It was a pleasure to attend Yeovilton Air Day last weekend, with its ever exciting and varied line-up. It is a brilliant showcase for our local contribution to our armed forces, and a great chance to welcome friends from all over the world. Given the recent tragedy at Shoreham it was particularly heartening and a credit to the Navy organisers and engineers to see such exciting and safe displays from historic aircraft such as our Sea Vixen, as well as the more modern fast jets which included the Red Arrows, Typhoon and Rafale.
The diverse, international show throws into practical relief the fact that defence equipment development, purchase, maintenance and operation often take place within international collaborations of one kind or another these days. As technology has become more complex, capable and expensive, corporate combinations and recombinations, and partnerships in development and sourcing, have become more of a constant feature.
Our defence industries and companies are still capable of developing world leading products on their own, although components are often sourced from international suppliers. This reflects in part the fact that global supply chains are now a feature of most industries and success of the World Trade Organisation has brought down barriers. I will fight hard to make sure our local industries are able to trade freely and efficiently around the world, including with Europe, as our country resets existing and new trade relationships over the coming period.
The challenge for government more broadly is to get the balance right, between obtaining world leading technologies that deliver the defence capability that an active and outward looking policy requires, at the best overall cost for tax payers, while maintaining national abilities so that in less certain times our independence and that of our allies can be preserved. In this uncertain world a strong and capable defence is one of the best ways of ensuring peaceful international co-operation and the rule of law, standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies.
In industrial terms we need to shape government engagement with defence activities and their spin-offs, to give companies and their employees opportunities to reduce development risk and create commercial products and non-defence applications, while still effectively incentivising efficiency and innovation and not exposing the tax payer to undue risk. The UK should be among the most competitive places to do business in the world, and government's role setting the framework is important.
The proposal this week to reduce corporation tax to make the UK more competitive is a start, and the trade work that we will now take place gives a big opportunity to look in each area how we can redouble our efforts to improve productivity, competitiveness and collaboration.
During times of national political debate it’s important to continue to make time for other issues. Last week I attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Equitable Life, which continues to campaign for a better deal for those affected by the insurance company’s collapse, and also met with Yeovil representatives from the WASPI campaign to mitigate the impact of reform on women’s pensions – my thanks to them for making the trip to Westminster. Back in Somerset I very much enjoyed my visit to Wadham School in Crewkerne where the youth view was well informed and robust as always.