Is it not the case that we only need a growing defence budget if we are committed to leading in NATO, investing in our armed forces and giving them the equipment they need and maintaining our nuclear deterrent? Is it also not the case that this party is the only one that is committed to all three?
My hon. Friend is spot on. We are leading by example in NATO. We are the second biggest defence spender in the alliance—one of only six members spending 2%—and we are committed to investing £178 billion in equipment between 2016 and 2026. Our growing defence budget means more ships, more planes, more armoured vehicles and more cutting-edge equipment for our forces.
Yes, I was very pleased to announce this £48 million contract earlier this year, which will support jobs in my hon. Friend’s area and provide world-class Apache training for our personnel. The Apache is a vital part of the British Army’s fighting force and this investment is only possible thanks to a rising defence budget.
That will become clearer after we leave, but we play an important part in Sophia, Althea and Atalanta not just because of our membership of the European Union but because it is in our national interest to help to deal with migration, to curb piracy off the horn of Africa and to help to stabilise the western Balkans.
Yes, I do agree with that. That is why we have set aside a specific innovation fund to encourage more innovation in defence and to get more of our small and medium-sized businesses, of which I know there are a large number in and around my hon. Friend’s constituency, to help us find these cutting-edge solutions.