The government must decide if it wants the UK to have a defence industry in the future, BAE Systems warned this week.
The company has come out fighting after accusations that it is seeking to monopolise the UK’s defence industry in its attempts to secure the Type 45 destroyer, future aircraft carrier and tanker aircraft contracts.
Mike Turner, chief operating officer at BAE Systems, said the government’s insistence on competition from overseas suppliers, such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin of the US, and Thales of France, could freeze out UK suppliers. ‘Nobody can have a monopoly in the defence industry, but the government has to decide: does it want a defence base in the UK or not?’
While UK suppliers must develop equipment from scratch when competing for contracts, US firms in particular get a head-start in funding from their government for much of their development work, he said.
‘The consequences for the UK government are significant. It will then be dependent on foreign suppliers.’
But Conservative defence spokesman Quentin Davies told the company to ‘grow up’ and accept it could not have a monopoly over the industry. Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said it was not in the interests of the industry for BAE to become the only major defence supplier in the UK.
Meanwhile, Vosper Thornycroft reiterated earlier calls for the government to reject what it says will be a BAE monopoly in naval shipbuilding if the company is selected to build all Type 45s.