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Armed Forces Capability

Volume 673: debated on Monday 16 March 2020

18. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that the capabilities of the armed forces are adequate to address future threats. (901547)

The Ministry of Defence has rigorous processes to assure, test and develop our capabilities to keep our country safe. This will be looked at again as part of a thorough wide-ranging analysis through the integrated review.

There is no doubt that space will play an increasingly important role in defence. In Cornwall, we are excited about that opportunity, because we will soon be launching satellites from Spaceport Cornwall. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the space domain will fully be a part of the integrated review?

We have established a space directorate, which is tasked with how to advance opportunities for the UK commercial space sector. I absolutely assure my hon. Friend that space and its potential will form a part of the integrated review.

Over the past decade, £430 million has been spent on the Army’s Warrior programme upgrade. Despite that, it is still only at the demonstration phase. Can the Minister indicate when a contract will be let? And will that contract be let only when the battlefield assessment phase is complete?

The right hon. Gentleman is right that there has been a long period—nine years—of assessment and demonstration of the Warrior programme. It is important that it is looked at and that we have the right kit to take the Warrior through to 2040 and perhaps beyond. I confirm that we are at the demonstration phase. Any future steps will be taken at the conclusion of that phase.

Can the Minister reassure hon. Members and tell us what steps he will take to ensure that the continuous at-sea deterrent continues to function during the covid-19 outbreak?

That is a perfectly reasonable question, but it will become familiar to my hon. Friend that we do not comment on CASD in this place. I thank him for his interest.

Ciaran Martin, head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, confirmed recently that Russian hackers attacked British media, telecoms and energy companies. The Royal United Services Institute has confirmed that the UK will not be able to replicate many of the security benefits of EU membership. Will the Minister give the House an assessment of the capacity we are losing by leaving the EU and outline the Government’s costed proposals for how the UK can unilaterally develop that capacity?

We have world-leading capabilities in cyber. I am comfortable and confident that, as part of the integrated review, we will put in place strong plans to further strengthen that work. In my contact with my European Union defence counterparts across the EU to date, they have been extremely keen to continue to work closely with the United Kingdom as sovereign equals. After all, we are the biggest spender on defence in western Europe, as the hon. Lady is aware.