Defence

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 5:07 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence 5:07 pm, 18th February 2019

The hon. Gentleman makes my point for me. There are no accepted rules, and post Brexit Britain and the rest of world collectively need to recognise that. From a NATO perspective, article 5 does not apply. If there are no rules, how can we punish anybody? How can we identify who is responsible for what? This is a whole world that we need to address very soon indeed.

That point allows me to move on to a point about having an honest conversation with the public—this touches on the 2% issue. The general public have a huge admiration for our armed forces, who are the most professional in the world. However, I would also say that there is a collective naivety about what we can actually do. We are facing some very real threats that we need to wake up to.

I do not mean to digress too much, but because this place made so much noise about potholes, which was because local government made so much noise about potholes, the Chancellor then provided the money to address the problem of potholes. We are not making enough noise about our capabilities and where we are versus the threats we actually face.

Our main battle tank is 20 years old. It has not been replaced in that period. Meanwhile, France and Russia have upgraded their tanks two or three times over that period. We have some fantastic kit coming on board, but there are other areas where we need investment. We need to tell the public that if they want Britain to be able to step forward when it is required, we need to pay for that. That is the conversation we need to have, as well as talking about the threats we have touched on and have articulated quite adequately today. As I say, ever fewer nations are willing to step forward.