Commonwealth: UK National Security

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Amess David Amess Conservative, Southend West 12:00 am, 26th November 2018

What assessment he has made of the importance of the contribution of the Commonwealth to UK national security.

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

The national security capabilities review emphasised the importance of our bilateral and regional relationships, and our influence in international institutions. The Commonwealth is an integral element of our global approach.

Photo of David Amess David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Commonwealth troops made a vital contribution to our successes in the first and second world wars? Accordingly, what measures is his Department taking to encourage more Commonwealth citizens to join the British armed forces?

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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. More than 3 million Commonwealth and empire soldiers took part in the great war, serving alongside British servicemen, and 200,000 lost their lives. We are looking at increasing the number of Commonwealth nationals who can join our armed forces, as we recognise the important contribution they made to our international armed forces.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Does the Secretary of State agree that we owe a huge debt to the Commonwealth not only for conflicts of the past, but for those of the future? Is it not time that we started to use the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to actually talk about big issues such as defence and the things that join legislators across the world, rather than as a meaningless talking shop?

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

We certainly do not want meaningless talking shops. The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point; perhaps I should make him an honorary colonel to take the message right around the Commonwealth and get it across. He makes a valuable point about the important network of influence that the Commonwealth provides, which is demonstrated every time we visit Commonwealth countries. We are looking closely at how we can do more with Commonwealth armed forces.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth and our sovereign base areas there are a vital part of Britain’s defence. Cyprus is also a member of NATO and the EU. When my right hon. Friend speaks to his Cypriot counterparts, does he find that they share our concerns about the development of the European army that is now being proposed, and how that might undermine NATO?

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

I have not had any conversations with my Cypriot opposite number about any European army, but let me be absolutely clear that Britain will not participate in a European army. The cornerstone of our defence in the United Kingdom, on continental Europe and in the north Atlantic is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, not the European Union.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

What is the Secretary of State’s assessment of the number of Commonwealth citizens who might join our Army next year?

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

We expect up to 1,350 Commonwealth citizens to join our armed forces next year.