Defence Questions- 15th April 2013

Please see below some of the answers given at Defence Questions to members of the Shadow Defence team:

Mr Jim Murphy (East Renfrewshire) (Lab): We all wish the Government’s reservist White Paper to be a success. Within existing competition rules, would the Minister consider MOD procurement processes that take into account whether companies support reservists? I wish to return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr Roy). Current legislation protects reservists returning from the front line, but no equivalent employment legislation protects them from the minority of employers who discriminate against reservists in their hiring processes. Although the Minister has held out against such legislation in the consultation, will he at least consult employers large and small to see whether there is an appetite to prevent that small number of employers from discriminating against those who protect our nation?

Mr Francois: In some ways the right hon. Gentleman has, for honourable reasons, asked a similar question to his hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr Roy), who sits on the Benches behind him. We are aware of the issue and intend to address it directly when we publish the White Paper later in the spring. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has offered bipartisan support in principle for the White Paper and the process of growing our reserves, which clearly we welcome.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): The Minister will be aware that the Brazilian navy is looking to acquire at least one, possibly two, new aircraft carriers, so there will be significant potential for export opportunities. French companies are already on the case, supported by the French Government, looking to procure the design work. Given that we are building two of the world’s most advanced aircraft carriers, as a result of which we will have the skills and a dip in ship-building orders between the end of the carrier build and the start of the Type 26—which, incidentally, we are looking to sell to the Brazilians—what discussions has his Department, including the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), during his recent visit, had with the Brazilians specifically to promote British interests in the design and build of those carriers?

Mr Dunne: As the hon. Lady knows, Brazil and the UK entered into a maritime co-operation agreement as a result of the Prime Minister’s visit in recent months. As I said earlier, the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire, visited Brazil only last week, when he discussed maritime co-operation, particularly in the offshore patrol vessel area. It is clear that the Brazilians wish to construct the aircraft carriers in their own shipyards, which means that there is no prospect of a direct export order for an entire ship; but as regards many of the systems, components and weapons systems, we will be seeking to provide opportunities for companies in this country supplying our aircraft carriers, which are currently under construction in Rosyth, to bid into the Brazilian and other nations’ programmes.

Please read the full Hansard of Defence Questions here.

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