Defence Review

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th June 1997.

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Photo of Keith Simpson Keith Simpson Conservative, Mid Norfolk 12:00 am, 16th June 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will issue a mission statement for his Department before the defence review. [2052]

Photo of Keith Simpson Keith Simpson Conservative, Mid Norfolk

Like my colleagues, I welcome the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to their new positions—Scotland's loss is defence's gain.

In an earlier answer, the Secretary of State said that the strategic defence review was going to be Foreign Office led; but in the Foreign Office mission statement, which was released after 10 days by the Foreign Secretary, there is barely any mention of security or defence matters. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us the exact benchmarks that will be established in the defence mission statement, especially those relating to the size of the defence budget?

Photo of John Reid John Reid Minister of State (the Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence, The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank the hon. Gentleman, but have to tell him that my right hon. Friend did not say that the review would be Foreign Office led—he said that it would be foreign policy led. The aim of the Ministry of Defence is to provide the defence capabilities needed to ensure the security and defence of the United Kingdom and our dependent territories and to help discharge our international responsibilities by supporting the Government's foreign policy objectives and contributing to wider international peace and security. We intend to issue shortly revised aims and objectives for my Department in the form of a mission statement.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

In such a mission statement, will my hon. Friend consider including some of the activities of Her Majesty's forces that are less understood by the public? I am thinking particularly of the Royal Navy, where our forces are engaged in anti-drugs activities and support Customs and Excise and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Photo of John Reid John Reid Minister of State (the Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence, The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I very much take the point made by my hon. Friend, who I know has been a great supporter of the forces. Indeed, my hon. Friend is a member of the armed forces parliamentary scheme, which I recommend to all hon. Members who have not yet completed it, including, I understand, the Opposition Front-Bench team. As for the mission statement, we shall certainly look not only at our basic aims—defending our country, and its dependent territories' freedoms and interests, and discharging our international responsibilities—but at the wider themes outlined by my right hon. Friend. the Secretary of State for Defence. Those themes involve caring for our people, contributing to our community, and establishing good communications in order to ensure the widest participation in, and support for, our defence policies and priorities.