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Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:27 pm on 20th June 2018.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling 6:27 pm, 20th June 2018

This has been an incredibly important and well-informed debate. The Secretary of State and the British Government should know, when they go to the summit, that they have the full support of this Parliament, as we are united in the belief that NATO forms the cornerstone of the defence of our nation.

Notwithstanding the appalling scenes we have seen in America that none of us could or would seek to defend, it is so important that the US is given the credit it deserves for the work it does to defend the security of our continent and the world. The Secretary-General of NATO, Mr Stoltenberg, wrote yesterday in the paper:

“In fact, since coming to office, the Trump administration has increased funding for the US presence in Europe by 40%. The last US battle tank left Europe in 2013 but now they’re back in the form of a whole new US armoured brigade.”

That is the sort of thing my hon. Friend Mrs Moon was talking about. It does not seek to justify the American President or defend what he is doing in America, but it points to the facts of what not only the President but the generals and the armed forces of the United States are doing to work with us to secure our freedoms.

I say to the Secretary of State, and I make no apology for this, that this House is united in saying to him that whatever the arguments—about 2%, 2.3% and 2.5%, or about who is doing what and who is not—the fact is that our country needs to spend more on its defence and more resources are needed. As I have said in previous debates, as a Labour politician, I say to the Secretary of State that I support him, as my Front Benchers do, in seeking more resources from the Treasury. That should not of course be at the expense of the health service or of schools, but it does mean that we have to find such resources to defend our country.

Let me say that there will be significant challenges at the upcoming NATO summit. I do not have the time to go through them all, but let me tell the Secretary of State about one of them. Article 5—collective defence—is fundamental to the principle of NATO, but does it apply to cyber-warfare? As Lord Jopling has said, does there need to be a new article 5B? These are immense issues for NATO to consider at its summit.

In the half a minute or so that I have left, I say to the Secretary of State that we are losing the battle with the British public about why we should spend more money on defence and about what threats our country faces. My constituents do not believe that they face a threat of attack from Russia. They do not believe that Russian submarines coming into the North sea adjacent to Scotland are a threat, but we have to persuade them that it is a threat. We have to explain what is going on and why it is a threat. They see terrorism as a threat, but they have to understand NATO’s purpose and what threats we face. How we explain that to them will determine whether we get more resources.