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New Scout armoured vehicles built with Swedish steel

Hundreds of new armoured vehicles are being built with Swedish steel, a defence minister has revealed.

The £3.5 billion scheme, for 589 Scout vehicles, requires "specialist" steel in "relatively small quantities", Philip Dunne said in a written Parliamentary answer.

Mr Dunne told shadow defence minister Kevan Jones the prime contractor on defence projects is responsible for buying materials to complete the work.

Challenged at last week's Prime Minister's Questions on the crisis-stricken steel industry, David Cameron said the Government had changed the rules to ensure British steel could be used on taxpayer-funded projects.

In the written answer, Mr Dunne said: "Steel for key defence programmes is sourced from a range of suppliers.

"It is the responsibility of prime contractors to obtain the steel required to complete Ministry of Defence programmes at a competitive cost, within time constraints and to the required quality.

"The quantities of steel required for the Ajax programme, previously known as Scout, are relatively small and spread over eight years of manufacture. The steel is specialist in nature with the majority coming from Sweden."

In a separate answer, to a question about Mars Tanker ships, Mr Dunne added: "Under European and UK procurement regulations, the Ministry of Defence could not contractually mandate the use of particular suppliers."

And in a further written answer, the minister said: "The Government's policy is to provide our Armed Forces with the best capabilities we can afford and, in doing so, to obtain the best possible value for money.

"Steel for defence programmes is sourced from a range of suppliers, including steel-producers in the UK."

Challenged on British steel by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Cameron said: "On procurement, we changed the procurement rules so that it was easier to source UK steel.

"That is why Crossrail - 26 miles of tunnels, the biggest construction project anywhere in Europe - is being completed using almost exclusively British steel.

"That did not happen under the last Labour government; it does happen now."

Announced on the eve of last year's Nato summit in Wales, the contract for 589 Scout Specialist Vehicles is the largest single order placed by the Ministry of Defence for armoured vehicles for more than 30 years.

Delivery of the first vehicles is expected in 2017, with a training establishment and first squadron due to be equipped by mid-2019 and a brigade ready to deploy by the end of 2020.

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