A taskforce has been set up to investigate vulnerabilities in the UK defence supply chain following the Covid pandemic.
The House of Commons’ Defence Committee has launched a Sub-Committee on Foreign Involvement in the Defence Supply Chain, which will look at the impact of the outbreak on SMEs and mid-sized companies.
Richard Drax, who will chair the sub-committee, said the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in the supply chain and made firms more susceptible to foreign buy-outs.
The sub-committee will assess the ownership of firms and their links to states with “ulterior motives”, and explore the regulatory landscape regarding government intervention to prevent foreign ownership of defence or defence-related companies.
Drax said: “The global economy is more interconnected than ever, and the defence supply chain is no exception to this rule.
“Our armed forces, and the wider population, rely on equipment and technology manufactured overseas and by foreign-owned companies within the UK. Through this reliance on international companies, we forfeit a degree of control, and must ask ourselves whether we are inadvertently allowing foreign actors access, or leverage, that compromises our national security.”
Drax said it was “no secret that state actors are employing increasingly creative and covert methods to gain intelligence and to exert influence.
“Covid-19 has exacerbated vulnerabilities in the defence supply chain. In the wake of the pandemic, many small and medium-sized companies are struggling to stay afloat, and a foreign buy-out may be the only available lifeline.
“This inquiry will scrutinise the kinks in the defence supply chain, attempt to understand its frailties, as well as where there may be heightened exposure to manipulation by states with ulterior motives.”
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