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Defence Engagement Strategy

Volume 561: debated on Monday 15 April 2013

The international defence engagement strategy, published in February 2013 and now very much in play, provides a sharp focus to our defence engagement activities in support of wider Government objectives, in line with the vision set out in the strategic defence and security review. Defence is making a contribution to UK influence worldwide on a daily basis, with the Defence Engagement Board overseeing the rolling out of our defence engagement strategy. Since publishing the strategy, we have accredited a non-resident defence attaché for Burma and advanced our preparations for new defence sections in Libya and Somalia.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Given that maritime security is vital for shipping off the horn of Africa, will he tell the House how the defence engagement strategy will specifically target that important region?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight this matter. He will be aware of the success of Operation Atalanta under British command; that operation has really got to grips with piracy off the horn of Africa. In addition, we engage with the European Union through EUTM—EU training mission—Somalia and EUCAP NESTOR, which is involved in training indigenous assets for littoral operations. He will also be aware of the work of AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia, in which we are involved with training, and of the British Peace Support Team Eastern Africa, based in Kenya, which is heavily involved in peace support operations. Later this year, I hope that we will be able to open a defence section in Mogadishu, when security conditions allow.

Does the Minister agree with the value of joint international training as part of the defence engagement strategy? Will he take this opportunity to commend the thousands of personnel from 10 different states who are currently taking part in the Joint Warrior exercise, as well as all the communities that are hosting them?

I certainly commend our engagement in training. I have spent some time in Libya and Brazil recently, and it is clear that our international partners really want British training. It is an important part of their ask of us, and it is a first-rate part of our defence engagement activity.

I congratulate my hon. Friend and successor on his work on the defence engagement strategy. Does he agree that nothing leverages influence in the world more than defence, particularly in areas such as training, mentoring and providing advice? Has he been able to secure any extra funds, particularly from the Department for International Development, given that money spent on the defence engagement strategy is much more effective than some of the money that is being spent on overseas aid?

My hon. Friend is right in many respects, especially on the quality of the men and women of our armed forces and the high regard in which they are held. This country is absolutely peerless in that regard, and it is a great joy for me to go around the world—as I now inevitably do, and as he used to do during his excellent tenure of the post that I now hold—and see that the reason that others want to engage with us is that we are very good at what we do. It will therefore continue to be the case that the UK will be a partner of choice in defence engagement.