Every time I stand at the despatch box in the House of Commons I think of Cheltenham’s HHJ Martyn company and the craftsmen who built it in their workshop on the Lansdown Industrial Estate. Through their skill, they ensured that our town has a permanent presence in the cradle of our democracy.
And on the theme of democracy and the international rule of law, I was delighted to update MPs this week from that very despatch box on our pivotal new Defence partnership between Australia, the UK and the US – known as AUKUS.
At its heart, AUKUS contains a pledge to deliver a nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarine for Australia to help promote regional security in the Indo-Pacific.
Based on a British design, this new class of submarine will mean that the UK and Australia will operate, train and exercise on the same platforms. It will incorporate cutting-edge US submarine technology on propulsion, combat systems and conventional weapons.
It will also support thousands of jobs in the national supply chain, including here in Gloucestershire, as there will be a key role for BAE Systems, which employs people in Cheltenham and Gloucester. And I am delighted too that Rolls-Royce UK will be building the nuclear reactors for all of Australia’s submarines, as well as our own.
This partnership will help us share the burden of research and development costs, not just giving us access to some of the most advanced technology on the planet, but allowing us to integrate our supply chains and provide greater resilience at a time of inflationary pressures.
Quite apart from the economic boost, this will also help deliver a free and open Indo-Pacific and an international system that respects the rule of law, sovereignty, human rights, and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion.
That’s what our nation must stand for. I am delighted that Cheltenham’s despatch box once again took its place at the start of this important new chapter in our country’s history.
[Column first published in the Glos Echo]