Lancashire defence workers get a boost as Labour calls for a buy British policy

Ministers must give greater protection to UK jobs by favouring British defence manufacturers over buying military equipment from overseas, Labour has urged.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 12:30 pm

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer was backing a “British-built by default” approach, which could have benefits down the line for the thousands of aerospace jobs at BAE Systems and supply chain firms in Lancashire, rather than an “open competition” policy that sees off-the-shelf equipment purchased from abroad.

More than £6bn of spending recently set out by the Government will be spent on surveillance aircraft from overseas, according to Labour analysis.

But the Ministry of Defence defended its strategy, arguing it will see a departure from global competition to boost British manufacturing.

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BAE Systems' Tempest prototype for the next generation air defence aircraft, one of the major projects carrying the job hopes of thousands in Lancashire

Sir Keir said: “Prioritising British businesses through defence spending is not only investment in jobs, but in our communities, and a more secure economy.”

His shadow defence secretary, John Healey, added: “Of course, there will be essential equipment or systems which makes strategic sense for Britain to develop with allies or to buy direct from overseas, but we want to see a much higher bar for this.

“When done well, defence spending has a multiplier effect, strengthening our UK economy. Covid has exposed the risks of relying on foreign supply chains. Labour’s ‘British by default’ policy would strengthen the UK’s sovereignty and security.”

Sir Keir backed the call ahead of a defence-related visit to Plymouth on Wednesday.

Labour's Sir Keir Starmer who has urged the government to buy British when it comes to defence projects to protect jobs

An MoD spokeswoman said: “Our new Defence and Security Industrial Strategy will ensure home-grown skills and enterprise are fully harnessed as we move away from global competition by default and lean towards British built to boost manufacturing within the UK supply chain.

“Combined with a commitment to spend £85bn on equipment over the next four years, defence will generate and sustain thousands of highly skilled jobs, driving prosperity throughout the country.”

The Labour party call has been backed by union GMB which wants to see a major new Royal Navy support ships project given to UK ship-builders.

Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer and CSEU maritime chairman, said: "GMB welcomes Labour's call for the government to adopt the ‘British-built by default’ approach, and invest in and secure jobs for the UK defence sector.

"Despite repeated questions in the House, the Government is still yet to clarify exactly what the significant proportion of build and assembly work for the Fleet Solid Support ships contract will be carried out in the UK.

"Here's a prime example where the Government can give the economy a major boost by securing shipbuilding, steel, and wider manufacturing jobs at home."