The UK’s Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin MP, yesterday met with a dozen North East defence industry chiefs in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to highlight the important role that SMEs in the region play in equipping the UK’s armed forces.
The visit was set up by NDI, the division of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, representing Britain’s Defence, Security, Aerospace and Space industries – and was hosted by Pearson Engineering at its Armstrong Works headquarters in Newcastle. The minister was shown around the plant by Pearson’s Managing Director and Chairman of NDI, Craig Priday and saw where the company produces combat engineering and mine clearance systems that are used worldwide.
The Minister then joined leaders from 12 other local defence firms including CAV Ice Protection, Parmley Technologies, Houlder and Springwell Precision, in a roundtable discussion of topics crucial to small and medium-sized businesses supplying the forces.
With the MOD busily preparing a refresh of its industrial policy, which is scheduled to be published later this year, topics covered included how the MOD can engender greater UK supply chain involvement in MOD competitions, how SMEs can be supported to grow their exports, and how innovation can be incentivised within the UK defence supply chain.
Recognising the importance of engaging directly with the supply chain as it formulates its revised industrial policy, the Minister was accompanied to Newcastle by the MOD’s Director of Prosperity and International Business, Huw Walters - the senior official in charge of preparing the new policy. Mr Walters is tasked with ensuring that the Department delivers on its commitments to prosperity and the economy as set out in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The MOD is looking to increase the proportion of spend through SMEs from 19% to 25% by the end of this Parliament and the Minister provided an update on progress towards this goal. Mrs Baldwin was clear about both the military and economic benefits from pursuing such a policy, highlighting that SMEs in particular had a key role to play in helping to innovate the defence sector and ultimately provide battle winning capability.
Defence Procurement Minister, Harriett Baldwin, said: “The North East makes an important contribution to our national security and economy. From the Ajax armoured vehicle to our new carriers, the companies I’ve met are delivering the equipment and services our Armed Forces need to keep Britain safe.
“Here in Newcastle today, we looked at how the businesses based here can help make Britain one of the most innovative, most prosperous countries globally, for an economy that works for everyone.”
Managing Director of Pearson Engineering and Chairman of NDI, Craig Priday, said: “It has been a pleasure to welcome the Minister for Defence Procurement to Pearson Engineering today, particularly at such a significant time when the MOD is in the process of renewing its industrial policy.
“NDI members, like the 12 North East firms represented here today, make an enormous contribution to the capabilities of our armed forces and it is reassuring that the MOD is taking the time to hear and consider the views of the UK defence community right across the supply chain as it formulates its future policy intentions.”
Andy Collier, NDI Director, said that: “This visit was about providing an opportunity to engage directly with the MOD at the highest level and to discuss a range of topics crucial to small businesses supplying the Department. It has allowed the MOD to deepen its understanding of the UK supply chain, while showcasing the exciting work that our members are contributing to the defence industry. This sort of engagement is crucial to ensure that the MOD can establish the means through which we, as an industry, can work ever more closely with Government in the best interests of the UK economy.”