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Inquiry Launched Into Defence Supply Chain 'Vulnerabilities'

The Defence Committee has launched its inquiry to find out whether there has been foreign "manipulation" of the UK’s defence supply chain.

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The Defence Committee has launched a new inquiry to look at whether there has been "manipulation" by foreign powers in the UK’s defence supply chain following the coronavirus pandemic.

The inquiry will be looking for any new vulnerabilities that may have developed due to the financial pressure created by the virus, looking in particular at the impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-sized companies.

The concern is that with many key companies struggling to stay afloat and turning to foreign investment, UK defence finds itself uniquely exposed.

Proposed chair of the inquiry and expected sub-committee, Richard Drax MP, outlined the need for the investigation.  

"The global economy is more interconnected than ever and the defence supply chain is no exception to this rule," he said.

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The inquiry is particularly concerned with vulnerabilities caused by the pandemic.

"Our Armed Forces, and the wider population, rely on equipment and technology manufactured overseas and by foreign-owned companies within the UK," he added.

"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."

"It is 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."

Alongside looking for any undue influence from foreign powers, the committee will also explore the current regulation in place to keep defence-related companies out of foreign ownership.