Today I asked Defence Minister Harriet Baldwin to explain exactly why, despite her promising on at least four occasions in the last few weeks that the National Shipbuilding Strategy would be published before the Autumn Statement, it wasn’t.
Her answer has to be seen to be believed as she firstly bangs on, again about how ungrateful the SNP are before deliberately trying to pass of Sir John Parker’s report as the actual Shipbuilding Strategy; which it isn’t.
No wonder the Speaker had to tell me to calm down.
Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
No one would deny that it is vital to do everything we can to encourage innovation in the defence sector. Does the Minister agree with me that to foster an environment in which innovation can flourish, business and industry have to be able to trust what they are told by the Government? Given that, will she take this opportunity to explain to the shipbuilding industry exactly why she did not deliver on the copper-bottomed assurances, which she gave on at least four occasions, that the national shipbuilding strategy would be published before the autumn statement?
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Mr Speaker, did you pick up in that question any congratulations on or delight at the fact that I was at the shipyards on the Clyde on Thursday, cutting steel for two new offshore patrol vessels? I remain astonished at the very grudging way in which the Scottish National party fails to recognise the billions of pounds of work that is being sent to shipyards on the Clyde.
For the record, I am absolutely delighted that the OPVs are being built on the Clyde. Will the Minister take this opportunity to apologise to workers and management across the UK shipbuilding industry for the misleading and contradictory statements that have come from the Ministry of Defence during the past few months? Will she also take this opportunity to explain why the shipbuilding strategy did not appear when she promised it would appear?
It is lucky the hon. Gentleman gets a supplementary, so that he can say some vague, grudging words of welcome for the fact that we have just announced two decades’ worth of work on the Type 26 frigates in Scotland. He is complaining about the lack of publication of a report that has been published; the Government will provide their response next year. [Interruption.] Sir John Parker’s report on shipbuilding was published on 29 November. I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has not had a chance to read it, and will send him a personally signed copy.
The hon. Gentleman is a very excitable burgher of this House. I am not sure that he has quite attained the apogee of statesmanship to which he should aspire. He must try to calm himself and take some sort of soothing medicament. That will probably do the trick. Let us hear from a calm person. I call Maria Miller.