Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence 6:32 pm, 18th February 2019

I am afraid that I do not have time to take interventions.

Martin Docherty-Hughes mentioned peacekeeping, and anyone in uniform will recognise its importance. It is not so much about defeating the enemy as enabling the local population, and nowhere is that more pertinent right now than in Iraq and Syria. Murders are happening every day, and ISIL is still active. ISIL is not in our headlines, but that is not to say it has dispersed. We need to make sure that we help with stabilisation, peacekeeping and rebuilding those nations in whatever way we can, obviously with their agreement.

Toby Perkins spoke about being honest in our conversation with the public. I make it clear that France is about to overtake us in defence spending. We have to make the case to the nation, because we queue up with every other Department in asking for more funds from the Treasury. If we take the nation with us in calling for it, we are more likely to get where we want to go.

I have mentioned tanks, but we had 30 RAF squadrons in Operation Ellamy, and we are now down to seven. We cannot build two new aircraft carriers without extra money and not have an impact on the rest of the surface fleet. These are important issues, which is why the Defence Secretary and Defence Ministers are all making a potent case through the defence modernisation programme, which my hon. Friend Leo Docherty mentioned, to say that we need to upgrade the defence budget. I am pleased with my hon. Friend’s contribution; he touched on the importance of cyber. If we think the last 10 years have seen a change in our world, wait for the next 10 years. Artificial intelligence, 5G and the internet of things will change our world fundamentally, and I am not quite sure whether we are ready.

My hon. Friend James Cleverly speaks with such experience. He talks about our offer—what is our offer to our armed forces?—and that is so important for us to recognise and understand. More than 20 operations are taking place around the world, and Operation Toral, the continuation in Afghanistan, is just one of them. They do not make the headlines, so they are not the recruitment sergeant that Iraq and Afghanistan have been. Because of the greater employment rate, it is a testing environment to let people recognise how the armed forces can be a fantastic career. He also touched on flexible working, which is important, and how roles have been opened up to women right across the piece.

Following this full debate, I hope the House will support the draft order and recognise its contribution to upholding the constitutional position that the armed forces may not be maintained without the consent of Parliament.

My final words are to anyone thinking of signing up. I could not encourage you more. You will learn things about yourself that you did not know, you will do things that you never thought possible, and you will visit places that you never thought you would be able to visit. When you finally march off that parade square, after you sign up, you will not only be serving your country but you will be making your mum and dad so proud of you.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Armed Forces Act (Continuation) Order 2019, which was laid before thisHouse on 24 January, be approved.