The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Tuesday 16 March.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a Statement on the Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which we are publishing today.
The overriding purpose of this review, the most comprehensive since the Cold War, is to make the United Kingdom stronger, safer and more prosperous, while standing up for our values. Our international policy is a vital instrument for fulfilling this Government’s vision of uniting and levelling up across our country, reinforcing the union, and securing Britain’s place as a science superpower and a hub of innovation and research. The review describes how we will bolster our alliances, strengthen our capabilities, find new ways of reaching solutions, and relearn the art of competing against states with opposing values. We will be more dynamic abroad and more focused on delivering for our citizens at home.
I begin with the essential fact that the fortunes of the British people are, almost uniquely, interlinked with events on the far side of the world. With limited natural resources, we have always earned our living as a maritime trading nation. In 2019, the UK sold goods and services overseas worth £690 billion—fully a third of our gross domestic product—sustaining millions of jobs and livelihoods everywhere from Stranraer to St Ives, and making our country the fifth biggest exporter in the world. Between 5 million and 6 million Britons—nearly one in 10 of us—live permanently overseas, including 175,000 in the Gulf and nearly 2 million in Asia and Australasia, so a crisis in any of those regions or in the trade routes connecting them would be a crisis for us from the very beginning.
The truth is that even if we wished it, and of course we do not, the UK could never turn inward or be content with the cramped horizons of a regional foreign policy. For us, there are no far-away countries of which we know little. Global Britain is not a reflection of old obligations, still less a vainglorious gesture, but is a necessity for the safety and prosperity of the British people in the decades ahead.
I am determined that the UK will join our friends to ensure that free societies flourish after the pandemic, sharing the risks and burdens of addressing the world’s toughest problems. The UK’s presidency of the G7 has already produced agreement to explore a global treaty on pandemic preparedness, working through the World Health Organization to enshrine the steps that countries will need to take to prevent another Covid. We will host COP 26 in Glasgow in November and rally as many nations as possible behind the target of net zero by 2050, leading by example since the UK was the first major economy to accept this obligation in law. Britain will remain unswervingly committed to NATO and preserving peace and security in Europe.
From this secure basis, we will seek out friends and partners wherever they can be found, building a coalition for openness and innovation and engaging more deeply in the Indo-Pacific. I have invited the leaders of Australia, South Korea and India to attend the G7 summit in Carbis Bay in June, and I am delighted to announce that I will visit India next month to strengthen our friendship with the world’s biggest democracy. Our approach will place diplomacy first. The UK has applied to become a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and we will seek to join the trans-Pacific free trade agreement.
But all our international goals rest upon keeping our people safe at home and deterring those who would do us harm, so we will create a counterterrorism operations centre, bringing together our ability to thwart the designs of terrorists, while also dealing with the actions of hostile states—it is almost exactly three years since the Russian state used a chemical weapon in Salisbury, killing an innocent mother, Dawn Sturgess, and bringing fear to a tranquil city. I can announce that the National Cyber Force, which conducts offensive cyber operations against terrorists, hostile states and criminal gangs, will in future be located in a cyber corridor in the north-west of England.
We will also establish a cross-government situation centre in the Cabinet Office, learning the lessons of the pandemic and improving our use of data to anticipate and respond to future crises.
The first outcome of the integrated review was the Government’s decision to invest an extra £24 billion in defence, allowing the wholesale modernisation of our Armed Forces and taking forward the renewal of our nuclear deterrent. The new money will be focused on mastering the emerging technologies that are transforming warfare, reflecting the premium placed on speed of deployment and technical skill, and my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary will set out the details next week.
Later this year, “HMS Queen Elizabeth” will embark on her maiden deployment, leading a carrier strike group on a 20,000-mile voyage to the Indo-Pacific and back, exercising with Britain’s allies and partners along the way and demonstrating the importance that we attach to freedom of the seas.
By strengthening our Armed Forces, we will extend British influence, while simultaneously creating jobs across the United Kingdom, reinforcing the union and maximising our advantage in science and technology. This Government will invest more in research and development than any of our predecessors because innovation is the key to our success at home and abroad, from speeding our economic recovery, to shaping emerging technologies in accordance with freedom and openness. We will better protect ourselves against threats to our economic security.
Our newly independent trade policy will be an instrument for ensuring that the rules and standards in future trade agreements reflect our values. Our newly independent sanctions policy already allows the UK to act swiftly and robustly wherever necessary, and we were the first European country to sanction the generals in Myanmar after the coup last month.
In all our endeavours, the United States will be our greatest ally and a uniquely close partner in defence, intelligence and security. Britain’s commitment to the security of our European home will remain unconditional and immoveable, incarnated by our leadership of NATO’s deployment in Estonia.
We shall stand up for our values, as well as for our interests, and here I commend the vigilance and dedication of honourable Members from all parties, because the UK, with the wholehearted support of this whole House, has led the international community in expressing our deep concern over China’s mass detention of the Uighur people in Xinjiang province, and in giving nearly 3 million of Hong Kong’s people a route to British citizenship.
There is no question but that China will pose a great challenge for an open society such as ours, but we will also work with China where that is consistent with our values and interests, including in building a stronger and positive economic relationship and in addressing climate change.
The greater our unity at home, the stronger our influence abroad, which will, in turn, open up new markets and create jobs in every corner of the UK, not only maximising opportunities for the British people, but, I hope, inspiring a sense of pride that their country is willing to follow in its finest traditions and stand up for what is right. With the extra investment and new capabilities of the integrated review, the United Kingdom can thrive in an ever more competitive world and fulfil our historic mission as a force for good. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, I start with my usual caveat about what a shame it is we are not hearing the Statement in full. It might be a relief to the Leader, but it would be good to hear Statements as important as prime ministerial ones repeated.
Two significant developments since the last Statement on the integrated review provide a new optimism: first, the success of vaccines against Covid-19; and secondly, the election of the new US President. President Biden’s recent speech on America’s place in the world highlighted that his Administration are different in style, values and substance from that of his predecessor. In redefining how the US views its place in the world, he said:
“we must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.”
At a time when challenges have never seemed so complex or diverse, the power of this change of approach should not be underestimated. Now, our Prime Minister has to decide how the UK will meet those same challenges.
We need the integrated review to succeed to keep our citizens safe and to secure Britain as a moral force for good in the world. But it is against a backdrop whereby the two previous reviews, as well as recent actions taken by the Government, have weakened the foundations. There has been an £8 billion cut to the defence budget and a reduction of 45,000 in Armed Forces personnel. Our reputation as a defender of the rule of law has been damaged by the Internal Market Bill, and now, there is the decision to break the legal commitment on international aid. After an “era of retreat,” as Boris Johnson previously described the last 10 years of Conservative Governments, this review cannot repeat the mistakes of the lost decade for Britain’s foreign and security policy.
The number one priority for any Government is national security, and security has to begin at home, as we have seen during the pandemic. That is why announcements of a national resilience strategy, a counterterrorism operations centre and greater partnership with business are all encouraging.
The threats to our national security are proliferating and the traditional certainties are less stable; while we welcome that the review recognises the threats of space and cyber, the conventional risks have not gone away. Our commitment to NATO must be unshakable, our support for nuclear deterrence must be non-negotiable and our obligations to international law, human rights, multilateral treaties and organisations must be enshrined in policy and practice.
Today’s review accepts that the events of March 2018 in Salisbury indicate that the threat from Russia remains acute. Yet the recommendations of the Russia review 18 months ago remain just that—recommendations. I hope the Leader can today assure us that the legislation to counter state threats will address this and the Government will now set about implementing the outstanding recommendations with some sense of urgency.
Ambiguity in relation to China must also be addressed. Given the importance of security to our national infrastructure, can the Leader explain why the Government have spent years encouraging Chinese Government-backed companies to invest in sensitive areas such as nuclear power and 5G?
Our ambition must be to enhance Britain’s reputation abroad with a foreign policy that appreciates that our values and the national interest are indivisible. We need to build deeper political and economic ties with new and emerging powers, including, as referenced in the review, within the Asia-Pacific. But we also need the anchor of strong, effective relationships with Europe and the US and a defined role in the global institutions we helped to establish. This means providing leadership at NATO to counter threats and aggression, including from Russia. It means being a competent and coherent voice at the G7, leading the global economic recovery—as we did in 2008 with Gordon Brown—and using our position on the UN Security Council to call out human rights violations, even if it is inconvenient.
To realise those ambitions, we have to be consistent and we have to earn trust. It is not enough to refer to Yemen as the worst humanitarian situation in the world, and then continue to sell arms that can be used in the conflict there. It is not enough to host COP 26 if plans to open a new coal mine are then pushed through. It is not enough to talk about a value-driven trade policy, but then reject human rights protections in the Trade Bill.
The decision to cut £5 billion from foreign aid and abandon our commitment to 0.7% of GNI undermines that ambition. The Government say that cut is temporary, but it was this Government who enshrined that commitment in legislation. Why do that if, at the first challenge, that commitment is just abandoned? When will Parliament be able to vote on this? Because the Government need to find a way to make their own actions lawful. On a not unrelated matter, if the Government are serious about our role as a soft power superpower, as the review suggests, surely they could not even contemplate ending funding for VSO. I hope the noble Baroness will address these issues.
I also raise a specific matter about the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, which the review talks up as expanding our science and technology base for strategic advantage. The Government’s press release says that the Business Secretary will have powers for
“directing the agency to cease collaboration with certain hostile actors”.
I am genuinely puzzled about this. Why would the agency be collaborating with hostile powers in the first place? Perhaps the Minister will shed some light on what this actually means.
Despite this being billed as the “strategic defence review”, there are many questions that will have to be addressed in the defence Command Paper. It has been reported that the Army will be cut by 10,000 personnel and armoured vehicles scrapped. If the strategy wants to
“deploy more of our Armed Forces overseas more often and for longer periods of time”,
how will these cuts assist in achieving that?
While our support for the nuclear deterrent is non-negotiable, serious questions remain about the hike in warhead numbers, which breaks the commitments of successive Governments, both Labour and Conservative. Since the Prime Minister was unable to address this when he was asked in the other place, can the noble Baroness explain something about the strategic purpose of this decision? In his Statement, Mr Johnson describes the US as “our closest ally” and “a uniquely close partner”. Given that President Biden has expressed a different approach, was this decision discussed with the US?
In the past year, we have all witnessed the resilience of the British public, particularly but not exclusively those working in our health and care services. The pandemic was a threat that few expected and that, for a whole host of reasons, we were inadequately prepared for. It has brought home how, in future, our preparation against threats and risk has to cover many bases. To effectively prepare for such risks, it is not a question of using headline-friendly rhetoric, getting through the latest crisis or finding warm words for each occasion; it is about careful, strategic planning, listening to wise counsel, diplomacy based on principles and values and delivering the resources that our military, our agencies and our public services need. The test of that is not for today, but it will be judged in the months and years ahead.
My Lords, the integrated review is an extremely sobering document. In part, this is because of the new and changing security threats it outlines, but it is also because the Government’s policy is riddled with flaws and inconsistencies, which means that it does not offer a credible basis for achieving its aims. These are, as the Prime Minister, said,
“to make the United Kingdom stronger, safer and more prosperous, while standing up for our values.”
Will the review do so? Take its central strategic tenet. According to the Statement:
“Our approach will place diplomacy first.”
For a nation of our size, military capabilities and history, this is a very sensible priority. But what have the Government done to demonstrate that they understand what such an approach requires?
The first requirement is that the UK should be a trusted partner. Here, the Government’s track record is dire. They have twice in the past year broken their pledges under the EU withdrawal Act and Irish protocol and find themselves being taken to court by our most important trading and security partner for breaking the law. Other countries are watching and asking how much our word is now really worth.
The Government cannot be trusted either on their legal commitments to development assistance. They have cut development aid, and with it our ability to wield soft power, at a time when such assistance was never more needed. The Prime Minister says that the cut will be restored when the fiscal situation allows. Is it not the truth, however, that the Government used the pandemic as a convenient pretext to make the cut and have no intention whatsoever of reversing it any time soon?
Another aspect of wielding soft power is to stand up for the values that we wish to promulgate. These include the promotion of human rights. Yet the Government make it pretty clear in the document that trade will trump human rights, not least in our dealings with China. The Foreign Secretary admitted as much yesterday, saying that the UK would be willing to strike trade deals with countries that violate international standards and human rights. Will the Minister tell us whether that is really the Government’s position? If so, what does their alleged commitment to human rights actually amount to?
Throughout the review, the Government largely airbrush out the importance to the UK in every possible respect of the EU. They fail to admit that Brexit will make us poorer, less secure and less influential internationally. Instead, they blandly state that,
“we will enjoy constructive and productive relationships with our neighbours in the European Union.”
I wonder if anybody has told the noble Lord, Lord Frost.
When it comes to military spending, the additional £16 billion promised last autumn does not even fill the black hole in the procurement budget. Our Armed Forces will remain short of armed vehicles, fighter planes, submarines and frigates. Yet the Prime Minister is proposing a tilt to the Indo-Pacific that does not just involve diplomacy and trade but the sending of an aircraft carrier, wholly dependent on US escorts and planes, to the South China Sea. This is but one example of our being increasingly dependent on the United States. It is certainly not the action of a sovereign global power.
The one area where the review sets out a wholly new commitment is the proposed increase in nuclear warheads to 260, some 45% more than the number planned for the mid-2020s by the coalition Government. The review says that this is necessary,
“in recognition of the evolving security environment”.
What on earth does that mean? The review states that the Government might consider using nuclear weapons against chemical or biological attacks or cyberattacks, even by non-nuclear states. This is a massive expansion of the potential role of nuclear weapons and appears to be in breach of our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. How can the Government possibly justify such a reckless, dangerous and potentially illegal policy shift?
When it comes to trade, the review repeats the Government’s commitment to have a trade agreement in place to cover 80% of our trade by 2022. Surely, this is completely unrealistic. Our combined trade with the US, India and China comes to more than 20%, and there is no chance of reaching a trade agreement with any of them in the foreseeable future. Why, then, is the completely unachievable 80% target repeated? It is simply pie in the sky.
The document is suffused with such fanciful and misleading assertions. To pick one from many: it trumpets the support the Government have given to our creative and cultural sectors, yet their failure to maintain the ability of our creative and cultural sectors to perform in the EU is decimating them. Try telling a young musician, facing the cancellation of all her European work, to pivot to the east. It would be a joke if it were not so serious.
This review demonstrates the Prime Minister’s trademark policy of trying to have your cake and eating it. It avoids hard choices, particularly in relation to China, instead of making them. By pivoting away from Europe, it ignores both history and the basic rule that security, defence and foreign policy should start, not finish, with your neighbours. It is a truly depressing document from a truly depressing Government.
I was going to thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their comments, but I might just thank the noble Baroness in the light of the noble Lord’s comments. However, I will try to address some of the criticisms that he somewhat unfairly levels at this document.
The noble Baroness began her comments on the approach of the new Administration. We believe this review aligns well with the US vision, highlighting the need to build back better and the importance of science and technology, climate change, health resilience and protecting our democracies. We look forward to working with them on all of those. She also asked about the counter state threats legislation, which I can confirm will provide the security services and law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools to tackle evolving state threats. It will create new offences, tools and powers to criminalise other harmful activity conducted by and on behalf of states.
Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness talked about China. As this document sets out, we believe there is scope for positive and constructive engagement with China, for instance on things such as trade co-operation and tackling climate change. However, we are very clear-sighted about the challenges. To reassure the noble Baroness, we will always protect our vital interests, including sensitive infrastructure, and will not accept investment that compromises our national security.
The noble Lord asked about trade and human rights. I say categorically that we are clear that trade does not come at the expense of human rights. Our experience is that having strong economic relationships with partners enables us to have open discussions with them on a range of issues, including human rights, and we most certainly do so. I remind the noble Lord that under our global human rights sanctions regime we have designated 68 individuals and three entities from nine countries—including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Venezuela and Ukraine—around the world for a variety of human rights abuses or violations. We will continue to take these issues extremely seriously.
The noble Lord and the noble Baroness rightly spoke about our leadership on the global stage. This will be a year for our leadership that will set the tone for our international engagement for the decade ahead, in our presidency of the G7, which we have also invited the leaders of Australia, South Korea and India to attend, the Global Partnership for Education and COP 26 in Glasgow in November. I say to the noble Lord that we will continue to have a strong, positive relationship with our European friends and partners. That will continue to be a priority for us.
Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness spoke about international development spending. The document clearly states that we are committed to returning to spending 0.5% of GNI on ODA as soon as the economic situation allows—
Sorry, 0.7%— I apologise.
We are acting compatibly with the International Development Act and will set out more detail on steps in due course. I remind the House that we remain a world-leading aid donor and will spend more than £10 billion this year to address poverty, tackle climate change, fight Covid and improve global health. This year, we will continue to be the second-most generous ODA-spending country in the G7 as a percentage of our national income.
The noble Baroness asked about the VSO. I am afraid that all I can say is that at this point no decisions have yet been made on the volunteering for development grant. She also asked about the advanced research and invention agency, which will be operational from 2022. We will invest at least £800 million to set up this body, which will focus on high-risk, high-reward research and have significant freedom to experiment with funding models. Its structure and operating model will empower scientists to make funding decisions and start and stop projects quickly. Of course, as the legislation comes through this House, there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss some of the issues she raised on it.
Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness talked about defence spending. We are increasing our defence spending by over £24 billion over the next four years, which is £16.5 billion more than our manifesto commitment. We are certainly investing in defence. There will be no Armed Forces redundancies during any restructuring, but the Army will be transformed to meet the threats of the coming decade. Our soldiers will have some of the best equipment in the world, including new vehicles, drones, electronic warfare and cyberspace capabilities. Next week, I think on Monday, the Secretary of State for Defence will set out those plans and your Lordships’ House will have the chance to look at them when they are published.
Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord talked about nuclear weapons. As they say, the review details our intent to increase the limit of our overall nuclear weapons stockpile to no more than 260 warheads. This is a ceiling, not a target, and it is not our current stockpile number; we will continue to keep this under review. We remain fully compliant with the non-proliferation treaty and absolutely committed to the collective long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons. However, in the review, we detailed some of the possible areas that might affect us in future—notably, for instance, the potential for the development of technologies that could have a comparable impact to weapons of mass destruction.
Finally, the noble Lord asked about trade and the figure of 80%. As he rightly said, we aim to secure agreements with countries accounting for 80% of the UK’s total trade within three years. So far, we have secured trade agreements with countries worth 67% of total UK trade in 2019 and, in addition to the agreement that we signed with the EU, we have secured FTAs with 66 non-EU countries. We have also applied for accession to the CPTPP.
My Lords, we now come to the 20 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief so that I can call the maximum number of speakers.
My Lords, the level of ambition in this review is commendable. Take, for example, the desire for the UK to be a global superpower in science and technology by 2030. The biggest challenge will be the divide between the public and private sectors. Will we follow the example of Israel, which already punches above its weight in this area, and take a whole-of-society approach? How will we bridge that divide when it comes to sharing skills and investment?
I thank my noble friend. As he rightly states, we aim to secure our status as a science and technology superpower by 2030. As I mentioned, the defence Command Paper, which will be published on Monday, and the subsequent defence and security industrial strategy will set out more details on exactly the issues that he raises, including government, defence, the security industry, the public and private sectors, and investment. This will be very much at the forefront of our mind as we take it forward in the coming months.
My Lords, having overseen the 2010 review as the then National Security Adviser, I know how much work goes into a document such as this. I congratulate the team on it.
A good strategy should set out both goals and priorities. This one has plenty of ambitious goals in all directions, such as taking on new tasks in the Indo-Pacific, becoming a science and technology superpower, leading on climate, reshaping the international system and much else. What I do not see are any clear choices among all these priorities. Indeed, I see that the review dropped the prioritised list of national security risks, which we introduced in 2010. Can the Minister tell us what the UK will be doing less of to free up the people and money for these new endeavours?
I can certainly say—I am sure that the noble Lord, with his experience, recognises this—that we believe that this review brings together national security and international policy in a way that previous reviews have not, and establishes a clearer connection between our domestic priorities and international objectives. These are some of the review’s key conclusions: we must do more to sustain our “strategic advantage” in science and technology, as has already been mentioned; we must take a more active role in
“shaping the open international order of the future”;
we must strengthen our security and defence; and we must bolster our resilience. Those will be the key priorities shaping the work that we take forward in the coming decades.
My Lords, I am pleased to see that the broad scope of the review covers a wide range of vital areas. However, given that defence and security remain the core focus of this review, can the Minister say more about how the review relates to Her Majesty’s Government’s commitment to the UN sustainable development goals, identified in the review as a principal continuity? This is of special concern given that the SDGs offer a values framework of mutual and practical support, which is part of good international relations. We on this Bench welcome the review’s specific commitment to upholding freedom of religion or belief. It is from this perspective that I ask my question, because of the wide-scale commitment to sustainable development among people of faith.
I thank the right reverend Prelate for his question. Indeed, he will see within the review that part of the definition or explanation we include of what being “a force for good” means—which is obviously one of the themes running through this—is remaining a world-leading international development donor and supporting the sustainable development goals. Certainly, as I have already mentioned, we are absolutely committed to continuing our work in these areas. In fact, within the development space, we will also sharpen our focus on seven key priorities, including climate change and biodiversity, Covid and global health security, girls’ education, science and research, open societies and conflict resolution, and humanitarian preparedness and response, so we will continue to be a leading player in this very important field.
My Lords, it would be nice to welcome the integrated review, because much of it is sensible, thought through and comprehensive. But if it is to be more than just fine sentiments and big, bold ambitions, we have to ask the question: where is the beef? Where are the priorities? For example, when the Prime Minister says, “diplomacy first”, does that mean that the relentless year-on-year cutting of the diplomacy budget will be reversed? Secondly, if we are to champion the rule of law, how will that sit with breaking our own development law and using the overseas operations Bill to break international humanitarian law?
As I said, the review makes quite clear that we are committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA as soon as the economic situation allows, and we believe that we are acting compatibly with the International Development Act. We believe that this review will once again put us at the forefront of global leadership in a whole array of areas. We will look forward to working with partners in Europe, around the globe and, obviously, in the Indo-Pacific region, which we have also pointed out, in order to advance open and fair democracies and societies.
My Lords, the review puts science and technology front and centre. How does the noble Baroness square that with Universities UK stating today that the Government have failed to provide more than £1 billion for its membership of the Horizon programme? The UK’s national research funding agency—UKRI—is being forced to make cuts of £125 million because of ODA cuts. Is she aware that it was ODA money that helped to fund the Oxford Jenner Institute vaccine work?
We certainly have an incredibly strong record on science and technology. We are ranked fourth in the Global Innovation Index, and we will invest £14.6 billion in R&D across government in 2021-22. We have reached agreement to take part in Horizon Europe, which is an excellent outcome. We are currently working through the details of the costs and where they fall, but we have always been clear that Horizon funding complements domestic programmes and have made a public commitment that there will be no loss of investment in R&D in the UK on leaving the EU.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on an integrated review that brings together all the assets that this country has and uses them to give us a direction of where we should be going in the future. But does my noble friend not share my concern that, at the same time as increasing the defence budget, we are actually reducing the number of servicemen? This might have been something of an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts. The British Army and our Armed Forces have been involved in low-intensity warfare in recent active service conflicts, and it seems to me that we are highly likely to have more of these in the future. Is it right to reduce the number of men who might be involved in this?
As I say, I think more details will be announced on Monday. As the review says, we believe that we need to stop thinking about the strength of the Army purely in numbers of soldiers and focus on how it is equipped and what we want it to do. For instance, we believe that, with this additional investment, the Army will be transformed to meet the threats of the coming decade. We will ensure that our soldiers have the best equipment in the world, including new vehicles, drones and cyberspace capabilities. As I mentioned earlier, and would just like to reiterate, there will be no Armed Forces redundancies as part of any restructuring. We are incredibly grateful for the fantastic work our Armed Forces do, and we want to provide them with effective kit and tools so that they can undertake their important work around the globe on our behalf.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on the sophistication of the review document, much of which I thought was excellent. However, the real challenge is in translating that document into an effective strategy, particularly one that is so fundamentally reliant on allies and alliances. Therefore, from a defence perspective, I ask the Minister: to what extent has the strategic bet on technology, digitally enabled capability, autonomous systems and novel nuclear options been harmonised with NATO deterrence doctrine and with the force structure development of close allies, or is it currently a wholly national initiative?
Obviously as the strategy and the way we work roll out, we will be working with allies. But in the development of this review there was thorough engagement with our allies and partners abroad, and also with civil organisations and businesses. We facilitated 11 round-table discussions and workshops, and had input from more than 100 external experts from 23 countries. The call for evidence which helped to inform the review received more than 450 submissions, so we are very conscious about our relationships with our allies. We have talked to them as we have been developing the review, and we will of course continue to work with them in order to deliver the ambitions we set out within it.
My Lords, CASD ensures our nation’s security and deters aggression, every hour of every day, and I am pleased that we will reverse the coalition Government’s decision and will no longer disclose deployed warhead and missile numbers. The 45% increase in operational stockpiles is more problematic, and I would love to know what has made that necessary. More worrying still, it would seem that we intend to use Trident as a war-fighting weapon, yet until recently the use of nuclear weapons for war-fighting, as distinct from deterrence and retaliation, was considered deranged. Why are we doing it?
As I said, we remain fully compliant with the non-proliferation treaty and deeply committed to our collective goal of a world without nuclear weapons. But we also remain committed to maintaining the minimum destructive power needed to guarantee that the UK’s nuclear deterrent remains credible and effective against the full range of state nuclear threats from any direction.
My Lords, when the defence expenditure increase was announced, I welcomed it from these Benches. It never occurred to me that the increase in defence expenditure was in order to have more nuclear warheads. The noble Lord, Lord West, has already pointed out that this is problematic. Can the noble Baroness explain to the House how it would be in line with Article VI of the non-proliferation treaty? Surely by increasing our nuclear holdings we are not doing anything to help nuclear disarmament.
My Lords, there is much to welcome in this review, and I welcome it. Following my noble friend Lord Hamilton, I shall home in on one specific issue. The Prime Minister specifically said yesterday that
“by strengthening our armed forces, we will extend British influence”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/3/21; col. 162.]
One small, if you like, example of that influence is the number of overseas students who come to Sandhurst and other staff colleges. If we diminish the size of the Army and are no longer seen as a viable and respected force around the world, they will no longer wish to come, and that will diminish our influence. Will my noble friend tell the Prime Minister that it is not from the “Ladybird book of defence”, as the Secretary of State for Defence suggested in the Commons on Monday, to say that we will not be taken seriously by our allies or our adversaries if we shrink the size of the Army?
As I have said, and as my noble friend knows, we are increasing defence spending and modernising our Armed Forces to help us achieve the full range of our security and prosperity goals. I believe our Armed Forces have an excellent reputation globally, and that will continue. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence will be setting out our plans in more detail on Monday, which I hope will reassure my noble friend about our intentions.
The integrated review identifies Russia as the country that poses the most immediate threat to the United Kingdom. Fair enough—from the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko to the poisoning of Dawn Sturgess, the UK has experience of Putin’s Russia. Nevertheless, can the noble Baroness confirm that Her Majesty’s Government are open to building a constructive working relationship with Moscow based on mutual respect? From dealing with climate change to the business of the Security Council, we need to work together.
The noble Lord has much recent experience of this, so I bow to his knowledge and expertise. He will know, but I can say, that we maintain functional channels of engagement with the Russian Government to raise concerns and discuss global challenges. As he says, we are using our COP 26 presidency to engage Russia on climate change and clean energy. As fellow P5 members, we continue to engage on international peace and security, so there are open channels. But, as he will know, at the same time we are committed to maintaining a robust response to malign activity by Russia. We also use these channels to make clear that there can be no normalisation of the relationship until Russia stops destabilising behaviour, both towards us and our allies.
I welcome this paper, in the sense that we desperately need a hard-headed, realistic debate about our national strategy post Brexit. I ask about the “tilt to the Indo-Pacific”; how serious a military and security commitment is envisaged? Is this seen as a reversal of the decision that the Labour Government famously took in 1968 to withdraw east of Suez? Are the main security challenges that we face not still in Europe’s neighbourhood—Russia, terrorism, chaos in north Africa, the possibility of further troubles in the Balkans and all the rest? Is that not the area on which we should concentrate? Do we not have to accept that we are a strong but medium-sized European power and that, if we try to do too much, we risk a problem of overstretch, which will put our Armed Forces in an impossible position?
As I am sure the noble Lord knows, we already have a significant presence in the Indo-Pacific and we will invest more deeply in our relationships with key partners, which includes seeking ASEAN dialogue partner status and, as I mentioned, applying to join the CPTPP. But I reassure him that this is not at the expense of our close relationship with our European allies, which remains critical. One example of further engagement with the Indo-Pacific region is that, later this year, HMS “Queen Elizabeth” will lead a British and allied task group on our most ambitious deployment for two decades, which will visit the Mediterranean, Middle East and Indo-Pacific.
My Lords, Section 2(4) of the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015 states that the Government
“must … describe any steps that the Secretary of State has taken to ensure that the 0.7% target will be met”
in any subsequent year, if it was met in the previous year. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, told me that
“we are looking at legislation to ensure that we fulfil those obligations to Parliament.”—[Official Report, 2/12/20; col. 755.]
There has been no legislation, so does that mean that the Government are legally committed to meeting 0.7% in 2022, as the Secretary of State has indicated?
As I have said, and am sure the noble Lord knows, the document makes clear that we intend to return to 0.7% spending. We are acting compatibly with the Act, which explicitly envisages circumstances where the target might not be met. As I said in my first answers, we will set out more details on next steps in due course.
My Lords, I look forward to a full debate in your Lordships’ House on the integrated review but, in the meantime, the Indo-Pacific tilt is realistic only if proper resources are allocated to it. A number of noble Lords have made the point about resources. How does that square with our existing commitments to NATO? Finally, is increasing the UK’s nuclear deterrent while reducing the size of the Army the right set of priorities?
NATO certainly remains the cornerstone of our defence and we are exceeding our NATO spending commitments, now at 2.2% of GDP. That cements our position as the largest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in NATO. I have already answered several questions on nuclear. As I say, we take our commitments to NATO extremely seriously. It is the cornerstone of our defence.
the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, has withdrawn. I call our final question from the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie.
My Lords, I welcome the review at long last. Despite MPs raising concerns about Beijing—its actions in Hong Kong and those against the Uighurs—the Prime Minister warned against a new cold war in China. It has emerged that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told officials that the UK would strike trade deals with countries, even if they did not meet our standards on human rights. Also, what is meant by “girls’ education”?
I hope that I made clear in a previous answer that trade does not come at the expense of human rights and that we stand up and speak on human rights, as we have done with China over the issues that the noble Baroness raises. As for girls’ education, we are championing two global targets—40 million more girls in school and one-third more girls reading by the age of 10 in lower middle-income countries by 2025. We intend to use our G7 presidency this year to rally the international community to support those global goals. I am sure that the noble Baroness knows that we are proud to be the largest bilateral donor to the two biggest global education funds—the Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait.
My Lords, we have completed all the Back-Bench questions. We shall take just one minute to rearrange the seating and then we will carry straight on with the next Report stage.