With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about our friendship with Australia and the United States, and the security of the Indo-Pacific.
Yesterday I joined President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison to create a new trilateral defence partnership between our countries known as AUKUS. Australia has, for the first time, taken the momentous decision to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, and it has asked for our help in achieving this ambition. I am delighted to tell the House that we have agreed to this request and we shall place the UK’s expertise in this field, amassed over decades, at the assistance of our Australian friends. The first task of AUKUS will be an 18-month trilateral collaboration to determine the best way of delivering advanced nuclear submarines for Australia—emphasising, of course, that they will be powered by nuclear reactors, not armed with nuclear weapons, so the nuclear non-proliferation treaty places no prohibition on that work. The House will understand how Australia’s future possession of that capability will help safeguard the peace and security of the Indo-Pacific.
Nuclear submarines are the capital ships of our age, propelled by an effectively inexhaustible source of energy, allowing them to circumnavigate the world without surfacing, deriving oxygen and fresh water from the sea around them. While on patrol, they keep silent watch over vast expanses of ocean, protecting shipping, gathering intelligence, deterring adversaries, and guarding the trade routes on which our livelihoods depend.
To design, build, operate and then safely decommission a nuclear submarine ranks among the most complex and technically demanding enterprises yet devised. Only six nations possess nuclear-powered submarines, and to help another country join this tiny circle is a decision of the utmost gravity, requiring perhaps the closest relationship of trust that can exist between sovereign states. I hope that I speak for the House when I say that I have no hesitation about trusting Australia, a fellow maritime democracy, joined to us by blood and history, which stood by Britain through two world wars at immense sacrifice.
Today, the UK and Australia defend the same interests, promote the same values and face the same threats: we are as closely aligned in international policy as any two countries in the world. One of the great prizes of this enterprise is that Australia, the UK and the US will become inseparable partners in a project that will last for decades, creating opportunities for still greater defence and industrial co-operation.
The integrated review of foreign and defence policy described Britain’s renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific, a region that is fast becoming the geopolitical centre of the world, and ever more important for British trade and therefore British jobs and British livelihoods. If there were ever any question about what global Britain’s tilt towards the Indo-Pacific would mean in reality, or what capabilities we might offer, this partnership with Australia and the US provides the answer. It amounts to a new pillar of our strategy, demonstrating Britain’s generational commitment to the security of the Indo-Pacific and showing exactly how we can help one of our oldest friends to preserve regional stability. It comes after the UK’s success in becoming a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and our application to join the trans-Pacific free trade area.
At the same time, this project will create hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the UK, including in Scotland, the north of England and the midlands, reinforcing our industrial base and our national scientific expertise, exemplified by the British companies participating in this week’s Defence and Security Equipment International event.
A nuclear submarine programme exists within a different realm of engineering from any other marine project, requiring a mastery of disciplines ranging from propulsion to acoustics. In these fields and many others, we will have a new opportunity to strengthen Britain’s position as a science and technology superpower, and by generating economies of scale, this project could reduce the cost of the next generation of nuclear submarines for the Royal Navy, helping us to renew our own capabilities.
While our partnership will begin with nuclear-powered submarines, now that we have created AUKUS, we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defence systems, including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and undersea capabilities. This partnership will open a new chapter in Britain’s friendship with our closest allies, help to safeguard the security of the Indo-Pacific, create jobs at home and reinforce our country’s place at the leading edge of technology. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement. The recent events in Afghanistan show us how precarious international stability can be. New challenges can emerge and issues in faraway corners of the globe can quickly turn into threats at home, so Labour welcomes increased co-operation with our allies. Australia and America are two of our closest security partners. Sharing resources and intelligence with them and enhancing capabilities makes them safer, makes Britain safer, and makes the world safer.
The lesson of the past few weeks is that Britain must look after our most important relationships, or our influence and security quickly decline. Labour welcomes this announcement, but may I ask the Prime Minister to outline in a bit more detail what the agreement means in practice? The strategic review identified China as a “systemic competitor”. China’s assertiveness does pose risks to UK interests in a secure Pacific region, in stable trading environments and in democracy and human rights. We need to deal with those risks, defend our values and defend our interests, but the same review also rightly stated that the UK must maintain a commercial relationship with China, and we must work with them on the defining global issues of the day, such as climate change and pandemic preparedness. Without diplomatic strategy and skill, those goals will come into conflict. So what plan does the Prime Minister have to ensure that this new arrangement increases, rather than decreases our ability to influence China?
In order to protect our security and interests, we also need to look after our broader alliances. NATO remains our most important strategic alliance. It is also the most successful, having delivered peace and security in Europe for three quarters of a century. Whatever the merits of an Indo-Pacific tilt, maintaining security in Europe must remain our primary objective. Will the Prime Minister guarantee that the arrangement will not see resources redirected from Europe and the high north to the Pacific? Will he also guarantee that the arrangement will strengthen rather than weaken the NATO alliance, including our indispensable bilateral relationship with France? We are also in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangements with Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the US, which is vital to our security. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that this new trilateral arrangement will not weaken our intelligence capabilities by producing a two-tier Five Eyes operation?
Finally, the arrangement clearly brings potential economic opportunities for Britain. We need the well-paid, high-skilled jobs that the defence industry provides in every corner of Britain. The Prime Minister said that the project will create hundreds of skilled jobs. Will he give more detail on what he has done to ensure that Britain gets its fair share of any contracts that come out of the arrangements? What will he do to ensure that no region or nation in Britain misses out on any job opportunities that the arrangement may bring?
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for welcoming the statement and AUKUS. I will answer some of the detailed points that he made.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman began by asking whether AUKUS was in any sense adversarial to China and how we will manage the relationship with China. It is important for the House to understand that it is not intended to be adversarial towards any other power; it merely reflects how the close relationship that we have with the United States and Australia, the shared values that we have and the sheer level of trust between us enables us to go to the extraordinary extent of sharing nuclear technology in the way in which we propose. Obviously, we also have a shared interest in promoting democracy, human rights, freedom of navigation and freedom of trade around the world, which are values and perspectives that I hope the whole House will support.
On the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s point about NATO, the House should be in no doubt that the Government’s commitment to NATO is absolutely unshakeable and indeed has been strengthened by the massive commitments that we have made. With the biggest uplift in defence spending since the cold war—£24 billion—2.2% of our GDP now goes on defence spending. He rightly raises the question of our military relationship with France, which, again, is rock-solid. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the French, whether in the Sahel, where we are running a joint operation against terrorists in Mali, or in Estonia, where we have the largest NATO operation.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked reasonably about the jobs that this great project will unquestionably produce. What I can say is that there will be an 18-month scoping exercise to establish where the work should go between the three partners, but clearly there are deep pools of expertise throughout the United Kingdom, whether in Derby, Plymouth, Scotland or Barrow. I have no doubt whatever that it will bring hundreds of high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the kind that we want to see, and increasingly are seeing, in our country.
Finally, it is a pleasure to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s change of heart about NATO—I had to say this, Mr Speaker, pain me though it does—after he only recently campaigned to install a Prime Minister who wanted us to withdraw from NATO.
We must work with but stand up to China. This is about a more co-ordinated, long-term strategy in challenging China’s increasing, hostile dominance in the South China sea. But as the Prime Minister says, it is also a reminder of how we must work with alliances and rekindle an appetite to robustly defend international standards, so we cannot gloss over how bruised NATO now feels after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. I hope the Prime Minister would agree that there is an opportunity for Britain to help shape western thinking and reinvigorate international resolve in what we stand for and are willing to defend. Would he agree today that this initiative is in response to the increasing, constant competition that we now face? I hope he now recognises that our peacetime defence budget is no longer adequate, and we will soon need to increase it to 3% of GDP if we are to contain the threats that now we face.
I thank my right hon. Friend very much. The increase that we have seen in our defence spending is unparalleled in modern times. It is the biggest uplift since the cold war—£24 billion. I think everybody can see the value of that and the importance of that, and, by the way, it is enabling us to take part in this historic partnership in the way that we are. On his point about our relationship with China, I just want to be clear with the House. Yes, it is true that this a huge increase in the levels of trust between the US, the UK and Australia—it is a fantastic defence technology partnership that we are building—but from the perspective of our friends and partners around the world, it is not actually revolutionary. We already have been co-operating over, for instance, the Collins class submarines in Australia.
Let me begin by thanking the Prime Minister for advance sight of the statement and for the briefing from the National Security Adviser that was arranged last night.
Over the course of the last number of weeks and months, we have all witnessed on the streets of Kabul the devastating consequences of failure when international co-operation falters. Deepening co-operation and advancing agreements with allies that seek to aid stability and security is an important step, especially if past mistakes are never to be repeated, and I welcome this announcement. In particular, the recognition of the growing cyber-threat in this agreement may be overdue but it is none the less welcome. I would hope that the extent of this co-operation on cyber-security can and will be extended to include our other key allies, especially in Europe.
There are a number of points and questions I would like to raise about how this agreement was reached and what has been agreed. First, can the Prime Minister inform us as to what discussions have been held with other NATO allies in advance of this announcement and what interaction there will be with this initiative? Were these allies informed that this agreement was being progressed at the recent G7 summit in Cornwall?
Secondly, on the nuclear agreements, I understand and welcome the fact that the Australian Prime Minister has firmly ruled out any development of any nuclear weaponry, but in terms of future obligations under nuclear non-proliferation treaties, can the Prime Minister give a cast-iron guarantee that this agreement can never be used as a stepping stone to nuclear weaponry if any future Australian Administration were to change this approach?
Finally, on the broader geopolitical positioning that this agreement signals, a number of military experts, including the US Defence Secretary, have previously stated that the resources of allies on the European continent would be better targeted regionally rather than risk being stretched thinly across the Pacific. With all the focus of this agreement on the Indo-Pacific, what risks are there that vigilant eyes are taken off the threats closer to home, specifically from the Putin regime in Moscow, or indeed matching up the UK and the EU strategic interest in shoring up stability and providing the humanitarian assistance that is needed in parts of Africa?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what I think was a broad welcome of this AUKUS agreement. It is historic and it is good for the whole of the United Kingdom. There is no conflict with NATO; NATO members are obviously fully up to speed with what is happening and this in no way affects the NATO relationships, which are absolutely fundamental for our security. There is also no prospect of its breaking the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, as I informed the House earlier, and no risk at all that it will mean that the United Kingdom or any of our allies take our eye off the ball on the threat from the Putin regime or Russia. The House should therefore understand that this is a defence technology agreement that is very sensible given the huge geopolitical weight now to be found in the Indo-Pacific region; the economic growth in that area is phenomenal and the security issues there are very important for our country—such as in the maintenance of trade flows—and that is why it is vital that we take part in this agreement.
My right hon. Friend said yesterday that this partnership has
“the aim of working hand in glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”
What are the implications of this pact for the stance and response the United Kingdom would take should China attempt to invade Taiwan?
I warmly welcome this agreement on nuclear technology co-operation with Australia, but what steps are being taken to develop defence partnership and technology agreements with other countries such as India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, who have a lot to offer in terms of technology that we could gain from for our own defence?
This par is enormously welcome because it makes us safer in an area of the world where there are particular challenges to our ability to trade, secure our interests and protect our allies. Those who serve on our submarines do mission-critical work, but because they are our silent protectors they are often forgotten. So will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking them because they keep us safe every hour of every day, and will he confirm this is the first step towards further upgrading our presence in the Indo-Pacific?
I pay tribute to our submariners, who have had a particularly difficult time during covid, when the necessity of protecting submarines has been particularly acute. My hon. Friend makes a good point about the further steps we can take now within the context of AUKUS; this is just the beginning of collaboration on defence technology. I have mentioned some of the areas in which we now wish to go further such as cyber, AI and undersea defences; there are many areas now where countries with shared values and a shared belief in democracy will want to take collaboration much further.
As consistent internationalists, Liberal Democrats welcome this enhanced co-operation with our Australian allies, especially because it is for our mutual security. Just because the Prime Minister has failed on past occasions to effectively co-operate internationally does not mean we will not give him credit on occasions like this. But further to his answer to the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), in the context of standing up for our national interests against threats from China, Russia or elsewhere will the Prime Minister confirm that the UK is seeking to enhance co-operation with other allies in the Indo-Pacific region such as India, Japan and South Korea, and will he give more detail on that or at least commit to the House to come back with more detail?
What I can tell the House is that, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the carrier strike group is now in that region, and it has been doing exercises with a total of 40 other countries—friends and partners around the world—from India right the way through to Japan. I am not going to give much more detail now about FCAS, for reasons that I am sure the House will appreciate, but the UK will be developing friendships and partnerships throughout that region, for the very good political, security and economic reasons that I have given the House.
I very much welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement. One of the reasons that some of us have opposed our foreign interventions since 2003 is that we felt they acted as a distraction from many greater dangers around the world, including in Indochina, so this agreement is very welcome. Will the Prime Minister confirm, though, the extent to which jobs and skills in this country will be reinforced, if not enhanced? For example, are the 12 submarines that are presently within the French contract going to be re-bid for?
I do not want to go into the details of the contracts, but the House will understand that what we are doing is seeking, with our American friends and our Australian friends, to help the Royal Australian Navy to acquire the type of nuclear submarines that are appropriate for the current geopolitical situation they find themselves in. I have absolutely no doubt that the skills and expertise that are available in this country—across the whole UK—will be called upon extensively to fulfil that objective.
It is important that we maintain a diplomatic dialogue with China. Without it, solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as climate change, will not be achievable. Will the Prime Minister tell the House what is being done to increase our influence with China, and what impact this alliance might have on COP26 negotiations later in the year?
I can tell the hon. Lady that the President-designate of COP, my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma), was in Beijing recently and had very productive conversations with his Chinese counterparts. We are hopeful that China will be able to go even further than its current commitment to get to net zero by 2060. We are hoping that we will see a very productive commitment from China.
I welcome the news of this partnership. Will the Prime Minister look at using it to drive forward closer working with our allies towards a more secure and resilient supply chain for digital technology so that we can be less reliant on countries such as China, which the Government have quite rightly identified as a competitor in this space?
Yes, and the opportunities are boundless. We are building on firm foundations. It is 50 years since the five power defence arrangements, the oldest defence agreement in the Pacific, which colleagues will know involves Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. There are already structures in that region. AUKUS adds a new structure and a deeply intensified level of co-operation, on a scale that has not been seen before.
I warmly welcome the deepening of our defence and security relationships with our long-standing friends and allies, Australia and the United States, and the bipartisan support for that, not only here but in Australia. At its base, must not this agreement ultimately also be part of the defence not only of our interests but of the rules-based international order, democracy and human rights, and an alliance of democracies? Does the Prime Minister accept that foreign aid soft power is an important component of that too?
Yes, it certainly is. That is why I think the UK can be very proud of the massive commitments that we make—£10 billion this year alone in official development assistance spending. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that this enhanced defence agreement between the UK, Australia and the US is founded on shared values.
Does the Prime Minister agree that this new partnership with Australia, which builds on the recently announced trade deal that will boost jobs and businesses across the country, including the east midlands, shows the huge opportunities available to global Britain as we look beyond our friends and allies in Europe to become a truly global power on the world stage?
The recognition that cyber-warfare is as much a part of modern conflict as troops on the ground is reassuring, but the statement was a bit light on mentions of industrialised weaponised misinformation which has caused so much damage over recent years. What reassurance can the Prime Minister give that cyber-troops based here and in hostile states will be high on the AUKUS agenda?
Will the Prime Minister accept the thanks of the House for deepening collaboration with some of our oldest allies and putting flesh on the bones of global Britain? In that vein, will he join me in welcoming to London Mohamed bin Zayed to not only deepen further links, but unleash economic benefits as well as tackling issues such as defence, climate change and regional instability?
Yes. I will indeed be seeing Mohamed bin Zayed very shortly—in fact, just after I leave the House today. I think I am right in saying—my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will correct me—that our relationship with the Gulf States is our single fastest growing market.
Maintaining and strengthening our alliances is now more important than ever. I welcome today’s announcement, but can the Prime Minister answer the question posed by the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), which was how this trilateral agreement sits with our Five Eyes relationships, and whether it will strengthen them and not weaken them?
It sits within the Five Eyes arrangement. The Five Eyes arrangement obviously comprises Canada and New Zealand as well. They, for various reasons, are not part of this very greatly intensified technological partnership. The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership is of absolutely huge value to the security of the western world. It remains one of the pillars of our strategic defence.
In welcoming AUKUS, which is a fantastic opportunity for new jobs and development to come to the north-west of England, does my right hon. Friend agree that it also dovetails nicely with our ambitions towards the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, and shows our intent towards a stronger presence in our tilt towards the Indo-Pacific?
Does the Prime Minister agree that this new partnership is an absolutely golden opportunity for jobs across the country, including at home in the midlands? It not only gives people the opportunity to defend our shared interests and values across the world, but the opportunity of a high-skilled job and the security of a pay packet.
Yes, that is exactly right, and I thank my hon. Friend. The UK leads the world in some of these technologies. The factories, plants, ports and docks that make this stuff are distributed across the United Kingdom. There are opportunities for high-wage, high-skilled jobs that will last a generation and more.
The human rights atrocities against the Uyghur people in China have yet to abate. They continue with such brutality. While co-operation is welcome, how will this new strategy make protecting human rights more possible since escalation of operations can have a chilling impact on diplomacy?
I think it is very important that we continue to engage with our Chinese partners, but to engage very firmly on the points that we care about, whether it is human rights in Hong Kong, democracy in Hong Kong or the treatment of the Uyghurs. The UK, as the hon. Lady knows, has imposed sanctions on those who exploit forced labour in Xinjiang and taken many other steps besides.
For 60 years, we have been manufacturing nuclear submarines and we are a world leader. I can confirm that this is a great Union story, with the supply chain even finding its way to the landlocked Montgomeryshire in the middle of Wales. May I ask the Prime Minister to confirm that, while, of course, the security and the safety of the world is foremost, this will be great for jobs across the United Kingdom?
I have listened very carefully to the Prime Minister’s statement. He mentioned the new well-paid jobs, which we all welcome, and all countries of the UK, but he did not mention Wales. Will he tell me why Wales has been left out of this jobs fest?
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. It is right, in an ever-changing geopolitical landscape, that we review and, where possible, strengthen our links with like-minded countries around the world. Will he confirm that this new partnership will help us to continue to protect the rules-based international system in the region? I am thinking particularly of Hong Kong.
What this does is allow the three countries that share very close perspectives on human rights, the rule of law, free trade and international shipping to come together and, above all, to uphold our belief in democracy. We do not wish to be adversarial towards any other global power, but we wish to underscore that we work together to uphold those values, whether in our military co-operation or in technological transfer.
The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said that Australia’s new nuclear submarine would not be allowed in its waters due to a nuclear-free policy, yet under this great Union, Trident nuclear submarines are forced on Scotland. Indeed, we recently read that senior MOD officials have been looking at where to base its Trident fleet when Scotland becomes independent. Although France and the US were mentioned, will the Prime Minister confirm that they are not looking at the proposal of an “imperial days of empire” solution of creating a British overseas territory in Scotland?
I think most commonsensical people will welcome the arrival of jobs across the whole of the United Kingdom, particularly in Scotland. By the way, the Type 26 frigate programme, which I have seen being built in Govan, is worth £19.5 billion to this country and, like the nuclear submarine programme, will generate jobs for decades and decades to come. It is a great thing for the whole of the UK.
The Prime Minister will know the glorious tourism, hospitality and history offered by Hastings and Rye, but he may not know that we have some fantastic defence manufacturing and vacuum engineering businesses—a sector that I would like to see growing in Hastings and Rye, because we really need to expand those well-paid jobs. Will he promise to consider those sorts of jobs in Hastings and Rye as we move forward under this amazing partnership?
Absolutely. Of course, Hastings and Rye was the last place in which this island suffered a reversal at the hands of the French, but our relations with the French remain very good. My hon. Friend is certainly right about the benefits that this will bring throughout the UK, including, I hope, Hastings and Rye.
I welcome this development in the light of the strategic challenge posed by an increasingly assertive China, but the Prime Minister will be aware of the sensitivities in relation to the timing of the announcement, given the launch of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy today. What further reassurance can he provide that the new partnership will not come at the expense of defence co-operation with our European NATO allies?
This is not zero-sum. I have spoken to the House already about the depth of our co-operation with the French—which has a nuclear dimension as well—whether it is in Estonia or in Mali. One of the potential winners from this technological partnership is the French company Talis, which of course has many people working in this country.
I welcome the agreement, which shows the depth of our relationship with one of our oldest and closest allies, but can the Prime Minister confirm that it allows us to expand it into even more areas for the protection of our people and those of our allies?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. AUKUS is a big, big leap forward in terms of trust—agreeing to share nuclear propulsion systems is a giant step—but what this means now is that we will build on that platform to co-operate on cyber, artificial intelligence and all the other types of technology in respect of which it is vital that we stick together.
We welcome co-operation with our allies for mutual security, and we welcome co-ordinated action in the Indo-Pacific, but today in relation to Hong Kong the Government have failed to uphold their duty under the joint declaration at a time when democratic values have effectively been snuffed out. Because of our special obligations to Hongkongers, if we lead the way by imposing Magnitsky sanctions on those involved in this crackdown, our allies will follow. Will the Prime Minister finally take meaningful action on Hong Kong?
I think most people in this country would consider that a bit bizarre. We have not only stood up for human rights in Hong Kong, but have taken the step of welcoming the British nationals (overseas), 30,000 of whom are coming to this country. We should be very proud of what we are doing to protect and help them, and we will continue to do so.
Yes. I wish to repeat that this makes visible and incarnates the Indo-Pacific tilt that we have been talking about. It is an incredibly important development for our relations in the Indo-Pacific. However, it in no way detracts from our commitment to the north Atlantic area, to the European theatre and to our overall security.
Obviously we have an interest in maintaining a peaceful region in the Indo-Pacific, so I welcome this, but will the Prime Minister make something clear? He has described the agreement as being essentially about technological transfer, not about a major commitment of military assets. Can he guarantee that that is where we are going, and that no overstretch will be involved as a result of this agreement?
I note that our friends from New Zealand have already announced that the new submarines will be banned from their waters, but can I press my right hon. Friend on the opportunities to expand co-operation with India, which is a key strategic partner in the region?
I should stress to the House that what New Zealand has said is its historic position; it has been in that place for 30 years or more. What my hon. Friend says about India is absolutely right. Again, there is a great deal of community of interest and values, and we should pursue that.
I am pleased that the Government recognise the importance of protecting and growing sovereign and allied strategic capability, especially given their recent attempt to hand over domestic nuclear power capability to the Chinese. During the passage of the National Security and Investment Bill and the Telecoms (Security) Bill, Labour called for just such partnerships with countries that share our values to develop key technologies such as 6G. Can the Prime Minister set out how he plans to develop further partnerships, and whether European countries might be included?
I am pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s commitment to Welsh workers and that they will be eligible for these opportunities, because workers in Pontypridd have already lost their jobs at BA in Llantrisant and GE in Nantgarw. I urge the Prime Minister to meet the leaders of the devolved nations, because he clearly needs a constitutional lesson. Wales is not a principality; it is a country—a country that has been forgotten by this Westminster Government. Will he commit to meeting them to look at contract opportunities for Welsh workers?
There will be jobs and growth across the whole of the UK as a result of this partnership, but above all as a result of the policies that this Government have been pursuing, which are leading to higher wages and higher skills—a policy that I am afraid the Labour party continually opposes.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. He will know that Northern Ireland plays an integral part in the procurement and manufacture of defence products; we have the highest technical and scientific manufacturers. We wish to be part of this move, and I know the Prime Minister wishes Northern Ireland to be part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, better together, but we need to be assured. Will he tell us today in the Chamber that Northern Ireland will play its part?
Of course Northern Ireland will play its part, not least in the shipbuilding strategy that will follow after the spending review. I should have made more of that. I am delighted to say that Harland and Wolff has, as I understand it, just taken on another 1,000 apprentices for the first time in a very long time to get ready for exactly that strategy.