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27/05/2019

WESTMINSTER NEWS

MOD updates Brexit advice for UK companies working in defence

MOD this week released a consolidated webpage of government guidance on Brexit for businesses working in defence. This includes advice on importing and exporting, employing EU citizens, impact on regulation and standards (including CAA and EASA licences, and UK REACH), rrecognising harmonised goods, providing services to EEA and EFTA countries, personal data protection and cross-border business operations. Though most of this advice applies across sectors, this new repository of information targeted at the defence sector is aimed at providing a central and easily accessed point of reference. NDI’s parent organisation, Make UK, also has a comprehensive website dedicated to supporting manufacturers with issues arising from Brexit and is available for all NDI members to use.

MOD announces £22 million for Army cyber operations centres

On Thursday Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt highlighted in a speech the need for NATO to recognise offensive cyber operations as central to modern warfare. Confirming that the UK Armed Forces will continue to develop its cyber capabilities as part of the government’s £1.9 billion investment into the National Cyber Security Strategy, the Defence Secretary expanded on that commitment, announcing a new £22 million in funding to stand up new Army cyber operations centres across the UK. With ambitions of “putting the Army at the forefront of information warfare”, the new centres will draw together cyber capability from a range of sources – including both national intelligence and open source data – to give the Army a competitive edge across all environments. They will provide the Army with 24/7 information and analysis, dispel misinformation and give the UK Armed Forces and our allies the upper hand on emerging digital threats. The centres are likely to be used to support overseas operations, humanitarian missions, and efforts to protect UK digital communications on home soil.

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

The Defence Secretary took defence oral questions in the House of Commons for the first time on Monday, alongside her ministerial team. Among the issues raised were the support being given by MOD to defence manufacturing in the UK. Providing a broad overview, defence procurement minister Stuart Andrew highlighted the national security objective to promote UK prosperity and a refreshed defence industrial policy with a new emphasis on supporting growth and competitiveness, particularly for SMEs. However, it was also reemphasized that international competition remains the cornerstone of MOD procurement policy, except where other strategic considerations need to be taken into account.

The most lively debate was has on naval shipbuilding. After Mr Andrew drew attention to the recent contract award to GE to build the electric drive motors for the ships in Rugby matters turned to whether the Fleet Solid Support ships currently being competed should be built in UK shipyards. Though declining to give such a commitment, the minister highlighted the recently announced review into the MARS tanker procurement (procured from a South Korean shipyard) that would seek to learn from that and maximise the opportunities for the UK supply chain, confirming that a UK consortium is bidding.

The issue was then raised as to whether MOD is following the recommendations of the National Shipbuilding Strategy to include the economic benefits to the UK being accounted for in the bidding process. Mr Andrew confirmed that Sir John Parker, author of the strategy, is currently doing a review of his initial report, highlighting that international competition is also about encouraging UK industry and UK shipyards to be as competitive as possible, so that they can not only maximise the opportunities that UK defence offers, but take advantage of competition around the globe, too.

The opposition bench then targeted the procurement process for the Type 31e frigate, noting that the price ceiling of £250 million per ship is ‘totally unrealistic’. Asked if he had now effectively removed that financial ceiling, Mr Andrew did not repudiate this, merely stating that “We have taken a pragmatic approach to change the parameters to ensure consistency with all other competitions that have been happening.” He also confirmed that the ambition remains for the capability to be competitive on the global market.

Among written questions answered this week, were:

WEAPONS PROCUREMENT: Asked what steps MOD is taking to help ensure that weapons used by British armed forces are (a) fit for purpose and (b) modern, Mr Andrew replied that “As explained in the report on the Modernising Defence Programme published in December 2018, we plan to modernise and transform our Armed Forces by embracing new and innovative technologies to ensure we retain military advantage over potential adversaries and by investing to improve the readiness and availability of defence equipment. We will spend over £186 billion on equipment and support over the decade from April 2018 to March 2028 to ensure that our Armed Forces are fit for the defence and security challenges of the future.”

COMPETITION IN PROCUREMENT: Asked what steps MOD is taking to encourage competition in defence procurement, Mr Andrew replied that “Competition remains the cornerstone of defence procurement policy, except where other strategic considerations need to be taken into account, for example national security, operational advantage and freedom of action. The Ministry of Defence routinely engages with prime contractors to maximise competition in the supply chain wherever possible; for example, encouraging early visibility of forthcoming requirements. Above all, our focus is on securing the best capability for the Armed Forces at the best value for money for the taxpayer.”

OTHER NEWS

QinetiQ reports 9% revenue rise (Jane’s 360)

Sweden confirms UK Tempest talks (Jane’s 360)

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