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MPs examine options to boost the defence economy in Northern Ireland

6 February 2024

The cross-party Northern Ireland Affairs Committee launches an inquiry into how historically low spending on the defence sector in Northern Ireland can be boosted by the UK Government.

The amount of cash spent per person on average in the UK is £310, five-times more than the £60 per person spent in NI, despite it being home to defence giants Thales and shipbuilders Harland and Wolff.

Small and medium enterprises in NI fare even worse, making up just £3m of the MoD’s £950m spent at smaller businesses nationwide.

The new inquiry will examine the causes of low defence investment in Northern Ireland, it’s capabilities in defence and dual-use manufacturing, and what more can be done to make NI more attractive for defence procurement.

Chair's comment

Sir Robert Buckland, the Committee’s Chair said:

"For many years defence spending in Northern Ireland has lagged far behind that of the UK average. With the MoD’s budget set to rise, we want to find out what it would take to get Northern Ireland a larger share of procurement.”

“We’ve seen in previous inquiries that some of the issues endemic in Northern Ireland society have socio-economic deprivation at their root cause. Finding a way to boost Northern Ireland’s output in the defence sector and cyber security could address these issues by creating hundreds, potentially thousands of high-skilled jobs.”

“We want to hear from companies working in and with the defence sector in Northern Ireland to identify opportunities for boosting spending and the policies that will support it.”

Terms of Reference: 

The Committee invites evidence submissions on its website on the following questions before the end of 7 March 2024:  

  1. What factors have contributed to the historical and ongoing low levels of MoD spending with industry in Northern Ireland?
  2. Could the MoD make more use of Northern Ireland’s defence industrial base and cyber security capabilities?
  3. Are planned increases in MoD capital budgets over the period to 2027-28 likely to lead to increased MoD spending with industry in Northern Ireland?
  4. Why is MoD expenditure with SMEs in Northern Ireland so much lower than in other parts of the UK?
  5. Does Northern Ireland’s workforce have the skills needed to support scale up of the defence and security industries?
  6. How will recent changes to MoD policy on procurement and its strategic relationship with industry affect companies in Northern Ireland?
  7. Could additional government support help businesses in Northern Ireland’s defence and cyber security industries to increase exports of their products and services?

Further information

Image: Crown copyright/MoD