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Defence Capabilities

Volume 518: debated on Tuesday 9 November 2010

10. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the defence capabilities required to meet his foreign policy objectives. (22534)

I have had extensive discussions with my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary, and other members of the National Security Council. The national security strategy and the strategic defence and security review set out our place in the world, our foreign policy objectives and the breadth of capabilities that we require to meet those objectives. Together they demonstrate the strategic and co-ordinated approach the Government are taking to advance our national interests and protect our security.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Does he agree that a robust foreign policy must, by its very nature, have a strong military capability to back it up, as we saw with the role that we played in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, for example? Is he satisfied that we still have that capability, following the defence cuts that are being made?

I am satisfied that we still have the necessary capabilities. We have had to sort out a defence budget that was £38 billion overcommitted when we inherited it, but as Secretary Clinton of the United States said:

“We are reassured that the UK conducted its review in a thoughtful and clear-eyed manner, and that the result will be a UK military capable of meeting its NATO commitments and of remaining the most capable partner for our forces as we seek to mitigate the shared threats of the 21st Century.”

Will the Secretary of State please clarify the way in which foreign policy can really drive defence policy institutionally, and in particular, could you define the relationship between the National Security Council and the Joint Intelligence Committee?

Yes, I can. That is one of the objectives of setting up a true National Security Council, on which the Foreign Secretary sits with the Defence Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee—and, indeed, with the directors of all our intelligence services. Really for the first time on a systematic and weekly basis—sometimes more than once a week—we sit together and look at the issues of foreign and defence policy in the round. That is a huge step forward in the way British government works.