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NATO Countries: Defence Spending

Volume 608: debated on Monday 18 April 2016

12. What recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in other NATO countries on spending 2% of GDP on defence. (904488)

The UK is proud to be one of five NATO countries that meet the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Since the defence investment pledge was made at the Wales summit in 2014, progress has been made, with 16 allies increasing defence spending in real terms and 24 allies now spending more of their defence budgets on equipment. As it happens, the leadership role that the UK is given in NATO on this issue was warmly welcomed once again by the US Deputy Defence Secretary in my bilateral discussions with him last Friday.

What signal would it send to our NATO partners, and to our adversaries, ahead of the Warsaw summit if the Government took the advice of some in the House and failed to commit to spending 2% of GDP on defence? Will my hon. Friend update the House on the Libya and wider middle east situation?

I am not sure that the Speaker will give me enough time to answer both those issues, so I will focus on the first, if I may. The NATO Secretary-General was here last week and he praised the United Kingdom for our leadership on defence spending and our contribution to NATO. By the NATO summit in Warsaw in July, we expect to see further progress on the part of our allies in working to meet NATO’s 2% guideline. By contrast, the deafening failure to match that commitment by the Labour party sends precisely the wrong message to our allies and, even worse, to our adversaries.

The Minister and many other hon. Members make much of this 2%, but 2% in the United Kingdom is quite different from a measurement of 2% for other NATO allies. Does the Minister not agree that this process of self-assessment, which NATO seems to tick off, has profound implications for the alliance’s method of calculation of GDP expenditure on the military?

As I indicated earlier this afternoon, NATO makes the definition and assesses the contributions that are made by each member nation to its return. It is not for the United Kingdom to make that determination; it is for NATO to do so.