow factory. It is not just the largest firms that are getting the work; a long list of small and medium-sized companies benefit from the defence spend in Scotland.

I shall briefly address the issue of shipping. A key area of defence spend is in the UK shipbuilding industry. We have embarked on the largest warship-building programme since the second world war and we have plans for up to 30 warships to be built in the UK over the next 15 to 20 years. On 18 February, my noble Friend Lord Bach announced a doubling of our order for type 45 destroyers in a £2 billion deal with BAE Systems Marine, based on the Clyde. That announcement saw our commitment rise from three to six ships in a planned class of up to 12 ships, safeguarding 1,200 jobs on the Clyde. As a result of the order, BAE Systems Marine has invested £75 million to bring a steel centre of excellence to the Clyde.

In November last year, a contract worth £120 million was placed for the building of two alternative landing ships logistics at Govan. Work on the type 45s and the ALSLs, together with the recent award of the landing craft utility contract, will continue to support the Scottish economy well into the future. As well as being the clearest indication of the Government's commitment to a modern and powerful Royal Navy, that represents a huge opportunity for British industry and especially for industry in Scotland. The future carrier programme is still in its assessment phase and it represents a huge opportunity. It is now up to the companies to make the best offer. The MOD order book alone cannot sustain the UK shipbuilding industry but we are playing a part in that. It is not an exaggeration to say that without those orders, the future of shipbuilding in the Clyde would have been bleak.

I shall address the subject of defence expenditure, on which there has been some debate outside the House.

 
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Prepared 5 March 2002