Defence Expenditure Commitment

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd October 2018.

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Photo of Peter Heaton-Jones Peter Heaton-Jones Conservative, North Devon 12:00 am, 22nd October 2018

What assessment he has made of the effect on NATO capabilities of the NATO commitment to allocate 20% of defence expenditure to major equipment.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

The 20% target for major equipment ensures that investment is directed towards NATO’s capability priorities, which directly enhances the security of the alliance. The United Kingdom continues to spend more than 2% of GDP on defence, and to spend more than 20% of that on major equipment. That investment helps to keep the UK safe, and ensures that NATO remains at the heart of our defence.

Photo of Peter Heaton-Jones Peter Heaton-Jones Conservative, North Devon

The NATO commitment opens up many potential opportunities for UK shipbuilders. Sadly, however, it comes at a time when Babcock International is considering the future of Appledore shipyard, which is very concerning. Will the Minister join me, and my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox, in continuing to work with Babcock in committing ourselves to a long-term future for Appledore?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, and to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon, for the work that they are doing on an issue that I know is important to them. One of the key aims of the national shipbuilding strategy is that UK shipbuilders should be competitive in overseas markets as well as domestically, so that we can secure their long-term future. I hope that they will engage in all the competitions that exist.

Photo of Phil Wilson Phil Wilson Labour, Sedgefield

Mr Gorbachev has said that the United States’ decision to withdraw from the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty is a mistake. He has said:

"Under no circumstances should we tear up old disarmament agreements...Do they really not understand in Washington what this could lead to?”

I am not naive about Russia and the threat from Russia, but what is the future of existing international nuclear non-proliferation treaties, and what additional effect will that have on NATO’s budget?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I apologise for missing the last part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, but we want to ensure that we are a full member of NATO.

Photo of Phil Wilson Phil Wilson Labour, Sedgefield

What are the implications for its budget?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

We have made a commitment to spend 2% of GDP, and we have never spent less than 2%. We are doing everything we can to work with other partners and encourage them to do exactly the same.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

NATO has always been the cornerstone of Britain’s defence, so does my hon. Friend agree that the worst thing that could possibly happen to NATO would be the arrival of a Government whose leader has said recently of NATO:

“I’d rather we weren’t in it”.

He has said:

“NATO, the father of the Cold War in the 1940s, should have shut up shop in 1990”.

That was from none other than Jeremy Corbyn.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. NATO is an important alliance that we are proud to be a member of, and it is part of our defence strategy. It is extremely alarming to hear some of the views from the Leader of the Opposition.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty was mentioned earlier. Is not one of the consequences of the actions of President Trump that short and medium-range nuclear missiles will have to be relocated on UK soil?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

One of the things that we have to make clear is that we want Russia to adhere to the treaty in the first place—that is incredibly important. The treaty was incredibly important at the time it was signed. We need to ensure that they maintain the treaty and stick to the values it presents to us.