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Defence Attaché Network

Volume 608: debated on Monday 18 April 2016

Our growing defence budget allows us to expand the defence attaché network, including new posts in Finland, Albania and Senegal, also covering the Gambia, Mali and Niger. We are also creating new deputy posts in Qatar, Afghanistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia. The expansion of the DA network will increase our global defensive reach and influence and will strengthen our partnerships around the world, as set out in the 2015 strategic defence and security review.

I thank the Minister for that reply. It is critical that we continue to be vigilant about the security threat coming from Russia. Will he ensure that there are sufficient numbers of defence attachés in the Baltic states, central Europe and, in particular, Ukraine and Poland to provide the analysis and expertise required to understand fully the security and defence dynamics of the region?

Indeed. I am sure my hon. Friend welcomed the announcement of the new DA in Finland and the new deputy posts in two of the Baltic states.

On expertise, I should stress that we are expanding not only the number of DAs, but their career path and expertise. For example, we have opened a new defence attaché and loan service centre in Shrivenham and have reviewed and enhanced their terms and conditions of service.

I am a big supporter of our DA network, but it is also important that defence attachés are robust in their relationships with their host countries. Will the Minister tell us what representations the defence attaché in Riyadh has made regarding the allegations of civilians being targeted in Yemen following claims that a UK-made PGM 500 missile was located at one of those sites?

The Department gets a constant stream of advice from the DA and several other sources on the matter that the hon. Gentleman ingeniously managed to work into his question.

Does my hon. Friend agree that Army 2020 and the creation of regional forces will help to grow future defence attachés and will enable officers to follow a career path that includes a substantial element of foreign service, allowing them to get the skills necessary to be effective defence attachés?

My hon. Friend is exactly right on that matter, as he of course knows, having previously done the international brief in the Ministry of Defence. The new approach of having brigades facing particular parts of the world means that expertise and institutional memory on particular regions will grow. Combining that with the greatly improved career prospects for DAs should in the medium term greatly enhance our representation.

May I, through the Minister, thank the DA to Tunisia and Libya for the excellent, candid and rigorous briefing he gave the Foreign Affairs Committee on our visit about a month ago? What can the Minister tell the House about any envisaged deployment to the Libyan international assistance mission? What British contribution is being considered?

My hon. Friend has shown ingenuity in managing to work that question in as a supplementary. As he knows very well, this matter has not yet been decided, but I am delighted that he has received such typically excellent assistance from the DA who covers Tunisia.

The Minister does not have to sound quite so surprised, because, as we have discovered, ingenuity is not an entirely novel phenomenon in the House of Commons.