With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on the Government’s integrated review of foreign, defence, security and development policy.
Our review will conclude early next year and set out the UK’s international agenda, but I want to inform the House of its first outcome. For decades, British Governments have trimmed and cheese-pared our defence budget. If we go on like this, we risk waking up to discover that our armed forces—the pride of Britain—have fallen below the minimum threshold of viability, and, once lost, they can never be regained. That outcome would not only be craven; it would jeopardise the security of the British people, amounting to a dereliction of duty for any Prime Minister.
I refuse to vindicate any pessimistic forecasters there may have been by taking up the scalpel yet again. Based on our assessment of the international situation and our foreign policy goals, I have decided that the era of cutting our defence budget must end, and it ends now. I am increasing defence spending by £24.1 billion over the next four years. That is £16.5 billion more than our manifesto commitment, raising it as a share of GDP to at least 2.2%, exceeding our NATO pledge, and investing £190 billion over the next four years—more than any other European country and more than any other NATO ally except the United States.
The Ministry of Defence has received a multi-year settlement because equipping our armed forces requires long-term investment, and our national security in 20 years’ time will depend on decisions we take today. I have done this in the teeth of the pandemic, amid every other demand on our resources, because the defence of the realm and the safety of the British people must come first. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Defence Secretary, who believe in this as fervently as I do. Reviving our armed forces is one pillar of the Government’s ambition to safeguard Britain’s interests and values by strengthening our global influence and reinforcing our ability to join the United States and our other allies to defend free and open societies.
The international situation is now more perilous and intensely competitive than at any time since the cold war. Everything we do in this country—every job, every business, even how we shop and what we eat—depends on a basic minimum of global security, with a web of feed pipes, of oxygen pipes, that must be kept open: shipping lanes, a functioning internet, safe air corridors, reliable undersea cables, and tranquillity in distant straits. This pandemic has offered a taste of what happens when our most fundamental needs are suddenly in question. We could take all this for granted, ignore the threat of terrorism and the ambitions of hostile states, hope for the best, and we might get away with it for a while, before calamity strikes, as it surely would. Or we could accept that our lifelines must be protected but we are content to curl up in our island and leave the task to our friends.
My starting point is that either of those options would be an abdication of the first duty of Government: to defend our people. My choice—and I hope it will carry every Member of the House—is that Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies, sharing the burden and bringing our expertise to bear on the world’s toughest problems. To achieve this, we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board. We have already united our international effort into a new Department combining aid and diplomacy, led with grip and purpose by my right hon. Friend the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Secretary. Next year will be a year of British leadership when we preside over the G7, host COP26 in Glasgow, and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first United Nations General Assembly in London. We are leading the world towards net zero with our 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution. We are campaigning for our values, particularly freedom of religion and the media, and giving every girl in the world access to 12 years of quality education.
But extending British influence requires a once-in-a-generation modernisation of our armed forces, and now is the right time to press ahead, because emerging technologies, visible on the horizon, will make the returns from defence investment infinitely greater. We have a chance to break free from the vicious circle whereby we ordered ever decreasing numbers of ever more expensive items of military hardware, squandering billions along the way. The latest advances will multiply the fighting power of every warship, aircraft and infantry unit many times over, and the prizes will go to the swiftest and most agile nations, not necessarily the biggest. We can achieve as much as British ingenuity and expertise allow.
We will need to act speedily to remove or reduce less relevant capabilities. This will allow our new investment to be focused on the technologies that will revolutionise warfare, forging our military assets into a single network designed to overcome the enemy. A soldier in hostile territory will be alerted to a distant ambush by sensors on satellites or drones, instantly transmitting a warning, using artificial intelligence to devise the optimal response and offering an array of options, from summoning an airstrike to ordering a swarm attack by drones, or paralysing the enemy with cyber-weapons. New advances will surmount the old limits of logistics. Our warships and combat vehicles will carry “directed energy weapons”, destroying targets with inexhaustible lasers. For them, the phrase “out of ammunition” will become redundant.
Nations are racing to master this new doctrine of warfare, and our investment is designed to place Britain among the winners. The returns will go far beyond our armed forces, and from aerospace to autonomous vehicles, these technologies have a vast array of civilian applications, opening up new vistas of economic progress, creating 10,000 jobs every year—40,000 in total—levelling up across our country, and reinforcing our Union. We are going to use our extra defence spending to restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe, taking forward our plans for eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates, and support ships to supply our carriers.
We are going to develop the next generation of warships, including multi-role research vessels and Type 32 frigates. This will spur a renaissance of British shipbuilding across the UK, in Glasgow and Rosyth, Belfast, Appledore and Birkenhead, guaranteeing jobs and illuminating the benefits of the Union in the white light of the arc welder’s torch. If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy. Once both of our carriers are operational in 2023, the UK will have a carrier strike group permanently available, routinely deployed globally, and always ready to fight alongside NATO and other allies.
Next year, Queen Elizabeth will lead a British and allied task group on our most ambitious deployment for two decades, encompassing the Mediterranean, the Indian ocean, and East Asia. We shall deploy more of our naval assets in the world’s most important regions, protecting the shipping lanes that supply our nation, and we shall press on with renewing our nuclear deterrent. We will reshape our Army for the age of networked warfare, allowing better equipped soldiers to deploy more quickly, and strengthening the ability of our special forces to operate covertly against our most sophisticated adversaries.
The security and intelligence agencies will continue to protect us around the clock from terrorism and new and evolving threats. We will invest another £1.5 billion in military research and development, designed to master the new technologies of warfare. We will establish a new centre dedicated to artificial intelligence, and a new RAF space command, launching British satellites and our first rocket from Scotland in 2022. I can announce that we have established a National Cyber Force, combining our intelligence agencies and service personnel, which is already operating in cyberspace against terrorism, organised crime and hostile state activity. And the RAF will receive a new fighter system, harnessing artificial intelligence and drone technology to defeat any adversary in air-to-air combat.
Our plans will safeguard hundreds of thousands of jobs in the defence industry, protecting livelihoods across the UK and keeping the British people safe. The defence of the realm is above party politics, and we all take pride in how British resolve saved democracy in 1940, and in how British internationalism, directed by Clement Attlee, helped to create NATO and preserve peace through the cold war. The wisdom and pragmatism of Margaret Thatcher found a path out of confrontation when she met Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984. In each case, Britain tipped the scales of history and did immense good for the world. Now we have a chance to follow in this great tradition, end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up across our country, protect our people and defend the free societies in which we fervently believe. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement.
Under my leadership, national security will always be Labour’s top priority. Britain must once again show global leadership and be a moral force for good in the world, both in how we tackle present and emerging security threats, and in how we build a fairer, greener and more secure world. So we welcome this additional funding for our defence and security forces, and we agree that it is vital to end what the Prime Minister calls—with, I have to say, a complete lack of self-awareness—an “era of retreat”.
This is, however, a spending announcement without a strategy. The Government have yet again pushed back vital parts of the integrated review, but there is no clarity over their strategic priorities. Then there is the question of money. How will this announcement be paid for? Such is the Government’s handling of the pandemic that the UK has had the sharpest economic downturn of any G7 country. Next week, the Chancellor will have to come here and set out the consequences of that. Can the Prime Minister tell us today: will the commitments that he has made require additional borrowing and tax rises—if so, which ones?—or will the money have to come from other departmental budgets? In particular, at the election last year, there was a very clear Conservative party manifesto commitment
“to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI”
on international development. A straight question, Prime Minister: are the Government going to keep to that manifesto commitment? He must know that if he breaks it, that will not only undermine public trust, but hugely weaken us on the global stage.
The Prime Minister spoke of an “era of retreat”—a really interesting phrase, after a decade of Conservative government and under-investment in our armed forces. I remind the House that defence spending has fallen by more than £8 billion in real terms over the past 10 years. Over the same period, UK regular forces have decreased by a quarter, and on top of that, the National Audit Office estimates that there is a black hole of up to £13 billion in the MOD equipment plan. The additional funding announced today is on foundations that have been seriously weakened over the past 10 years.
Let me come to a point that is very important to our armed forces personnel. Can the Prime Minister tell us whether there will be any further cuts to the size of our armed forces over the period of this spending review?
There are a number of other holes in the Prime Minister’s plan. With less than six weeks to go until the end of the transition period, there is still no clarity about the direction of our post-Brexit foreign or trade policy. The Government have not yet rolled over existing trade agreements with 15 countries—deals worth up to £80 billion of trade a year. The Prime Minister speaks of tackling global security threats and improving cyber capability—that is all welcome, and we welcome it—but four months after the Intelligence and Security Committee published its report concluding that Russia posed, in its words,
“an immediate and urgent threat to our national security”,
can the Prime Minister tell us why he has still not acted on that or followed through on the Committee’s recommendations? When will he do so?
There was very little beyond warm words about how the UK will lead the global efforts against the biggest threat we face: the international climate emergency. The COP26 conference is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, but the Committee on Climate Change says that the UK’s domestic measures
“are not making adequate progress in preparing for climate change.”
Yesterday’s announcement—another press release without a strategy—will do nothing to address that.
This is a time of huge global uncertainty. It is time for Britain to emerge from a decade of decline. I know that the Prime Minister is always keen to talk about the bits of government that he enjoys—big announcements, space programmes, moonshots—but this statement shows that the Government still lack a clear strategy, a coherent vision for Britain in the world or any idea of how the promises that the Prime Minister makes will actually be delivered.
Of all the humbug that I have heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that really takes the cake. This is a man who campaigned until December last year to install in government a Prime Minister who wanted to scrap our armed services and pull out of NATO, and his own record of support for our armed services is very thin indeed.
I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman now welcomes this package, although his comments scarcely do it justice. This is the biggest package of support for our armed services since the end of the cold war. It bears absolutely no relation to discussions about overseas aid. This House and this country should be incredibly proud of what Britain does to support people around the world. Under any view, this country is, has been and will remain one of the biggest contributors to aid of any country on earth. I am proud of that, and I am proud that this package will help to deliver 40,000 jobs around the UK.
The Conservative party fundamentally believes in defence of the realm, supporting our armed forces and ensuring that the country as a whole is strong and able to project our strength around the world. It is notable that, in government, we have instituted such extra protections for the armed services as wraparound childcare for armed services families and, by the way, protection for our veterans and their families from the misery of continual vexatious prosecution by well-paid lawyers long after the alleged crimes were committed and with no new evidence provided. The Opposition, under the leadership of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, refused to vote in favour of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which will give veterans that protection and reassurance.
I do not think I have heard so much phoney stuff from the right hon. and learned Gentleman in all the time that we have faced each other. This is a guy who campaigned actively to install in government somebody who wanted to break up our armed forces and pull out of NATO. I do not know what he was thinking. He never mentioned his support for the armed services then, and frankly I do not attach much credence to it now.
I welcome the commitment to significantly upgrade our defence posture, for which the Prime Minister knows I, the Defence Committee and others in this House have been calling for some time. I also welcome his honesty in recognising that the UK, and indeed the west, has become too risk-averse in standing up to some of the threats we face. I recall my frustration as a Foreign Office and Defence Minister in wanting Britain to play a more assertive and proactive role on the international stage, not only with our hard and soft power but with our thought leadership. However, there was ever less appetite to do so, so I very much welcome this statement today.
Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that, as we take on the presidency of the G7, we will work closely with the new US Administration in boosting western resolve to confront a growing number of hostile competitors, including China, who have for too long been allowed to pursue their own destabilising and competing agendas?
I thank my right hon. Friend; he is completely right. This package will encourage and bolster our friends and alliances around the world and enable the UK to project global influence into the future. That is why it is a multi-year package. I do not think that anybody around the world will doubt, after this announcement, our commitment to NATO, to the transatlantic alliance and to the security of our friends and allies around the world.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement.
In the SNP, we support a refocusing on the contemporary threats that we face. We need to readjust our defence capabilities for the modern world and it is especially important that a focus is given to issues such as cyber-security, but what we do not accept are the priorities of this Government and the threat of the disbanding of historic regiments such as the Black Watch. Disbanding the Black Watch would show that the promises made to Scotland during the Scottish independence campaign have been broken, buried and forgotten by this Government. We were promised 12,500 personnel stationed permanently in Scotland; the number remains well below 10,000. Such broken promises not only mean fewer jobs in Scotland, but undermine Scotland’s security interests. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are still being spent on Trident nuclear weapons. Scotland remains overwhelmingly opposed to weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde. We need to respond to today’s challenges rather than on vanity projects.
The SNP also has serious reservations regarding such a windfall to defence spending during these unprecedented times of hardship for so many. This review will reportedly see the UK as Europe’s biggest defence spender, when just three weeks ago this Government refused to provide free school meals for children during the holidays. We have learned that the UK Government are considering cutting the overseas aid budget by billions of pounds. The Prime Minister may use the term “global Britain”, but on these Benches we believe the Prime Minister has his priorities all wrong. The Tories have closed the Department for International Development, one of the most successful Departments of Government, in order to politicise instead of focusing it on sustainable development goals.
In our submission to the integrated defence review, we have put forward sensible suggestions on how to meet the modern-day threat picture, but not to the detriment of our historic regiments in Scotland. I ask the Prime Minister today: will he rule out scrapping the Black Watch—[Interruption]—and cuts to international aid spending? [Interruption.] It is an absolute disgrace, in the face of the threats, that we get contempt yet again from the Defence Secretary and his colleagues on the Tory Benches. It is shameful, and he really ought to grow up and show some respect to the regiments of Scotland.
With independence, Scotland can have a foreign policy that reflects our values and interests and a defence capability that matches capabilities to threats. With our submission to this review, we are looking to play a constructive role in informing UK policy, but we will be setting out how Scotland can play a full role as a normal, law-abiding and values-driven independent country on the world stage.
I can certainly give the right hon. Gentleman that guarantee. Once again, he seems to be a veritable geyser of confected indignation. Of course we are going to guarantee the Black Watch. DFID will remain in East Kilbride, as long as he does not continue with his ambitions to break up the United Kingdom; and even if he does, DFID will remain in East Kilbride.
It is preposterous to listen to the Scottish National party talking about its desire to support defence spending when everybody knows fine well that it is thanks to UK-wide investments that we are able to deliver not just the Black Watch and DFID in East Kilbride, but a fantastic programme of shipbuilding in Govan and Rosyth. Under his plans, it is not just that there will be no deterrent; there will be no shipbuilding and there will be no Black Watch in the land of the SNP. That is the reality.
May I say to my right hon. Friend that this statement smacks not only of promises kept, but of promises exceeded? I congratulate him on that. Does he accept that in an era when global cyber-attacks threaten our entire way of life—from the economy to the NHS—we need to spend more of our defence budget on assets that we cannot see as well as on updating our core assets, and that that needs to be clearly explained to the British people? In this war of the invisible enemy, does he believe that cyber doctrine has evolved to match our capabilities, especially on existential threats, in order to provide adequate deterrence?
My right hon. Friend is an expert on what he is talking about. I can tell him that the National Cyber Force is working on doctrine that is currently evolving, but we will deploy our cyber capabilities, as I am sure he and the House would expect, in accordance with international law to protect the British public and our citizens.
We all owe an enormous debt to the brave men and women of our armed forces and security services for their work in keeping our country safe. We will give the review the study it merits, but I immediately welcome the extra investment in cyber-security so that Cheltenham’s GCHQ and the amazing people who work there can continue to ensure the UK remains a world leader in this crucial aspect of modern defence. With data and cyber so important to modern defence, the Prime Minister will know that access for our security services and police to European crime databases is vital to keeping the British people safe. Can the Prime Minister guarantee that we will retain direct, real-time access to all European databases after 1 January?
We will make sure that we have all the co-operation. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point, which is a very important one, and I agree with him on what he says about GCHQ and Cheltenham. I am assured that we will be able to maintain all the co-operation and collaboration we need to protect our people and our citizens, not just with our European friends and partners, but with Five Eyes and other allies and friends around the world.
My right hon. Friend has delivered for our armed forces today and he deserves the support of the whole House, particularly as he seeks to improve the procurement mechanisms of the Ministry of Defence. Will he bear in mind the wise words of General Mattis, the former US Defence Secretary, who told Donald Trump that the more you cut aid, the more I have to spend on ammunition? Britain’s development leadership—standing by our promise to the poorest by keeping the 0.7%, which was a manifesto commitment—will stand my right hon. Friend in very good stead as he assumes the chairmanship of the G7 on 1 January and promotes the important values of global Britain.
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s points. He has done extraordinary work to champion the poorest and neediest around the world. This country, as I say, can be very proud of our record on overseas aid. We will continue to lead the world on that under this Government. What I can say is that this statement is about our defence and security, and there is no read-across to any other issue. This is driven by our need to protect the British public and keep the world as safe as we possibly can, and to unite and level up across our Union with 40,000 more jobs.
I thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Will he confirm that while the goal is speed, readiness and resilience, as opposed to mass mobilisation, for the British armed forces to remain the best in the world the training of personnel must be a top priority to ensure that while we are ready for technological warfare, we also remain ready for physical forms of war? How will the review of recruitment procedures secure that very goal?
I strongly welcome and support my right hon. Friend’s statement. We live in difficult times, but, as he states, the defence of the realm must always remain a top priority. The announcement will be warmly welcomed by so many British businesses who rely heavily on our defence industry. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this will safeguard jobs, helping us to build back and level up opportunity across our nation?
My right hon. Friend is completely right. We will use this defence package and spending review not just to modernise and update our armed forces in a truly revolutionary way but to drive jobs across the whole of the UK. It is a very exciting prospect.
If this boost for defence spending is the first fruits of the departure of Dominic Cummings, it is most welcome, especially in ensuring that we can continue to work effectively alongside our long-term allies and partners including the United States—even more so with the welcome arrival of President Biden. Will the Prime Minister ensure that, wherever possible, spending is directed to firms in the UK and that orders are pulled forward to get British industry moving? He can start with the fleet solid support ships by telling the Ministry of Defence to send out the invitations to bid not in some ill-defined spring as the MOD says, but early in 2021. That would be a welcome Christmas present and new year message not only for our shipyards but for our engineering and steel industries and their communities.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks for many in what he says about the fleet solid support ships—he certainly speaks for me. This is a great moment for shipbuilding in this country. Be in no doubt of the ambition of my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary, the shipbuilding tsar who is now leading a renaissance in shipbuilding. I am sure he heard the right hon. Gentleman’s points loud and clear.
I welcome in the strongest possible terms the incredible announcement from the Prime Minister. Before joining this place, I worked for a County Durham start-up in research and development and saw at first hand the incredible value that R&D brings to society, particularly when tech is developed that can be applied to other uses. I have no doubt that investing in military R&D will lead to advancements for civilian applications in areas such as aviation and autonomous vehicles. Indeed, the technology that allows us to see the Prime Minister beamed on to our screens today first came from a military communication innovation. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this package of funding will be underpinned by a strong commitment to military research and development?
I can indeed. There is big, big chunk of this package specifically dedicated to research and development in cyber, AI and drone warfare—all the warfare of the future. The victors of the future will be those who are able to master data and new technology in the way that this package supports.
I really welcome this commitment to our armed forces. The Prime Minister spoke in his statement about defending our people and keeping the world safe, which I would argue are development objectives, thinking specifically about climate change, food security, creating stable Governments and investing to end violence against women and girls. How will he ensure that development remains front and centre of the UK’s new international policy following the integrated review? Will he please quash rumours and confirm his manifesto commitment to the 0.7% both now and going forwards?
As I have said several times to the House, we can all be proud of our record on overseas aid, and that will continue, but it is also by investing in our armed services that we can do some of the greatest things for the poorest and neediest people around the world. I have often found, when travelling around the world to countries in real distress, that the single export they crave the most is the help, reassurance and security that comes from the British armed services. That is one of the reasons why helping to keep our world safe is a huge part of this agenda.
Our armed forces have played a crucial role in our response to the pandemic, not least in setting up and scaling the mega lab in Milton Keynes. Looking beyond Milton Keynes to the world, does the Prime Minister agree that this investment sends a huge message to our friends and allies around the world that Britain is serious about security, and to those who would do us harm and threaten the security of our people and our nation that Britain is serious about defending our people, our businesses, our economy and our values?
That is exactly the purpose of this announcement. It is a long-term plan that allows us to reform our defences. They must be reformed and they must be improved, while allowing us to project force and stability around the world. That is what it is designed to do. It simultaneously creates tens of thousands of jobs across the whole of the United Kingdom. So it has a big economic benefit as well.
I welcome the commitment to additional future funding, but we should not forget that British boots are on the ground in Afghanistan today. A consequence of President Trump’s threat to reduce troop numbers would be that the UK needed to play a greater role in building peace, security and resilience. So does the UK stand ready to meet that challenge and ensure that the people of Afghanistan are afforded the opportunity of a more peaceful and prosperous future?
I thank the hon. Gentleman and I recognise and admire the service that he has given to this country in our armed forces. He is completely right to point to the issue of a proposed potential American draw-down in those areas. We are watching it very closely, and we will be working with our American friends in the new Administration to do whatever we can to protect the stability and security of those troubled countries.
Thankfully, the Prime Minister is fulfilling his leadership election promise on defence spending. Given that the National Cyber Force formally announced today involves offensive cyber operations, I welcome the fact that the ISC will provide oversight of this joint MOD-GCHQ venture. Is my right hon. Friend fully satisfied that the ISC is now properly constituted to conduct this scrutiny impartially and independently?
The Prime Minister has outlined his ambition for a space control to secure space launch capability from the UK, but concerns have been raised by some in the UK-based space industry about the recently published US-UK technology safeguards agreement, which has not yet been scrutinised by this place. What guarantee can the Prime Minister give the UK-based industry that it will be central to any space programme, and will he meet me to discuss this in more detail?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important and interesting issue. I will do my best to ensure that his concerns are addressed and that the House is able to look at all the technology safeguard measures that we are putting in place. That is obviously right.
First, may I hugely welcome this announcement? It is a fantastic statement of resolve for the UK at home and abroad. It does more than guarantee the future of the Black Watch. It invests in businesses from Arbroath all the way to Abergavenny. It is a fantastic statement of the defence capability of our nation—of a whole United Kingdom. It also raises questions. This spending package is enormously important because it allows the planners to think about the future confident in the money that they will have to spend. Will my right hon. Friend commit to bringing forward as soon as possible the integrated review so that we have a strategic approach to that spending? This time, we cannot outspend the communists; we have to out-think them.
My hon. Friend is spot on. What this package does is set out much of the basic structure of the integrated review. We can start to see the tools that we will be using, but we will shortly be completing the review. He is absolutely right in his fundamental point that this is about having smarter forces to outwit our foes. Every time the UK has been asked to do that, we have always historically risen to that challenge. This will give us the tools to do it.
As a Scottish MP, I have no doubt as to the vital role that Scotland plays in the defence of the realm. When we think about the recruitment of personnel, as the Prime Minister mentioned, establishments such as Rosyth and RAF Lossiemouth are great examples. On 7 September 1921, the Cabinet met outside London for the very first time in history. This was to consider the Irish crisis and it met in the Town House in Inverness. May I suggest that the UK Cabinet meet again in the Inverness Town House on 7 September next year? This would be to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1921 meeting and to enable the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to review the defence of the UK by visiting places such as RAF Lossiemouth, and perhaps also to learn about the great role that our armed forces played, and play right now, in beating the covid pandemic?
The hon. Gentleman makes an incredibly important point about the role of our armed services in beating the covid pandemic, which I should have made earlier on myself. I was up in Scotland—actually in Lossiemouth—talking to members of our armed services who are doing the testing and helping to fly patients from remote islands to hospitals. It was wonderful to see the way that the UK armed services have helped during this pandemic, Mr Speaker/Madam Deputy Speaker—I am sorry but I can hardly see you down there with the TV screen here. What I can say is that I will keep very closely in mind the hon. Gentleman’s invitation to come to Inverness for a Cabinet meeting next year. We will study that with interest.
It was a great pleasure in the previous business to praise the Prime Minister for his leadership in delivering Brexit. It is also great to be able to praise the Prime Minister’s leadership in delivering this multi-year settlement for our wonderful men and women of our armed forces. Would he like to thank all those officials and civil servants in the Ministry of Defence and all the armed forces who have worked many hours to help deliver this multi-year settlement? In particular, would he like to thank the Secretary of State for Defence whose robust work on this has helped to ensure that we have come to this point and delivered for our armed forces?
It is always a pleasure to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence whom I have known for many, many years and is a good friend of mine. He is supported, as my hon. Friend rightly said, by thousands of brilliant officials, to say nothing of the members of our wonderful armed services who have helped to make this package what it is. I believe that it will deliver for our people and deliver for our country for years and years to come.
In the mid-‘90s, the UK was one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping missions in terms of troops and personnel. Now we have only 600 personnel worldwide whom we contribute. Will this budget turn that around and take us back to our proud tradition of peacekeeping troops, and will the Prime Minister commit to ensuring that the 0.7% is not devalued at all in this wider review?
One reason why I am so excited about going up to 2.2% of our spending on defence, as the hon. Gentleman points out, is that it will allow us to do more on peacekeeping. By the way, he is right to draw attention to the fact that the UK could do more on peacekeeping. I am proud of what we are doing, for instance, in Mali, but this programme, this investment, gives us the scope to do even more.
This is a hugely important announcement, which, as a member of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust, I know will be much welcomed by our armed forces. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it will in fact strengthen our global influence and secure jobs across a range of supply chain industries, some of which are located across the Dudley borough and the Black Country?
Yes, indeed. This will be big for the Black Country. The west midlands, once again, is at the cutting edge of technological change and the new industrial revolution. The technologies that we will need and that are foreseen in this spending package will certainly drive jobs in the west midlands and around the whole UK.
Britain is the penholder for Yemen at the UN Security Council, with the responsibility to support the peace process and a real opportunity to show global Britain at its best, but will the Prime Minister tell us why his Government have resumed indefensible arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has credibly been accused of human rights violations that may amount to war crimes?
Under the consolidated guidance, we have some of the strictest rules about exports of weapons to any country in the world. Everything is closely overseen and scrutinised by our lawyers, and, indeed, judicially reviewed. I am content that we are doing everything in accordance with the law and in accordance with humanitarian law.
I very much welcome this increased commitment to invest in our armed forces, though to pay for it by reducing the commitment to global peace, which our overseas aid budget represents, would be a mistake. How is the Prime Minister going to ensure that jobs are created across the country through this investment? Innovative, high-tech businesses in Newcastle tell me that it is easier to secure a contract with the American Department of Defence than with the British Ministry of Defence, so what is he doing to improve procurement opportunities for small businesses?
I am interested that the hon. Member says that, because, as I recall, one cannot even sell rulers or paperclips to the US military under the Pentagon’s procurement policies; but I may be in error. The hon. Member makes an important point about the need to source as much as we can from the UK. That is obviously what we are going to do. It is a big opportunity to buy British, to stimulate jobs and technology, and to drive jobs across the UK, and I have no doubt that Newcastle and the north-east will be big beneficiaries.
May I say to the Prime Minister that this is the best and most intelligent defence statement that I have heard in a quarter of a century in the House of Commons? Will he assuage, however, two concerns that I have? The first is that it appears that the numerical size of the armed forces is still on a downward trend. The evidence of recent wars—most recently in Nagorno-Karabakh—is that the route to success is through both novel technology and conventional forces. How are we going to cope with that? Secondly, since the era of the Duke of Wellington, the MOD has not been very good at managing big, expensive projects. What are we going to do about that?
First of all, it is important to understand that there are no redundancies in this package. My right hon. Friend is right about the need to maintain full spectrum, and that is what this does. We also have to fight the wars of the future—to adapt and change. That is what this package allows us to do; it permits us to modernise. My right hon. Friend’s final point is a very important one. We are going to be following this with a very beady eye. There have been historic over- spends and historic mistakes in procurement—some painful episodes that we do not need to go into, in which investments have not turned out well. We are setting up a unit to ensure that we get value out of this massive package.
There is much to welcome about the investment in our armed forces in this statement. The Prime Minister will be aware that in the last month, we have seen atrocities against civilians in Nigeria, jihadis on the rise in the Sahel and Mozambique, attacks on democracy in Uganda and Tanzania and now a spiralling conflict in Ethiopia, with huge refugee flows, attacks on civilians and the destabilising of the region. On that specific issue, will the Prime Minister say what he is doing now to seek an urgent de-escalation in Ethiopia and humanitarian access? More widely, given his statement today, what role does he see for us as a partner for peace, development and security in Africa, not least given the crucial role that the 0.7% commitment has played, as the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) set out so clearly?
We have made representations to the Government in Addis Ababa to de-escalate in Ethiopia. We continue to make our points with them. This package will help us to step up our commitment to Africa and, as the hon. Gentleman may recall, when I was Foreign Secretary and now under my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, we are opening up embassies, opening up UK representation across Africa, and this package will help us to support that.
I thank both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor for finding a way to provide this long-term financial stability for defence, despite the huge financial pressures that covid has brought upon us this year. Getting our defence funding on a sound footing affords us the chance to ensure that it can be genuinely resilient, so does the Prime Minister agree that ensuring that we get going at pace on the shipbuilding commitments he has set out is critical not only for the next generation of Royal Navy ships to be in service as soon as possible, but because the UK, in building ships and boats across the four nations of the Union that they defend, can lead the world in adapting to green maritime technologies?
My right hon. Friend is completely right because not only are we massively expanding shipbuilding with the two frigate production lines that I have described, the five Type 31s at Rosyth and the six Type 26s in Govan, and we are also committed to the Type 32, but we want to be in the lead globally—as she and I have discussed, and I thank her for all the work she has done to champion shipbuilding and the Royal Navy—in clean, green marine technologies so that our ships are also emitting less carbon. That is perfectly feasible.
The Prime Minister has announced an additional increase of just over £4 billion a year in the defence budget. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence admits that it already has a £6 billion budget shortfall in its equipment plan. That shortfall could rise to as much as £13 billion over the lifetime of the plan, so will the Prime Minister tell us what he thinks the MOD’s equipment budget shortfall will be at the end of the four-year period covered by his statement today?
As I say, this is the biggest increase in defence spending since the cold war. It gives us a long-term ability to reform, but it also delivers more ships, cyber, artificial intelligence, drone technology and the future combat air system, which will be absolutely vital to this country—all of it creating 40,000 jobs across the UK, so this is a big step forward for our whole country.
I warmly welcome this statement from the Prime Minister and his continuing commitment to strengthening our defence capabilities. I am sure he will agree that is vital that other NATO members also fulfil their obligations with regard to spending 2% of their GDP on defence by 2024. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that other members of the alliance fulfil their obligations to increase their defence spending?
My hon. Friend is completely right, and we never tire of telling other NATO colleagues that they need to increase their defence spending for the good of the whole alliance. We will continue to make that case, but we are doing the most powerful thing—that is, setting a fantastic example ourselves with 2.2%. This is something that will not only help to drive jobs and prosperity in the UK and protect the people of the UK, but help to make the world safer.
In June this year, the Prime Minister abolished the Department for International Development, telling me and the House that there had been
“massive consultation over a long period”—[Official Report, 16 June 2020; Vol. 677, c. 678]—
with aid organisations prior to making the decision. Since then, around 200 aid organisations and his own Secretary of State have contradicted that. Can the Prime Minister provide evidence that this consultation took place prior to making the decision, or will he finally apologise for misleading the House?
We are in daily contact and communication with the aid organisations that have benefited from the many billions of pounds that the UK contributes to international development—more than virtually any other country. We will continue to do that, and we will continue to work with those organisations on the ground.
I welcome this statement and the increased investment. The Prime Minister has rightly set out the importance of spending this money wisely and efficiently and buying as much from British suppliers as we can. Can he bring forward revised public sector procurement rules that apply right across public spending, so that we can achieve both those welcome objectives?
My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. As I said in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), we want to make sure that this money is well spent. We are going to scrutinise it very carefully. Normally, defence spending is outwith most OJEU—Official Journal of the European Union—procurement rules, but we will make sure that we procure all this in the UK in so far as we possibly can and use it to drive jobs and growth, and that means spending it wisely.
With the Conservatives having been in power for over a decade, it is ironic that the Prime Minister has just referred to coming out of an era of retreat and decline, since he has helped to facilitate huge cuts to spending on defence and our brave armed forces. The Government rightly sanctioned Russia for its annexation of Crimea and the appalling chemical weapons attack in Salisbury, so why has the Prime Minister failed to address the deep systemic failings in dealing with threats to our national security identified by the Russia report?
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is pretty indistinct from here because of the size of the screen, but I think that that was a question from the Labour Benches. It seems extraordinary that complaints about not being tough enough on Russia are being directed at the Government from Labour, which was led until only a year ago by somebody who regularly appeared on Russian TV and took Russia’s side in the Salisbury poisonings. We remain absolutely determined to protect this country from threats from all quarters, particularly from those who wish us ill. That is why we are investing in cyber and our security in the way we are today.
This is a fantastic announcement. The Prime Minister will remember that in the leadership campaign last year, I said that we should move towards spending 3% of our GDP on defence, so we think exactly the same on this. May I urge him not to listen to any voices in his ear that say the way to fund this is a temporary cut in the 0.7% aid commitment? We spent a decade winning the argument for that, and even a temporary cut will create an enormous clamour of people who say that we should not go back to it. In a year when 100 million more people have gone into extreme poverty, I know that he would not want to send the wrong signal out to the world about our values as a country.
My right hon. Friend and I think alike on so many of these issues, and we think alike on this, too. This country can be immensely proud, and he can be immensely proud of the leadership he showed as Foreign Secretary on aid and development and in championing the needs of the underprivileged around the world. The UK, under any view, continues to do that. Look at what we just did with the GAVI summit for global vaccines, raising $8 billion or $9 billion to spread vaccines around the world. We lead the world in investing in epidemic preparedness and in so many other ways. We will continue to do so, and the people of this country will continue to be world leaders in giving aid. I remember my right hon. Friend’s campaign to increase defence funding—I listened to it very carefully. I thought he was right at the time, and I am glad that we have been able to fulfil his expectations now.
When the major threat is terrorism, largely homegrown and driven by inequality and prejudice, and with other budgets being cut, inequality rising and prejudice increasing, how will all the king’s soldiers and all the king’s weaponry put further victims together again?
I very warmly welcome this material increase in the defence budget and, in particular, the multi-year nature of the settlement. A significant challenge in defence budgeting is the stop-start nature of political decision making on multi-year projects, so this statement will help to modernise the equipment plan and get it back on track, which is welcome. Does the Prime Minister agree that the United Kingdom can now fully take into account the UK prosperity impact of defence procurement, and will he do what he can to ensure that state aid issues and the opportunity cost of making in the UK are fully recognised by the Treasury?
My right hon. Friend makes a really important point. This is a big moment for us, because we can ensure that that these colossal investments do drive jobs and growth in this country, and that is what they are going to do. That is why I am so thrilled about the announcements for shipbuilding in particular, but this is not just about shipbuilding; it means new jobs in new technology in all kinds of ways across the whole country.
I can only assume that Conservative Members are awfully punch drunk on the numbers, because what the Prime Minister has effectively done is to rip up the integrated review by announcing the spending before the review. Surely, the review is supposed to inform the spending. Let me ask him a specific question about a specific promise. At the last independence referendum, his party promised 12,500 armed forces personnel permanently based in Scotland. Will that promise be met by the time of the next independence referendum?
The hon. Gentleman asks a very interesting question about a hypothetical political event that is at least a generation away. What I can say is that there is absolutely no threat to the Black Watch, to DFID in East Kilbride or to any of the other fantastic investments that this package brings to Scotland. It is a fantastic thing for our country and for our Union.
This announcement is extremely welcome and one that I know, as an ex-soldier, will be well received by our superb armed forces. My right hon. Friend will know that the integrated review offers the opportunity to consider Britain’s foreign policy assets in the round, including its world-class soft power capabilities. Will he therefore confirm that when the review is published, it will reflect the recommendations of the recent British Council all-party parliamentary group report and include a soft power strategy at its core, with a central role for Britain’s primary soft power assets, including the British Council?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question, because he is right to highlight the importance of soft power. Studies have shown that we are among the biggest wielders of soft power in the world—we are a soft-power superpower. That soft power has many components, of which the British Council is one, but a robust, self-confident defence policy that allows us to project strength around the world is also hugely valuable. Hard power leads to soft power.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. Like many people throughout Newport West, I welcome the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States and Kamala Harris as the first woman Vice-President. Will the Prime Minister tell us how he explained, in his first phone call with President-elect Biden, the actions of his Government’s undermining of the Good Friday agreement?
What I said to President-elect Biden was how much I congratulated him and Kamala Harris on their election and how much we look forward to working together on a number of issues. On Northern Ireland, I made the point that we both share the strong desire to uphold the Good Friday agreement and the stability of Northern Ireland and that that was the purpose of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, but more importantly we talked about what we were going to do not only to advance the cause of free trade, international democracy around the world and human rights, but to tackle climate change. It was a very good phone call.
In welcoming the statement and strongly supporting the central purpose of the integrated review of defence, diplomacy and development to better defend free societies, I trust that my right hon. Friend’s Government will continue to show global leadership in supporting the rights of all people to that most fundamental freedom to be themselves and to live their lives as they wish. Does the opportunity of the integrated review enable my right hon. Friend to make real the rhetorical commitment to LGBT+ people globally, with the relatively modest sums needed from the integrated budgets to deliver British leadership in programmes that can make a massive difference to the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, so that they can enjoy the freedom to be themselves that Britons have? I wrote to the Foreign Secretary on this issue on 4 September and 12 October; does the review now enable him to say yes to that request?
Yes, it does. My hon. Friend raises a very important point that is close to my heart. I argue with countries around the world that repress LGBT rights and do not see things the way that we do in this country that they are making not just a profound social and moral mistake but an economic mistake. Our attitude to those issues and the way we have advanced LGBT rights in this country is of huge value to the lives of people in this country—to people’s happiness and their willingness to come to live here, invest here and make their lives here. It makes a huge difference. That is the point that I make to friends and partners around the world, and we will continue to do so under this review—that is certainly part of it. I seem to remember that when I was Foreign Secretary, one of the first things I did was to make sure that all our embassies around the world felt able to fly the multicoloured LGBT flag wherever they wanted to.
I am really pleased to hear the Prime Minister recognise the excellent work that the armed forces have been doing throughout this pandemic. I am hoping that the Prime Minister will make some of those excellent armed forces personnel available to Hull and East Riding to assistance us during the awful time we are facing right now with our health emergency.
Yes, indeed. The hon. Lady makes a really good point and a good request, because we are looking at what we can do with our armed services to ramp up and roll out the lateral flow mass testing—the rapid turnaround test that people, I hope, are starting to be aware of. We are looking for places to trial that in addition to what we have done in Liverpool, and the armed services will certainly be playing a part in that.
I wholeheartedly welcome not only the Prime Minister’s commitment to increasing defence spending but the investment in new military technology. I have companies in my constituency such as Drone Defence in Retford who specialise in innovative drone technology. May I invite the Prime Minister to visit Drone Defence and show our commitment that British companies such as this will be at the forefront of this investment? Does he agree that this is not just an investment in our nation’s defence but also in local high-skilled jobs?
I am absolutely thrilled to hear about the company my hon. Friend raises, Drone Defence. I understand that it has also been able to take on some new young employees through the kickstart scheme, and that is great. These are exactly the kinds of cutting-edge companies that we are going to be supporting, but also many, many other types of industry and business across the country. I certainly look forward to coming to see him in Bassetlaw, where I think we have good news on the hospital as well.