Defence Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:17 pm on 25th March 2004.

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Photo of John Smith John Smith Labour, Vale of Glamorgan 5:17 pm, 25th March 2004

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, albeit briefly. I intend to focus my comments on a small but none the less important part of defence policy that is often neglected—defence logistics—but first I should like to make a couple of general comments. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on producing an intelligent White Paper that leads the way for future defence policy. My hon. Friend Rachel Squire referred to the number of strategic reviews. Unfortunately, that is an indication of the times that we live in. The security environment is changing so rapidly that there will be an increasing number of reviews over time. I also congratulate the Secretary of State on securing from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a real-terms increase in the defence budget.

I should also congratulate the shadow Defence Secretary on putting on such a brave face this afternoon, in the full knowledge of the impossibility of defending the policy that he will have to defend. I might disagree with him and his Front-Bench colleagues, but I recognise that they are committed to defence policy and to defending this country. I therefore understand the embarrassment that they must be experiencing, but it is not my intention to exploit it this afternoon.