talks to the Rt Hon Gerald Howarth, MP for Aldershot, Minister for International Security Strategy at the Ministry of Defence and a private pilot, about this year’s Farnborough Airshow, encouraging young people into the industry and why UK aerospace and defence exports will lead the way out of the deficit.This is a full article published in Aerospace International: September 2010
What was your impression of this year’s Farnborough airshow?
I think it was another excellent show. Farnborough, of course, is the world’s premier aerospace exhibition. It serves a dual purpose: one is to act as a focal point for the aerospace industry around the world to get together. Aerospace is overwhelmingly a global business and Farnborough has established itself since the WW2 as the venue for that purpose. But it’s also an airshow where the public can see some of their investment in terms of military hardware, together with the latest offerings from the civil aerospace sector. This year’s show was fully booked with 1,300 companies taking stands or chalets and some $47bn worth of business was done. 120,000 attended on the five trade days and 108,000 on the public days. This year they had a themed programme, day one was security, day two was defence, day three was civil, day four was space and day five was the Futures Day — aimed at younger people. I think that was a good innovation and worked extremely well. There were 70 delegations from 44 countries and 11 British Government ministers were in attendance. On the second, defence day, all six defence ministers were there — which is unprecedented.
How do you rate the importance of attending a show like this —for both industry and for politicians?
I think it’s extremely important because it is such a unique forum where everybody is there at the same time. In the space of a couple of days you can meet virtually all the key players in whatever part of the aerospace business you may happen to be involved. I think for us as ministers it was important, as we had determined right at the outset of this new Government that we would make defence exports a major priority. The Farnborough airshow gave us a wonderful opportunity to publicise the change in the policy and to put that into practice, by not only being at the show but by meeting overseas delegations there. I personally met 17 and other ministers, (not only from the
), also met overseas delegations too. So it really served a tremendous purpose for us.
Last year, we heard a lot of talk about ‘rebalancing’ the UK economy from the financial sector towards manufacturing and industry — is the new government going to continue this path?
I very much hope so. Sir John Rose of
last autumn setting out the serious industrial and technological capabilities which we have in the UK. We need to exploit these in order to ensure that we not only maximise the benefit of that huge national resource we have, in terms of the skills in the high technology areas of commerce and industry, but also, so that we can achieve a more balanced economy. I used to be an international banker and have always tried to impress upon my friends in the City when they talk about ‘financial products’, it’s an oxymoron. They don’t make anything. They are a service business and for far too long this country has been deluded into thinking that manufacturing industry was passé and the nation’s prosperity would be provided overwhelmingly by financial services. That bubble has burst. I can only echo what Sir John said last year and urge everybody involved in Britain’s hi-tech industries, (especially aerospace of course), that they go out and proclaim his message loud and clear. Which is why I was delighted that Farnborough International had a whole day reserved for young people. I was there on the day and it was very exciting seeing the way in which the industry had reshaped its presentation from being focused on its trade customers to focusing on young people and what the aerospace industry has to offer in terms of a rewarding and exciting career. One of the stands that was well attended was the
stand and to see them flocking round the car with Wg Cdr Andy Green there, signing things prolifically, was very encouraging. It illustrates how it is possible to make manufacturing, science and technology appealing to young people.
How important do you see aerospace and defence in playing a key role in the UK ‘exporting its way’ out of debt?
The nation, any nation, survives on being able to sell its wares to other countries, (unless you are entirely self-sufficient, such as the US). So we have always acknowledged that we are a trading nation — that is ingrained in our ‘national DNA’. I believe that in aerospace and defence Britain is a world leader — we should rejoice in that and capitalise on it. That is why this Government is keen to promote defence exports because we believe they serve a number of important purposes. First they enable us to build alliances, or to strengthen existing ones. Second, they help to reduce the unit cost of equipment to our own forces. Third, and very important, we believe that future defence procurement in the UK should be based on five factors, one of them which is exportability. The reason for doing that is not only because it generates wealth for the country, but because it will help to ensure that our armed forces do not ‘over specify’ the equipment that they order for domestic UK defence purposes. The
are wonderful ships but they are £1,000m per copy and there is no hope of exporting them because anyone able to afford that sort of money will build their own. So we see defence industry as a noble industry, which both contributes to our national security and to the prosperity of the nation. I would be hard pressed to find any two more important qualities.
How important is the airshow to your constituents and surrounding area in economic terms?
It’s said that the airshow is worth about £20m to the local economy and that extends to a 25mile radius around Farnborough. Farnborough is established as a byword throughout the world-wide aerospace industry as a centre of aeronautical excellence, building of course, upon the original Cody balloon factory and the extraordinary contribution of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, (now
) in pioneering the technology throughout the 20th century. Many local people have either worked in the aerospace industry or are associated with it, and this emphasis on aerospace is undoubtedly acting as a catalyst to attract inward investment. I think most people are very proud that every two years Farnborough becomes the epicentre of the world’s aerospace community. On that basis, I think they are prepared to put up with a certain inconvenience caused by 230,000 people descending on our small community.
Aerospace International Contents - September 2010
- Aerospace News 4
- News Roundup 5
- Plane speaking 10 Interview with Gerald Howarth MP, Minister for International Security Strategy
- Summer dreamin' 12 Report on Farnborough Airshow
- Red hot Russians 18 Fire-fighting with the Ka-32
- Fuel speed ahead 20 Third time lucky for KC-X?
- Last of the few 23 RAF's first FSTA tanker gets ready
- Taranis: out of the Black 24 The UK's flagship UCAV demonstrator
- Unlocking the civil UAV market 26 Waht needs to happen?
- Letters 29
- Towards tomorrow's cockpits 30 Is the single pilot airliner on the horizon?
- The last word 34 Keith Hayward on the WTO subsidies spat
Finally — what was your personal highlight of the show?
I have visited the show certainly continuously since 1984. The first show my mother told me I visited was in 1948 (which was of course the first time it was held at Farnborough), so I can claim quite a loyal connection. But for me, this was the first year I attended as a Minister having the privilege of leading the MoD’s policy on defence exports and choosing the Farnborough venue as the location for the announcement of the policy. So that to me, I’m bound to say, was the highlight and, for three days, I had back-to-back meetings. It has always been busy, but this year there was a real sense of purpose and excitement. In terms of the display, the highlights were undoubtedly the
which I thought gave a very impressive performance — particularly its right angled turns and proved the extraordinary capability of the aircraft and the value of thrust-vectoring. But the other very pleasing display was that of the
— a programme of which I was a very vehement critic until about five years ago. It proved with a test payload of 18tonnes on board it really could show its paces. Given there is no competitor in the world in that niche between the C-17 and C-130, I hope that its troubles are now behind it. I thought Ed Strongman gave an extraordinary robust display. The third highlight in the flying display was the Vulcan, of which I am extremely proud to be a
. Not only is it an iconic aeroplane in its own right but it sends a powerful message to young people today about the importance of maintaining a deterrent against your enemies. If you have a deterrent you can ‘speak softly’ because your deterrent is your ‘big stick’ and the Vulcan was a ‘big stick’ which sent the Soviet Union a clear message. And I think the Vulcan does something else, which is to remind people, when young men and women are performing heroically in Afghanistan, laying down their lives for their country and quite rightly awarded medals for gallantry and service, that there is a largely unsung group of people who bear fewer gallantry medals but who were no less prepared to lay down their lives for their country during the Cold War. In the event they were not called upon to do so, because the Cold War was eventually won by political means. But without that deterrent, or their commitment to Queen & country, there would have been no use in a political policy.