In November, the UK Government published the latest strategic defence and security review. At that time, scant assessment was made of the defence and security implications of Brexit. This can now only be interpreted as both naive and irresponsible. Eight months later and Parliament is being asked to forge ahead with defence spending policies based on the assumption that nothing has changed. But everything has changed: our relationship with Europe; the UK’s role in the world; even the Prime Minister and much of the Cabinet. Surely now, with such a fundamental shift in national strategy and circumstances, the time has come to revisit at least the principles of the defence spending review.
This commitment—I use last November’s costings—would tie up at least one third of the defence procurement budget, year on year, for the next 20 years. Questioning the wisdom of squandering huge sums on four Successor submarines is not a matter of being soft on defence; it is a matter of acknowledging the hard reality of a post- Brexit economy, of security threats utterly unlike those of the cold war, of technological advances and of the need to reassess the United Kingdom’s place in the world.
Surely now is the time for investment in defending against those threats that will be with us for decades to come, and surely there must be a priority for defence cyber-security. November’s spending review championed the national cyber-security plan, which has been allocated £1.9 billion for the next four years, yet the greatest part of this plan is to address civilian cybercrime, and only £90 million is specifically allocated to defence cyber.
We know that our conventional armed forces are under strength and ill equipped, and as Chilcot noted, such deficiencies put our soldiers in danger when deployed in danger zones. A national newspaper reported yesterday that the Army is placing under-trained recruits in front-line roles. Conventional forces, working in tandem with international law, can deliver peace and stability through peacekeeping. Trident can never do that.
I understand that the Prime Minister visited Wales today and had meetings with the Labour First Minister, Carwyn Jones. I understand that my nation’s role in Brexit negotiations was discussed, and I understand that they discussed the future of the Union. The future of Scotland’s presence in the Union is now very much in question. Only a couple of years ago, Labour’s First Minister offered a warm welcome to Trident in Pembrokeshire at the prospect of just such an eventuality. Under pressure from his own Assembly Members, he backed off, but he will be encouraged by Labour Back Benchers today. My country has suffered the legacy of industrial decay and suffered at the hands of the poverty of Welsh Labour’s economic ambition and the poverty of its vision for Wales. But we will not accept the mantra of “jobs at any cost.”
If Trident leaves Faslane, the Westminster Government will need to find a base in England, because we are not so poor in spirit as to accept the toxic status symbol of Britain’s imagined standing on the world stage. The security of Wales is dependent on the security of the global community, not on antiquated technology. My Plaid Cymru colleagues and I will vote against this motion.