My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Armed Forces are an essential element of our national security. They provide the ultimate defence against direct threats to the UK and its overseas territories. They tackle threats to our national security overseas by helping to address conflict, instability and crises across the globe. I know there is strong support in this House for their achievements.
The Government’s current priority for the Armed Forces is to ensure they have the equipment and support they need for operations in Afghanistan. We have approved over £2.2 billion from the reserve for urgent operational requirements in Afghanistan. Overall spending from the reserve, above costs met from the MoD budget, was over £2.6 billion in the last financial year.
But, in parallel, we must ensure that the Armed Forces are fit for the challenges of tomorrow.
The policy set out in the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) and subsequently adjusted in the SDR New Chapter and the 2003 defence White Paper, Delivering Security in a Changing World, has stood the test of time. However, it is now more than 10 years since the SDR and the challenges facing defence have inevitably changed in that time.
I am therefore announcing that the Government are beginning a process that will enable a Strategic Defence Review early in the next Parliament. That review, to be set in the context of the national security strategy, will be designed to ensure that we develop and maintain Armed Forces appropriate to the challenges we face and the aims we set ourselves as a nation.
As a first step, we will undertake an examination of a range of issues, including:
the strategic context for defence, including the lessons we have learnt from recent operations and the changing character of conflict;
our experience working in partnership with other arms of government;
the contribution defence can make to the projection of soft power—exerting influence to prevent conflicts;
technological changes in defence;
the scope for more effective processes in defence, including acquisition; and
the modern day requirements on and aspirations of our Armed Forces personnel.
I intend to publish the results of this work in the form of a Green Paper in early 2010. I recognise there is a wide range of views on these important issues and hope the Green Paper will help build a consensus on these critical underlying issues for defence.