National Security Capability Review

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 2017.

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Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire 12:00 am, 27th November 2017

What progress he has made on the national security capability review.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

With threats intensifying around the world, it is vital that our armed forces have the right capabilities in order to defend global security. We are making good progress: evidence has been reviewed, analysis conducted and options developed. I very much look forward to working with my hon. Friend and listening to his comments on how best to take this forward.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I very much welcome the Secretary of State to his new job because, given his background, he is ideally suited to fighting the corner in the upcoming reviews. Will he please speak to the Prime Minister and remind her that the primary duty of any Government is the defence of the realm? Will he speak to the National Security Adviser, and indeed the Minister for the Cabinet Office, and remind them that they must not use this review as some sort of camouflage to cut our services? Will he speak to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ensure that he digs deep in his pockets to produce the money we need? Above all, will he speak to his right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and remind him that, if he does not do so, he will be facing a very substantial rebellion?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

I thank my hon. Friend. I can assure him that I will speak to every single one of the people he has mentioned. As he rightly points out, the defence of our nation is the primary responsibility of every Government, and it is one that I take exceptionally seriously. When we see our armed forces and everything they do, and the commitment with which they give themselves to it, we cannot be anything but awed by it. I will do everything I can to deliver for them.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

I welcome the confirmation —a long-known position in Devonport—that the towed array Type 23 frigates will now be based in Devonport, but it is abundantly clear that a cross-party majority of this House is opposed to the Government’s plans to scrap HMS Albion, HMS Bulwark and our Royal Marines. Will the new Secretary of State now abandon those plans and confirm that we will protect our amphibious capabilities?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Johnny Mercer, who has continuously lobbied me on the importance of the Type 23 frigate to the Plymouth Devonport dockyard. When I visited the dockyard, I was very impressed to see all the work being done there. I will be looking at all the capability within all our forces to ensure that we get the very best out of everything we do and every pound we spend.

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Conservative, Rayleigh and Wickford

I, too, welcome the Secretary of State to his new role and wish him all the best for the future, whatever challenges may now await him. I reiterate the point made by my hon. Friend James Gray, and echoed by the Secretary of State, that the defence of the realm is the first duty of Government, above all others. Does he agree that our history as a nation teaches us that lesson again and again?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

My right hon. Friend always speaks with a high degree of common sense and truth. I pay tribute to him for the work he has done for the Ministry of Defence. I agree with his assessment, because ultimately a Government will be judged on how they defend the nation.

Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Labour/Co-operative, Barrow and Furness

Maintaining capabilities is as important as creating them, so how much will it cost to upgrade the nation’s docking facilities now that it is necessary to refuel all the Vanguard submarines, which was not originally planned, alongside deep maintenance to the Astute class? Who will pay for that?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

We are working with our industrial partners on that, including Babcock, and looking closely at what the costs will be. I am unable to reveal those costs to the House at this moment, but that body of work is continuing.