Since the 2015 strategic defence and security review, the world has changed. Our adversaries have invested more in their armed forces and have constantly been updating their doctrines. The threats to our interests and way of life are real and we therefore owe it to the men and women of our armed forces to ensure that we have a modern, capable and effective defence, able to tackle the threats wherever they present themselves. Only a fool starts the debate with numbers rather than threat. History is littered with generals and Governments who kept fighting the last war rather than preparing for the next one. This Government are committed to growing defence spending and we will use that money to ensure that we have a 21st-century capability, a modern workforce and a defence that matches our global ambition.
Absolutely. If I think back to the days when I was at Sandhurst, in defence, there were really three domains: air, sea and land. Cyber is very much a real and new domain that we must not only defend in, but master. That is why in 2016, the Government committed £1.9 billion to the national cyber-security strategy. That includes investment in offensive cyber, which I hope we can announce more details of later in the year.
May I join the Secretary of State in paying full tribute to the military’s essential and continuing role in helping the country through this covid crisis? In the same spirit, he talked earlier of the lessons from covid for the integrated review. He is uniquely placed as the Defence Secretary and a former Security Minister to turn adversary into advantage, so will he use this period to consult widely in the armed forces and with the public, industry and experts, just as Labour did, on the challenges to creating a 21st-century armed forces? That is the way to banish any suspicion that this integrated review is driven from Downing Street, not by the MOD, or driven by financial pressures, not the best interests of Britain’s defence, security and leading place in the world.
First, I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that this is not driven by financial pressures; it is driven first and foremost by threat. As a former Security Minister, which he rightly referenced, I believe threat should define what we do and how we meet it. That is why, as I said, we gathered the chiefs together last week. It was not a financial discussion and, contrary to what was reported, it was not a numbers discussion, either. It was a discussion about how we meet the threat and deliver our future armed forces to match that, taking into account cyber and many other areas. The Government are determined to continue to do that. We stand by our pledge to increase defence spending in real terms, and we will use that money, spending it wisely to ensure we meet those very threats.
It is unfair that those soldiers, sailors, airmen and women required to live in Scotland should be made to pay more in income tax than military personnel living elsewhere. As we promised last year in our Scottish manifesto, we will announce soon how we will continue to mitigate the effects of higher Scottish income taxes on more than 7,000 of our service personnel in Scotland.
An impact assessment will have been published with the Bill when it was brought to the House. We are hoping to get the Bill to Second Reading sooner rather than later, so the hon. Lady can see all those details and impact assessments. As my hon. Friend the Veterans Minister said, it is not the case that people will be prevented from seeking damages, through either tort—for damages against the MOD, rather than other people—or other processes. Obviously, from diagnosis is one of the key dates.
First, on the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is the Committee that would publish the report, I gave evidence for that report as Security Minister, and, in fact I have read the report. My right hon. Friend should not hold his breath for the great sensation he thinks it will be. However, as he has said and everyone else has noted, when the ISC is formed, it will be the body that will release the report. I think we are getting to a place where the Committee will come together, and then everyone can read it at leisure.
The right hon. Member often campaigns for shipbuilding in the UK and he has heard my answers. First, I am keen that it gets under way as soon as possible; indeed, I have asked officials to bring it forward from the proposed date. The plus side is that such ships are not highly complex, so once the competition happens and it is placed, I do not think it will take long to build them. I therefore do not anticipate a capability gap at all. He is right that British shipbuilding and British yards produce some of the best ships in the world and we should support them as best as we can and ensure our navy gets some great British-made kit.
My hon. Friend is right to champion the activities of the armed forces cadets and Air Force cadets in Clwyd South. It is amazing to hear what they have done to support their community during the coronavirus crisis, but also the cadets in his constituency and across the country have done an amazing job, through the commitment of their adult volunteers, to keep virtual training going throughout the pandemic, which has been hugely valuable to young people across the country.
Only today, the permanent secretary and other officials attended the Public Accounts Committee to answer some of those questions, no doubt in detail. The point to be made is that the MOD spends £41 billion overall, and we make sure, where we can, that that is spent not only on the men and women of our armed forces, but on industry and equipment capability, such as, in Glasgow, buying two warships—both the Type 31 up at Rosyth and, indeed, the Type 26—which I never seem to hear the SNP ever really welcome.
The Government will never forget the bravery of all former servicemen and women who served their country, and it is imperative that we do not forget the sacrifices that were made so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. The Ministry of Defence position is that memorials and statues that honour those who gave their lives should be protected.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Defence People and Veterans has some nappy duties he has had to return to, so I will reply on his behalf. I know the hon. Gentleman, who campaigns hard on this, especially given his own personal experience, has already met my colleague. The Minister for Defence People and Veterans has asked that the MOD-sponsored independent medical expert group continue to look into it and report on progress and issues relating to these types of injury. I am certain that he will want to meet the hon. Gentleman further to discuss the matter.
Forgive me, but 2015 was the last time we set the numbers for the armed forces. What we will do is make sure we give those men and women the best equipment, the best kit, the best leadership and the best purpose for why they are there to defend this nation. That is what we do, and we do it to make sure we meet the threat, not just to start the conversation about numbers, which I know the hon. Lady will be desperate to do.
Our work to support the armed forces community through the covenant and the employer recognition scheme continues with our partners at a local level across the UK. As set out in the Queen’s Speech, we will further incorporate the armed forces covenant into law to help prevent any disadvantage faced due to the unique nature of service life.
Just to reassure my hon. Friend, we have 169 sites of special scientific interest in the defence estate, and we care very deeply about that and our role as a good champion of conservation. My hon. Friend is assiduous on behalf of the jobs in his constituency, and defence jobs in particular. I fully appreciate his concerns on coastal erosion, but I am happy to reassure him that it is not currently considered a risk to submarine movements, although I am grateful for his ongoing interest.