Protect UK jobs by favouring British defence manufacturers, Labour says

Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent
·2-min read

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

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer was backing a “British-built by default” approach, rather than an “open competition” policy that sees off-the-shelf equipment purchased from abroad.

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

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (Ian Forsyth/PA)

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

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.”

Shadow defence secretary John Healey
Shadow defence secretary John Healey (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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

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 £85 billion on equipment over the next four years, defence will generate and sustain thousands of highly skilled jobs, driving prosperity throughout the country.”