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Soft Power

Volume 688: debated on Monday 1 February 2021

Our armed forces are a force for good, providing security, humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and defence engagement across the globe. They have a proud track record on the frontline of our national response to humanitarian disasters the world over, from Ebola in west Africa to hurricane seasons in the Caribbean.

As chair of the British Council all-party group, I suggest that soft power can pay for itself many times over by building links and improving trust and understanding, all of which makes conflict less likely. As the Government assess our international engagement, does my right hon. Friend agree that soft power must be a consideration alongside traditional hard power? Will he assure me that he will make the case for soft power when it comes to the Government’s integrated review?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work on the British Council all-party group. The British Council is an outstanding institution around the world—indeed, in my opinion there is not enough of it around the world. The integrated review will enhance defence engagement, ensuring that our armed forces are more forward, present, and active around the world, and involve changes to operational development structures, defence diplomacy and allowances. I completely agree that alongside hard power must come soft power. It can be delivered by the military, as well as by those excellent non-governmental organisations, and organisations such as the British Council. The best way to not get into a conflict is to avoid one in the first place by understanding each other’s issues, and by helping nations and people’s economies to build. That is the first way to go.