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Strategic Threats

Volume 637: debated on Monday 5 March 2018

Q5. What recent assessment he has made of the preparedness of the armed forces to adapt to new and changing strategic threats. (904155)

Our armed forces are among the very best in the world. Through the modernising defence programme, we will assess the ever-changing threats that this country faces and understand what we can do to make them ever more effective at keeping us safe today and into the future.

The Defence Secretary will recognise, given his earlier answers, that the threats that we face—both conventional and from new forms of technology—are massive and varied, and come not simply from Russia, but from many different sources. In that context, he talks about a fiscally non-neutral defence review. Will he tell us whether the Chancellor has agreed to sign up to that process?

When the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and I met and agreed the terms of reference of the modernising defence programme, we were absolutely clear that it was not to be fiscally neutral. We were to understand what the threats were and understand the capabilities that were needed, and make sure that the Ministry of Defence leads a study to ensure that we are best equipped to deal with those threats.

Will my right hon. Friend update the House on what progress has been made on the modernising defence review, so that we can implement what is needed to ensure the defence of the realm?

I assure my hon. Friend that we are making good progress. As I said earlier, we are opening this up to public consultation. We are very eager to report back to the House as quickly as possible, and we hope that that can be done by June or July, before the NATO summit.

We have seen in this past week how our armed forces rise to the challenge in any weather, but despite our increased commitment to the Baltic states, cuts to training have left the Royal Marines with fewer opportunities to develop their cold weather warfare skills. In January, the Minister for the Armed Forces said of cuts to training exercises in Norway:

“I am confident that that was a one-off in-year saving.”

Can the Secretary of State confirm that training will return to normal levels this year?

We have already had 500 Royal Marines training out in Norway this year, and we look forward to continuing that collaboration going forward. It is absolutely right to say that our armed forces are always ready to serve, and when things are difficult, it is our armed forces who always step up to the plate.