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Investment in New Equipment

Volume 600: debated on Monday 19 October 2015

This Government are committed to meet both NATO pledges to spend 2% of GDP on defence and to spend 20% of the defence budget on equipment for each year of this Parliament. We intend to publish the latest annual iteration of the defence equipment plan shortly, which will show that we are investing more than £160 billion in equipment and support for the armed forces over the next decade.

I welcome the commitments to spend 2% of GDP on defence and 20% of the budget on equipment, but what is the Department doing to ensure that such equipment is appropriate for the full spectrum of potential future conflict so that we are equipping ourselves not for the last war but for the next?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on present and future threats, which are being assessed through the national security strategy and the strategic defence and security review. The UK remains one of only two European nations able to provide a full range of responses to threats posed to our security, and this full spectrum of capabilities will remain our posture throughout the SDSR. It is vital to maintain technological advantage over those who would do us harm and we are therefore investing in innovation in particular, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced earlier this month, and in cyber-defence to protect our capability edge and our supply chain.

Since the Nimrod aircraft were decommissioned in 2011, the north coast of Scotland has effectively been left wide open to potential threats. Will the Minister explain what plans there are to reinstate fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft to ensure that the north coast is adequately defended?

I am not totally surprised to hear our friends in Scotland refer to the issue, as it seems to be the only one that they can talk about in the Chamber in relation to adding defence capability. It is a capability gap which, we acknowledge, was taken as a result of SDSR 2010, and it is one of the major capability challenges that are being assessed through this SDSR. I am afraid that the hon. Lady will have to wait another few months before we know the outcome of those considerations.

I could not agree more with the Minister about needing to equip the country for the future and to fight the battles of the future, not the past. He will be aware that in August the Secretary of State signed off a document entitled “Defence in Numbers”, described as providing the key information on UK defence capability, including equipment such as Jet Provost trainers from 1955, obsolete and grounded helicopters from the 1960s, and battle tanks retired from service in 1991. Does he agree that revelations that museum pieces are considered defence assets risk making the Department a laughing stock, and suggest that the Government have attempted to mislead the country about the capabilities that our armed forces have at their disposal?

I start by welcoming the hon. Gentleman to the Front Bench. I think that this may be his third Department, so he is one of the most experienced members of the new Front-Bench team. It is a pleasure to serve opposite him.

In relation to the report in the newspapers about the “Defence in Numbers” snapshot, which was recently published by the Ministry of Defence, and which I have with me, there is absolutely no intention to mislead anyone. The equipment referred to in the document covers a number of capabilities, which are still in use for training purposes, if not necessarily in use on the front line.