In the run up to this week’s NATO summit, on Monday I launched my report Growing the Contribution of Defence to UK Prosperity. Four months ago by the Secretary of State for Defence asked me to undertake this Review, as he felt I was well placed to explore these issues, having previously spent nearly four years as a Minister in the MoD.
We can all recognise defence plays a vital role in underpinning the economic prosperity of this country. Some 500,000 people are employed directly or indirectly in Defence, including our Armed Forces, the civil servants and defence industry which support them. Defence is collectively one of the largest and most consistent developers of skills across the economy, with over 25,500 apprenticeships every year.
But Defence innovation has also spawned many of the applications we take for granted in our everyday lives – from the internet, to GPS signal, to the technology that allows Hot-Spot to help umpires make decisions in test matches.
In all, my Report runs to some 90 pages and makes 41 Recommendations. I have suggested how the MoD should seek to develop practical guidance to factor in prosperity into decision making, as well as how our Armed Forces can help UK suppliers boost exports, as recently in selling the Royal Navy frigate design to Australia.
I do believe competing for business in international defence markets and domestically helps to keep our defence industry match fit and vibrant. But alongside EU competition rules, we have created a procurement process which can take years to make decisions, let alone bring new capability into service.
So I am suggesting the MoD should use the opportunity of leaving the EU to look at establishing our own rules for defence procurement following Brexit. This should enable UK content to be taken into account for major procurement decisions.
I am also suggesting ways for the MoD and Armed Forces to develop and deploy new capability more rapidly. Defence needs to be able to absorb the huge technological change - particularly around data - which is affecting the entire economy, as well as the threats we face.
I look forward to seeing how the MoD responds to my recommendations, designed to help grow the contribution of Defence to the prosperity of the UK. If they are accepted, and implemented, I believe in turn they should help Defence to prosper too.