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Soft Power

Volume 604: debated on Monday 18 January 2016

The strategic defence and security review made defence engagement a funded, core MOD task. We are building our capacity to address global security concerns at source by influencing partner countries. This includes strengthening the defence attaché network and developing a professional defence engagement career stream, to attract the very best. Furthermore, each Army adaptable brigade is now aligned to a specific region for training and influence purposes.

Will the Minister make a comment about increasing our security in the Baltic region in relation to soft power?

In the context of soft power, may I apologise on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), the Chair of the Defence Committee? My right hon. Friend cannot be here this afternoon because he is attending a memorial service for Lieutenant Commander David Balme, the hero who boarded U-110 during the war and got the code books and the Enigma machine out. They were then sent to Bletchley Park, which interests me because my parents met at Bletchley at that time. Lieutenant Commander Balme was a hero who probably shortened the war, and I hope that the Minister will pay tribute to him.

We are very conscious of the importance of the Baltics. Most of the ministerial team, including the Secretary of State and me, have been to visit them. My hon. Friend will be well aware of the air patrols and everything that we have done there, and of our programme of exercises.

As for Lieutenant Commander Balme, Churchill once famously said that the only campaign that kept him continuously awake at night was the convoy campaign in the western Atlantic. Without Bletchley Park, we would almost certainly have lost it.

As chair of the all-party group on the British Council, I am well aware of the importance of soft power. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is only through a continuing investment in both hard and soft power that we can continue to play a leading role in protecting the world order on which our security and prosperity very much depend?

My hon. Friend is quite right. We are sending training missions which are doing vital upstream work in a large number of countries, helping to deliver the environment that is needed to prevent future wars and conflicts.

Human rights advisers do play a role. Specifically, the armed forces now contain a number of advisers who specialise in giving advice on gender matters, such as protecting women in conflict. One or two of them have put themselves very much in harm’s way by giving advice in dangerous theatres.

Since taking office in 2010, the Prime Minister has overseen the granting of more than £5.6 billion-worth of military licences to Saudi Arabia. Does that mean that he is exercising soft power or hard power?

We have one of the strictest regimes in the world for controlling exports. I would say that exporting to a key ally at a dangerous time in the middle east was smart power.