It’s a pleasure to be here this afternoon, at one of my first official duties as Defence Secretary.
It’s the nature of reshuffles that things happen very quickly.
No sooner has the Prime Minister given you the good news, then you’re whisked off to your new department…
Your officials come bearing gifts…
A huge briefing document…explaining how everything works…followed by a mass of submissions asking for urgent decisions on a wide range of tricky issues.
Needless to say, it’s going to take a little time to get to grips with a complex and wide ranging portfolio…
The case for the submarine industry
But one thing I’m glad I’ve been able to do in preparation for today is to learn more about defence submarine history.
For instance, it’s exactly sixty years since the world saw the launch of the first ever nuclear-powered submarine…the USS Nautilus…followed not too long afterwards by the UK’s HMS Dreadnought.
And I was reminded that the Royal Navy’s fleet of ballistic missile submarines have delivered continuous at-sea deterrence since 1969.
I was also amused to learn of a certain Third Sea Lord, Rear-Admiral Wilson, who, over a century ago, famously declared the submarine to be >an underhand and damned un-English weapon.
We’ve come a very long way since then.
And, despite being little more than 24 hours into the job, I know the case for this industry is easy to make.
It rests on 3 pillars.
First, it provides us with that vital strategic nuclear deterrent that helps defend our sovereign interests and keeps our nation safe.
Secondly, our submarines offer flexibility like no other.
As well as providing a silent and stealthy threat to our enemies, right around the clock, our attack submarines are capable of land strike, strategic intelligence-gathering and anti-submarine and surface ship warfare.
And thirdly, something I’m acutely aware of as a former Business Minister, submarines bring enormous benefit to our local economies.
…sustaining hundreds of companies…
…creating thousands of jobs…
…developing our world-class skills in advanced manufacturing…
… and spreading wealth around the country from Plymouth to Derby, from Barrow to the Clyde.
Just two months ago, we launched the third of 7 Astute class submarines, HMS Artful.
Worth £9.8 billion and 16 years into a 27 year delivery schedule, these are the largest, most advanced, most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy.
It makes me proud that all seven are being designed and built, from scratch, in this country…
…from the turbines, to the navigation radars, to the soft furnishings.
Designed and built by companies here in this room.
So this government needs no convincing of the case for submarine defence.
But this is not an industry that stands still.
And we are looking to the future, by investing in a replacement for our Vanguard deterrent submarines.
Over the past year, we have put millions into the Successor programme, ensuring our next generation of deterrent submarines can meet their planned in-service dates.
In fact, by the time we get to the ‘main gate’ decision in 2016, we will have committed about £3 billiion to the programme.
But the level of UK investment goes beyond the nuclear deterrent.
We have signed contracts worth almost £2 billion with Rolls Royce to produce reactor cores and maintain our nuclear propulsion capability for Astute class submarines, as well as for the Successor programme submarines.
However, in times of fiscal restraint, we must keep striving to get the greatest punch for our pound.
Which is why, we are working with industry, through the Submarine Enterprise Performance Programme, to ensure the MOD’s long-term outlay in key strategic capabilities is reciprocated with a commitment to sustainable efficiency.
So, I’m very grateful for this opportunity to introduce myself and to reaffirm my support for the continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent at the first available opportunity.
I am also glad to have the chance to pay tribute to the 3,380 heroes and heroines of the Royal Navy’s silent service.
And to thank all those from across the political spectrum and industry for everything you are doing to make sure our defence submarine sector flourishes.
I hope that, in my new role, I can count on your support…
…to continue working with us…
…to keep getting the most out of our resources…
…to keep striving for the innovation that puts us ahead of the curve….
And to keep putting the case, in word and deed, for the benefit that you bring to our country.