Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 2:27 pm on 9 January 2015.

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Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 2:27, 9 January 2015

I am grateful to Kerry McCarthy for allowing me to chip in briefly.

I commend my hon. Friend Mr Chope on introducing this Bill and on giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject, albeit rather briefly. He has never been slow in making contributions to the Conservative party’s manifesto development process whether as a Minister or as a Back Bencher, and he has been most industrious in making a contribution today.

In the limited time available, I wish to point out that, as one of the 12 founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the UK adheres to the principles of its membership. According to NATO’s own figures, we have the second largest defence budget in the alliance, behind the United States, and the largest defence budget in the European Union. Moreover, the defence budget and the defence programme are in balance across the next 10 years. We have the assurance of a stable and well-managed budget, and confidence that defence is both affordable and deliverable, having taken some, at times, extremely difficult decisions to put right the mess that we inherited in the Ministry of Defence from the previous Labour Government.

The NATO summit in Wales proved a pivotal moment for defence spending and investment. It represented the first ever collective public pledge on defence investment made by NATO allied leaders and was a clear acknowledgement of the challenges we face from the rapidly evolving and diverse potential threats on NATO’s borders and the need to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets to tackle key capability shortfalls. Clearly, living up to the commitments made at the Wales summit on defence investment will be challenging for all allies and progress will take time. For many, even halting the decline will be a significant challenge. Importantly, however, along with reaffirming the continuing and unwavering commitment of allies to NATO as a transatlantic alliance, there is now a willingness and commitment among allies to try to turn around the decline in defence spending, particularly on the part of our European allies.

The Wales summit was a critical moment for the NATO alliance, coming as it did in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine, growing instability from the middle east to north Africa and the conclusion of the international security assistance force mission.

I conclude by pointing out that we still spend 2% of our GDP on defence. We will continue to do that to the end of this Parliament and going into the—

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Friday 16 January.