While the Labour Party has been characteristically reluctant to spell out its plans for defence spending if it forms the next Government, it has at least made a clear commitment to a comprehensive review. The party plans a strategic review of what it spends on defence and how and where it will spend it.
For the defence industry a review is good news. The last five years of the Conservative Government has been characterised by clear promises of stability in defence spending, followed by a series of small unexpected cuts.
For defence manufacturers a clear idea of what defence spending is planned and when orders will be placed is crucial for short and medium-term plans. For many small-scale suppliers in the industry doubts and delays on orders bring constant threats to their ability to stay in business.
While such a review, particularly from a Labour Government, raises obvious fears that it is an excuse to cut expenditure, most industry watchers expect the party to stick to its promises of broadly maintaining spending levels, in the early years at least.
Labour’s defence spokesman, David Clark, has been clear that an early review would allow a Labour Government to clarify a defence strategy based on foreign policy rather than the demands of the Treasury. He sees clear advantages to be gained from a strategic review backed by the whole cabinet.
There is obvious impatience in the defence world, both from inside the armed forces and in industry, for a strong lead.
A clearly defined set of priorities on procurement will enable defence manufacturers to compete more effectively in a global market and to deliver more cost-effective and efficient products.