With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the NATO conference, but before I do so, I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to Jim Dobbin, who died suddenly this weekend. Jim gave his life to public service. He worked hard for his constituents, he loved this House of Commons and he contributed hugely to all its work. With his expertise in microbiology, he also did outstanding work in this House championing vaccines for children in the developing world. Though we may not have agreed on everything, we did agree about the important contribution of faith in politics—although, unlike Jim, I have to say I am not expecting to get a knighthood from the Pope, which Jim received, and much deserved it was, too. He will be missed by us all, and our thoughts are with his family at this time.
We have also heard this morning that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second baby. I am sure the House will join me in congratulating them on behalf of the whole country on this fantastic news and wishing them well in the months ahead.
The NATO summit in Wales saw the successful coming together of this vital alliance. Everyone could see its unity, its resolve and its determination to meet and overcome all the threats to our security. I want to thank the local council in Newport, the Welsh Assembly, the First Minister, the Secretary of State, our armed services and police and all those who worked so hard to deliver a safe, secure and successful summit. It was, I think, the biggest gathering of world leaders that has ever taken place in our country. Most of all, I want to thank the Welsh people for their incredibly warm welcome. They did our United Kingdom proud.
The summit reached important conclusions on Ukraine, on defence spending and the reform of NATO, on countering Islamist extremism, on the future of Afghanistan and on supporting our military and their families. I want briefly to take each one in turn.
First, on Ukraine, we welcome the ceasefire that has been in place since Friday. At the NATO summit, I chaired a meeting with President Poroshenko and the leaders of France, Italy, Germany and America to agree that what was needed was the implementation of a proper peace plan that respected Ukraine’s territorial integrity. NATO sent a clear message to Russia that what President Putin was doing was illegal and indefensible. We stand firmly behind Ukraine’s right to make its own decisions and not to have them dictated by Russian soldiers trampling on Ukraine’s sovereign soil.
We will continue our efforts to support Ukraine, including by providing financial assistance to improve its command, control and communication capabilities. Today’s new sanctions from the European Union will further ramp up the economic cost to Russia. They will make it harder for its banks and its energy and defence companies to borrow money. They will widen the ban on selling so-called dual goods, such as machinery and computer equipment, which could be used for military as well as civilian purposes. They will also prohibit the provision of services for the exploration and production of shale, deepwater and Arctic oil.
Secondly, the summit reached an important agreement on defence spending. One of the problems with NATO is that only a small number of countries have achieved the commitment to spend 2% of their GDP on defence. As a result, the share of spending by the largest country, the United States of America, continues remorselessly upwards and now accounts for around 70% of the total. That is not sustainable. The summit addressed that by agreeing the responsibility of those countries that have not achieved 2%. The conclusions were very clear about that. Through the Wales pledge, every NATO member spending less than 2% has now agreed to halt any decline in defence spending, to aim to increase it in real terms as GDP grows and to move towards 2% within a decade.
There was also a second target—namely, that a fifth of all defence budgets should be dedicated to major new equipment, because what matters most is having military assets that we can actually deploy. Here in Britain, we have the second largest defence budget in NATO and the biggest in the European Union. We have taken long-term and often difficult decisions to put our defence budget on a sustainable footing, and the fruits of that are now coming through.
We are equipping all three of our services with the best and most modern military hardware that money can buy. This includes a £3.5 billion contract for Scout armoured vehicles, which I announced on Friday—the largest such order in over three decades. [Interruption.] It includes new fleets of joint strike fighter and Voyager refuelling aircraft; 22 new A400M transport aircraft; new Astute hunter-killer submarines; Type 45 destroyers and Type 26 frigates; and HMS Queen Elizabeth, our brand new aircraft carrier—