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I have regular meetings with the Chancellor. As yet, I have not had a formal meeting with him, but I am very much looking forward to doing so to discuss our shared future.
In a recent letter to the Defence Secretary, 25 of his Conservative colleagues said:
“We look forward to rhetoric being matched in deeds over the coming months.”
Will the Secretary of State listen to colleagues from all parts of the House and match the Government’s rhetoric with increased resources for our armed services?
What we have in our national security and capability review is the opportunity to step back, look at the threats and challenges that face this country, whether it is from cyber or from more conventional threats, and make sure that we have the right resources in place to deliver for our armed forces. That is what I will be looking at. I am looking forward to meeting the Chancellor as well as many others and having those discussions going forward.
I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking up office in this vital position. When he speaks to the Chancellor, will he take the opportunity of reminding him that, in the cold war years, we spent 5% of GDP on defence and that now we spend barely 2% of GDP on defence? Perhaps a target nearer to 3% of GDP on defence might prevent our armed forces from being further hollowed out.
I will always listen intensely and very carefully to the arguments of my right hon. Friend. I have always seen 2% as a base as opposed to a ceiling, and I will certainly take on board his thoughts and comments in discussions going forward.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post and to the world of defence. The National Audit Office report earlier this year highlighted the fact that the Government have committed £24.4 billion to extra equipment, but only another £6.4 billion was actually there in new money for the joint strike fighter. How will he fill that £18 billion black hole in the budget on the basis that both the efficiencies and the headroom identified by the NAO have not yet been met?
We have an unparalleled commitment from this Government to continue to increase defence spending on equipment—0.5% above inflation every single year. I will be very happy to look at all the issues in the National Audit Office report and make sure that, working with our industrial partners, we deliver very best value for our armed forces.
I welcome my right hon. Friend, my constituency neighbour to his place. Training is key to ensuring that our armed forces are operationally ready should they need to be mobilised. Will my right hon. Friend outline what measures are being taken to ensure that training is well funded?
We have often been criticised for having the most poorly equipped armed forces, but the best trained armed forces. In my tenure as Secretary of State, I want to ensure that we have armed forces that have the best equipment and the best training. I have spoken to ministerial colleagues from Norway and other countries across Europe, and they all recognise our commitment to training. We will continue to invest in that, including in what the Royal Marines do in Norway every single winter.
Security cannot be done on the cheap. With expert after expert highlighting serious gaps in defence funding, it was surreal last week to hear the permanent secretary say that the man in charge had made no formal pre-Budget requests to the Chancellor for more money. It is one thing to ask and not get, but another not even to bother asking. Did I hear correctly today? Will the Secretary of State confirm that he actually did not make any representations to the Chancellor before the Budget?
We have to ensure that we understand the needs of our defence and armed forces. The hon. Lady may wish to rush into things, and to demand and demand, but I want to ensure that we have the arguments ready, we understand the threats that this country faces and we deliver for our armed forces. That is what the focus will be. I have had many conversations with the Chancellor, and I look forward to having many more.
I think I will take that as a no. This is serious; we hear that the Marines may be cut by 15% and the Army reduced to 70,000. That would seriously put our international credibility at risk. With the Secretary of State’s Back Benchers in open rebellion and one of his Ministers threatening to quit over cuts, just how bad do things have to get before the Secretary of State does his job, stands up for defence, and tells the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that enough is enough?
I will take many lectures from many people, but it is a little bit rich to be lectured about defence spending by the party that is led by a man who does not even believe in the British Army or a continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent. The Conservative party is the party that is ensuring that we deliver on 2% and that we increase defence spending. Frankly, I find it shocking to be lectured by the party that is led by a man who does not even believe in the British Army.