I have regular meetings with the Foreign Secretary as well as cross-Government meetings such as at the National Security Council, where we discuss a range of strategic matters.
Given the Chancellor’s announcement in the Budget to spend 2% of GDP on defence, can the Secretary of State tell the House whether the single intelligence account and the £800 million-worth of military pensions spending are now to be included as part of the defence budget?
I hope the hon. Lady will welcome the announcement last week that we are going to continue to meet the NATO target. If pensions are on the defence budget, then of course they count as defence expenditure, and they have in fact been on the defence budget for a very long time now. So far as intelligence matters are concerned, money that is spent on defence should properly be counted as defence.
Is it not sheer hypocrisy by the Government to criticise others on maritime patrols and investment when it is their party that has downgraded and stripped our defences to the bone, to the point that we now have no maritime defence, and NATO sea patrols have had to come in and look for alleged Russian submarines that have been dragging Scottish fishing boats under the sea?
We have plenty of maritime defence, but when we took office we had to end the Nimrod programme, which was years behind schedule and about £700 million or £800 million over-budget. Some 23 Nimrods were ordered back in the 1990s by a Conservative Government, but when we came to office 13 years later not one had actually been delivered.
The point is that since the Government scrapped Nimrod the UK has been without a maritime patrol aircraft, so may I gently ask the Secretary of State to confirm whether the next strategic defence and security review will contain a commitment to an MPA?
First, I should make it clear that we do, through other means, still have some maritime defence capability without maritime patrol aircraft, but we will of course look at a whole range of capabilities as part of the current SDSR which is now well under way.