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Partner in Defence

Volume 632: debated on Monday 27 November 2017

The MOD works closely with our allies and partners, making a crucial contribution to Britain’s status as a global power. The challenging global security context, including a resurgent Russia, makes our relationships all the more vital. In my first three weeks, I have met Defence Ministers from the US, France and other NATO members, and I will continue to engage widely.

Given the current financial pressures within the MOD, does my right hon. Friend agree with Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who was the commander of the US army in Europe and who said that Britain risks

“going into a different sort of category”

of ally if we cannot maintain our capability commitments?

When I had the good fortune to sit down with Secretary Mattis to discuss our partnership, what struck me was the value that the United States puts on everything that Britain does, and the contribution our men and equipment make. He was left in no doubt that that commitment—that resolute support that we have always provided to the United States—will always be there.

Despite what the Secretary of State says, Lieutenant General Hodges and James Mattis have both said that we will lose our clout in NATO and our place at the top table if the cuts continue. Will the new Secretary of State commit to stopping the cuts to our capability, and will he make sure that Britain stays at the top table and that we have the capability to defend ourselves and our allies?

The Government’s commitment to making sure that we have the very best for our armed forces has always been clear. The rising defence budget, which is going from £36 billion to £40 billion, is evidence of that commitment. [Interruption.] The United States knows quite clearly that we will always be there in support of them, regardless of what the hon. Lady’s leader may wish. [Interruption.]

Order. An unseemly habit is developing of Members asking a question and then proceeding to rant from a sedentary position during the course of the reply. I had a letter about that today from a member of the public, who was most aggrieved. I am sure the hon. Lady would not wish to disappoint the person concerned, and that she will recover her usual composure ere long.

I call Bob Stewart—a well-behaved fellow.

I am not normally, but thank you, Mr Speaker.

Bearing in mind our alliance relationships, how long does my right hon. Friend think that RAF pilots will have to continue to fly above Iraq on Op Shader, as apparently Daesh is almost defeated?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. While we have made such amazing progress, with over 1,600 operations flown by the RAF over Iraq and Syria, we should not think that Daesh, as territory is denied to them, are actually defeated, because they will disperse. The threat this country faces means that we will continue to have to fly operations above Iraq and Syria for a considerable time.

Our amphibious capability is important to our defence partners, so is the future of HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion secure?

There has been an awful lot of speculation in the press about all of our capabilities. As part of the national security capability review, we have been asked to look at everything that we do, but I am not going to start any speculation about what the results will be. I have made it clear that I want to look at the evidence and the details, and we are not going to be rushed into any decisions.