It is a pleasure to respond to this debate. As others have done, I thank my hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh and my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis for securing this debate. I believe the Procedure Committee and the Liaison Committee were both involved in setting this new precedent for discussing estimates.
It is interesting that this debate was preceded by an urgent question on the situation in Syria. A number of options, ideas and proposals were put forward by Members on both sides of the House, and we should remind ourselves that we are able to make such proposals only because we have the hard power that allows us to stand up in this world. There is a question as to whether we use that hard power, but it does allow us to affect the world around us as a force for good.
In praising our armed forces, it is important that we pay tribute not only to those in uniform but to those who support them: the wives, the partners, the husbands, the children and the entire armed forces community. We, Parliament and the nation, pride ourselves on their incredible professionalism and sense of duty. They are among the best in the world—disciplined, reliable, committed, brave and very well equipped and trained—and we thank them for their incredible service.
The majority of people come out of the armed forces better for it, and our nation is certainly better for their service and for what they do in civilian life once their work is complete. It has been mentioned that we perhaps do not pay tribute to or acknowledge the work that is done across the world. Operations are taking place not just in the obvious—Iraq and Syria—but in Afghanistan and Africa. We are helping to stabilise nations, and we are helping those nations to become strong so that they can make a mark on their own future.
As we have heard today, the MOD budget sits at about £36 billion this year, and it will increase by 0.5% above inflation each year. We have the largest defence budget in Europe and the second largest in NATO, and we should remind ourselves that not all NATO countries are meeting the target. Fifteen out of 29 NATO members spend only 1.5% of their GDP on defence.