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Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy

Volume 807: debated on Tuesday 3 November 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy will be (1) completed, and (2) published.

My Lords, the integrated review continues but, in light of the decision to move to a one-year spending review, we are considering the implications for its completion. We will of course provide an update in due course.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. With the comprehensive spending review now delayed, can we be clear about which comes first: the much-needed review of defence spending or the fundamental review of our position in the world and how to defend it, which the integrated review is meant to address? Has my noble friend noted that the new call for evidence questions from the review, put out in August with an absurdly short window, make no mention at all of our trade and business prosperity in the new world conditions on which everything else will depend? Will he pass the word to the reviewers to correct that?

My Lords, I always take my noble friend’s advice and listen to it carefully. I will of course follow up on that point. On his wider question, the integrated review takes into account not just defence but our development programmes, as well as diplomacy. The intention is very much to ensure that we will, as I said, in due course be able to announce a date on the further progress of the integrated review.

My Lords, the current crisis highlights that international co-operation is the greatest tool for confronting global threats and advancing our values and interests. Sadly, under this Government the UK has lost much of its influence at the United Nations, along with losing its historical place at the ICJ, and has failed in a series of high-profile votes at the Security Council and the General Assembly. Will the review fully consider the UK’s policy towards the UN and can the Minister explain how the Government will seek to strengthen and regain the UK’s influence at this important institution?

My Lords, it will not surprise the noble Lord that I disagree with him. We continue to have a very big influence at the United Nations, including at the UN Human Rights Council. He is all too aware of the recent incremental success we have had on the challenging subject of Xinjiang. On elections, the noble Lord refers back to that of 2017 on the ICJ; subsequently, there have been several UN positions, as well as an election to the important institution of the ITU, where the British candidate was successful. This was down to the influence we carry. I assure him that I agree with him on this point: it is important that we sustain and retain but also strengthen the role of the United Kingdom in global affairs, including through our work at the UN.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to money and asked whether we would be looking at chicken or egg. Does the Minister agree that although it is vital that we spend at least 2% of GDP on our Armed Forces, in the context of a declining economy with Covid 2% may not be enough? What conversations are being had with the Treasury about this?

My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness appreciates that the whole idea behind a one-year spending review is to ensure that we prioritise the issue of the economy, as she rightly said, but also other challenges that we face in the Covid crisis. That said, when we look at the context of the thresholds set, particularly at NATO, I am proud that the United Kingdom continues to stand by our commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence but also 0.7% on development.

My Lords, the UK has some of the most advanced military capabilities in the world—the F35 fighter, the Type 45 Destroyer and cyber, to name but three—but our real military advantage comes when we can network these capabilities. With the addition of space and cyber to the traditional domains of land, air and maritime, can my noble friend reassure me that multi-domain integration will be at the heart of this review?

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend. I assure him, and agree with him, that the United Kingdom will always prioritise how we respond to the threats that we face. As I am sure he will acknowledge and agree, our armed and security forces work tirelessly to protect the UK and our interests at home and abroad. However, I agree with him that we need to be dynamic in our response to the ever-changing and evolving world, including some of the new threats and opportunities, be they in cyber or space.

My Lords, a number of pending defence capital investment programmes will be crucial to both our future military capability and the UK’s prosperity agenda, but a one-year financial settlement risks crippling them. Can the Minister assure the House that such important strategic issues will be decided by informed debate and not pre-empted by short-term Treasury fiat?

I assure the noble and gallant Lord that we continue to stand by our Armed Forces. He will note that the Government are investing an additional £2.2 billion in defence over this year and next, which will put our total spending at £41.5 billion. I give him the added assurance that the Government will continue always to prioritise how we respond to the threats that the UK faces. Our Armed Forces and security services work tirelessly in this respect and are fully funded.

My Lords, the Treasury’s decision that the comprehensive spending review will now be on a one-year settlement will be very damaging to defence. The military, particularly equipment procurement, is a relatively long-term business, as alluded to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup. The UK needs a clear statement of how Ministers see the UK’s position in the world, not least to inform defence structure and spending in the future. If the integrated review is delayed, will the Government at least publish a foreign policy review—ideally, early in 2021—which will be able to take account of which way the United States is heading as well as future relationships with the EU?

My Lords, I shall follow up on the noble Lord’s suggestion and write to him. I assure him that the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office is now pursuing international priorities in an integrated manner, including working to ensure greater leverage in the Indo-Pacific area.

My Lords, next autumn we are hosting COP 26, which must be a success both for the United Kingdom and globally. Given the delay to the CSR, how will we ensure that climate change is comprehensively addressed, what proportion of funding will come from our ODA commitments, and how will that affect our development programmes?

My Lords, I have already alluded to our commitment to 0.7%, which is enshrined in law. The noble Baroness is of course right to raise COP 26; I assure her that Ministers across government are working to ensure that we deliver on its priorities and ambitions.

My Lords, there has been much talk of global Britain post Brexit. Can the Minister define what that means? Secondly, can he tell your Lordships’ House what values and principles underpin the integrated review?

My Lords, in a few seconds, global Britain means our place in the world, whether through multilateral institutions such as the UN, through the Commonwealth or, indeed, through our bilateral relationships. The UK has strong influence and strong partnerships, and we will strengthen those partnerships and friendships going forward. On our overall positioning, I am very optimistic about the outlook for the UK in the global world. The results of the FCDO merger demonstrate why.

My Lords, I regret that the publication of the integrated review has been postponed. We live in an era of extraordinary unpredictability that cannot be addressed by ad hoc reviews. Will the Government therefore consider introducing a legislatively mandated quadrennial defence, foreign policy and security review to ensure that we have an automatic and regular review of MoD and FCDO strategy and the threats facing our country, as is the case in the United States?

Noble Lords have ample opportunity, as do Members in the other place, to question and challenge the Government, whether in defence, development or diplomacy, and that will continue.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that a nuclear deterrent lacks credibility unless it is underpinned by capable, modern, conventional capabilities? If so, does he agree that the current resilience and fighting strength of the three services is less than adequate and must be improved rapidly as part of this review?

I agree with the noble Lord’s first point. However, I have already alluded to our increased budget in defence spending, which underlines the importance and priority that Her Majesty’s Government attach to our defence capabilities.