– in the House of Commons at 12:35 pm on 16th March 2021.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the Government’s integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, which we are publishing today.
The overriding purpose of this review, the most comprehensive since the cold war, is to make the United Kingdom stronger, safer and more prosperous, while standing up for our values. Our international policy is a vital instrument for fulfilling this Government’s vision of uniting and levelling up across our country, reinforcing the Union, and securing Britain’s place as a science superpower and a hub of innovation and research. The review describes how we will bolster our alliances, strengthen our capabilities, find new ways of reaching solutions, and relearn the art of competing against states with opposing values. We will be more dynamic abroad and more focused on delivering for our citizens at home.
I begin with the essential fact that the fortunes of the British people are, almost uniquely, interlinked with events on the far side of the world. With limited natural resources, we have always earned our living as a maritime trading nation. In 2019, the UK sold goods and services overseas worth £690 billion—fully a third of our gross domestic product—sustaining millions of jobs and livelihoods everywhere from Stranraer to St Ives, and making our country the fifth biggest exporter in the world. Between 5 million and 6 million Britons—nearly one in 10 of us—live permanently overseas, including 175,000 in the Gulf and nearly 2 million in Asia and Australasia, so a crisis in any of those regions or in the trade routes connecting them would be a crisis for us from the very beginning.
The truth is that even if we wished it, and of course we do not, the UK could never turn inward or be content with the cramped horizons of a regional foreign policy. For us, there are no far away countries of which we know little. Global Britain is not a reflection of old obligations, still less a vainglorious gesture, but is a necessity for the safety and prosperity of the British people in the decades ahead.
I am determined that the UK will join our friends to ensure that free societies flourish after the pandemic, sharing the risks and burdens of addressing the world’s toughest problems. The UK’s presidency of the G7 has already produced agreement to explore a global treaty on pandemic preparedness, working through the World Health Organisation to enshrine the steps that countries will need to take to prevent another covid. We will host COP26 in Glasgow in November and rally as many nations as possible behind the target of net zero by 2050, leading by example since the UK was the first major economy to accept this obligation in law. Britain will remain unswervingly committed to NATO and preserving peace and security in Europe.
From this secure basis, we will seek out friends and partners wherever they can be found, building a coalition for openness and innovation and engaging more deeply in the Indo-Pacific. I have invited the leaders of Australia, South Korea and India to attend the G7 summit in Carbis Bay in June, and I am delighted to announce that I will visit India next month to strengthen our friendship with the world’s biggest democracy. Our approach will place diplomacy first. The UK has applied to become a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and we will seek to join the trans-Pacific free trade agreement.
But all our international goals rest upon keeping our people safe at home and deterring those who would do us harm, so we will create a counter-terrorism operations centre, bringing together our ability to thwart the designs of terrorists, while also dealing with the actions of hostile states—it is almost exactly three years since the Russian state used a chemical weapon in Salisbury, killing an innocent mother, Dawn Sturgess, and bringing fear to a tranquil city. I can announce that the National Cyber Force, which conducts offensive cyber-operations against terrorists, hostile states and criminal gangs, will in future be located in a cyber-corridor in the north-west of England.
Close, Mr Speaker.
We will also establish a cross-Government situation centre in the Cabinet Office, learning the lessons of the pandemic and improving our use of data to anticipate and respond to future crises.
The first outcome of the integrated review was the Government’s decision to invest an extra £24 billion in defence, allowing the wholesale modernisation of our armed forces and taking forward the renewal of our nuclear deterrent. The new money will be focused on mastering the emerging technologies that are transforming warfare, reflecting the premium placed on speed of deployment and technical skill, and my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary will set out the details next week.
Later this year, HMS Queen Elizabeth will embark on her maiden deployment, leading a carrier strike group on a 20,000-mile voyage to the Indo-Pacific and back, exercising with Britain’s allies and partners along the way and demonstrating the importance that we attach to freedom of the seas.
By strengthening our armed forces, we will extend British influence, while simultaneously creating jobs across the United Kingdom, reinforcing the Union and maximising our advantage in science and technology. This Government will invest more in research and development than any of our predecessors because innovation is the key to our success at home and abroad, from speeding our economic recovery, to shaping emerging technologies in accordance with freedom and openness. We will better protect ourselves against threats to our economic security.
Our newly independent trade policy will be an instrument for ensuring that the rules and standards in future trade agreements reflect our values. Our newly independent sanctions policy already allows the UK to act swiftly and robustly wherever necessary, and we were the first European country to sanction the generals in Myanmar after the coup last month.
In all our endeavours, the United States will be our greatest ally and a uniquely close partner in defence, intelligence and security. Britain’s commitment to the security of our European home will remain unconditional and immoveable, incarnated by our leadership of NATO’s deployment in Estonia.
We shall stand up for our values, as well as for our interests, and here I commend the vigilance and dedication of hon. Members from all parties, because the UK, with the wholehearted support of this whole House, has led the international community in expressing our deep concern over China’s mass detention of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province, and in giving nearly three million of Hong Kong’s people a route to British citizenship.
There is no question that China will pose a great challenge for an open society such as ours, but we will also work with China where that is consistent with our values and interests, including in building a stronger and positive economic relationship and in addressing climate change.
The greater our unity at home, the stronger our influence abroad, which will, in turn, open up new markets and create jobs in every corner of the UK, not only maximising opportunities for the British people, but, I hope, inspiring a sense of pride that their country is willing to follow in its finest traditions and stand up for what is right. With the extra investment and new capabilities of the integrated review, the United Kingdom can thrive in an ever more competitive world and fulfil our historic mission as a force for good. I commend this statement to the House.
We want the integrated review to work. Threats to our national security are increasing; they are becoming more complex and less predictable. The Government must get this review right, but it is built on foundations that have been weakened over the past decade. The Prime Minister has spoken of an era of retreat; he is right. In the last decade of Conservative Government, defence spending and pay for the armed forces both fell in real terms. Our armed forces’ numbers have been cut by 45,000, and there is still a black hole of £17 billion in the defence equipment plan. Although we welcome the long-overdue increase in capital funding, the creation of a counter-terrorism operations centre and new investment in cyber, the Prime Minister cannot avoid the question that everyone in our armed forces and their families will be asking today: will there be further cuts to the strength of our Army and our armed forces? The British Army is already 6,000 below the minimal level set out in the last review. It has been cut every year for the past decade, and it is being reported that the Army will see a further reduction of 10,000, alongside fewer tanks, fewer jets for the RAF and fewer frigates for the Royal Navy.
Prime Minister, if those reports are untrue, can that be said today? Successive Conservative Prime Ministers have cut the armed forces, but at least they have had the courage to come to this House and say so. This statement was silent on the issue. After everything that the armed forces have done for us, the Prime Minister has a duty to be straight with them today.
Turning to foreign policy, Britain needs to be a moral force for good in the world once again, leading the fight against climate change; strengthening multinational alliances, including NATO; championing human rights; valuing international development; and ensuring that trade deals protect high standards and public services. But there is a huge gap between that and the Government’s actions. The review rightly concludes that Russia remains the most acute threat to our security. That is not new. Eighteen months ago, the Russia review concluded that the threat was “urgent and immediate”, so why has none of its recommendations been implemented?
The integrated review talks about the importance of upholding international law, I agree, but from Europe to the Indian Ocean, this Government now have a reputation for breaking international law, not defending it. We welcome the deepening of engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, but that comes on the back of an inconsistent policy towards China for a decade. Conservative Governments have spent 10 years turning a blind eye to human rights abuses while inviting China to help build our infrastructure. That basic inconsistency is now catching up with them.
The review also talks of conflict resolution, yet there is nothing about updating our arms export regime, and in particular suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Prime Minister’s statement did not mention international development, and I wonder why—because he is cutting development spending for the first time in decades and denying the House a vote on it. If global Britain is to mean anything, it cannot mean selling arms to Saudi Arabia and cutting aid to Yemen.
I voted for the renewal of Trident, and the Labour party’s support for nuclear deterrence is non-negotiable, but this review breaks the goal of successive Prime Ministers and cross-party efforts to reduce our nuclear stockpile. It does not explain when, why or for what strategic purpose, so the Prime Minister needs to answer that question today.
On trade, we recognise the need for new and ambitious trade deals. There needs to be a major boost in UK exports over the next decade, but that has to start with making a success of the Brexit deal, and that will not happen unless we remove the new red tape that is now holding British businesses back.
Britain should and could be a moral force for good in the world. After a decade of neglect, this review was the chance to turn a corner, but there is now a very real risk that our armed forces will be stripped back even further, and that this review will not end the era of retreat—in fact, it will extend it.
First, we have one of the toughest arms export regimes in the world under the consolidated guidance. Anybody listening to the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not realise that we are the second biggest international donor of aid in the G7.
It is absolutely preposterous to hear the Labour leader calling for more investment in our armed forces when this is the biggest investment in our armed forces since the cold war—£24 billion—and when it was not so long ago that he was campaigning very hard, without dissent, to install a leader of the Labour party as Prime Minister who wanted to withdraw from NATO and disband our armed forces. [Interruption.] Lisa Nandy heckles me from the shadow Front Bench, but it is ridiculous for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to talk about our nuclear defences when the reality is that Labour is all over the place. The last time the House voted on protecting our nuclear defences, the shadow Foreign Secretary voted against it, and so did the current Labour deputy leader. They want to talk about standing up for our armed forces. Just in the last year, the Labour party has been given the opportunity to back our armed services, our armed forces, our troops and our soldiers in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill. They had the chance to stand up for veterans. They voted against it on a three-line Whip. Those are the instincts of the Labour party—weak on supporting our troops, weak on backing Britain when it matters, and weak on defence.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has pointed out that the present Labour leadership is more on the side of Ernest Bevin, who was against fascism and against the left wing both at home and abroad, and that is a sign of some kind of unity.
The Prime Minister did not mention development much in his statement, and I ask him to meet us to have a discussion on it. The question of meeting the 0.7%—70p in every £100 of our income—has been agreed; the Government said that that would be maintained. They now say that there will be a gap and it will be restored. We want that gap to be evaporated—to go away and not to happen. The aid goes down with our income; it should go up with our income, and we should meet the commitment we made in successive manifestos. I leave it to the Prime Minister to say when those who are concerned for aid for Yemen, the Voluntary Service Overseas and others will get an answer as to whether they will be cut as well. I want to stand beside the Prime Minister as well as behind him, and we want to do what he wrote in our 2019 manifesto and proudly meet that commitment.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his points. People listening to this debate might not grasp that this country is actually the biggest European donor to Yemen; we have given £1 billion over the past six years and £87 million this year. I do not think people grasp that we are giving £10 billion in international aid. We can be very proud of what we are doing. Of course, we will return to the 0.7% target when fiscal circumstances allow.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance copy of his statement, and I thank my Scottish National party colleagues, led by my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) and for Stirling (Alyn Smith), who compiled on behalf of the SNP a substantial and constructive submission to the consultation on the review.
This statement is one more insight into just how hollow the brand of global Britain actually is. The Prime Minister’s rhetoric always fails to come close to reality. Today, the Prime Minister preaches about international obligations, but only yesterday we saw that our closest partners in the EU are bringing his Government to court for breaking international law.
The Prime Minister talks about partnership with nations around the world in the very week that the most senior figures in the US, including the Speaker of Congress, warned against the UK’s increasingly unilateralist approach. The chasm between the Prime Minister’s rhetoric and the reality of his Government’s actions is deeply damaging. Just because the Prime Minister wastes £2.6 million on desperately trying to copy the White House’s press briefing room, that does not hide the reality of the UK’s weakening global influence.
Given the limited time available, let me ask a number of specific questions to which we demand answers. On cuts to Army personnel, we were promised that 12,500 personnel would be stationed permanently in Scotland; not only does the current number remain well below 10,000, but overall cuts to the Army of 10,000 are expected. Is the Prime Minister prepared to admit that this is one more broken Tory promise to our armed forces and to the people of Scotland?
On international aid cuts, the review fails to reinstate immediately our moral obligation and the Conservative party’s manifesto commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on aid and development. Under the Prime Minister’s plan, countries devastated by war and famine—Yemen, Syria and South Sudan—will have their humanitarian aid slashed. Only this morning, it has emerged that the UK Government also plan to cut their human rights support and anti-corruption measures by a staggering 80%. If the Prime Minister is prepared to stand up for such callous cuts, is he also prepared to guarantee that he will allow for a straight vote on them in the House of Commons?
Finally, on Trident nuclear weapons, the review disgracefully endorses the attainment of 80 more of these weapons of mass destruction. Will the Prime Minister tell us who gave his Government the democratic right to renege on the UK’s obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?
This Government continue to invest massively in projects that will bring benefit to the whole of the UK, including Scotland. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that there will be further investments in Lossiemouth, and that there is no threat to the Black Watch, which he and his colleagues sometimes like to raise in order to alarm people.
We will continue to invest massively in overseas development aid, which the right hon. Gentleman rightly mentioned. We are very proud of what we are doing—and by the way, it delivers 500 jobs in East Kilbride. We will continue to invest in shipbuilding, which drives jobs across the whole of the UK, and particularly in Scotland. It is fantastic to see ships being built by apprentices in Govan, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has. The only thing that endangers those investments and our working together as one UK—working with all the fantastic people in the armed services in Scotland—is the reckless referendum that his party insists on calling at the most inapposite time possible for this country.
I very much welcome the comprehensive ambitions set out in this important integrated review paper. There is a 1930s feel to the scale of challenges that we face today, with rising authoritarian powers, weak global institutions, and an absence of western leadership and collective resolve. I was hoping for a Fulton, Missouri moment when we finally call out China for the geo-strategic threat that it is, and a commitment to our aid budget. I do hope that the Prime Minister will summon that Atlantic charter spirit of working together with our closest ally, the United States, to strengthen the rules-based order, such as advancing the G7 to the G10, which could form the backbone for revising the trade and security standards that our ever-dangerous world so desperately needs.
I must say that I think there is a balance to be struck, because, after all, we have a strong trading relationship with China worth about £81 billion. China is the second largest economy in the world and a fact of our lives, and we must accept that fact in a clear-eyed way. But we also have to be tough where we see risk. That is why this Government have brought in the National Security and Investment Bill to protect our intellectual property. That is why we are protecting our critical national infrastructure. That is why my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has done more than virtually any other Foreign Secretary around the world to call out what China is doing in Xinjiang. That is why this Government have offered a place—a refuge and abode—to 3 million Hong Kong Chinese who may be in fear of persecution as a result of what is happening in Hong Kong. This Government take a very, very clear-eyed approach to what is happening in China. It is a balanced approach and one that I think the British people understand.
We have heard a lot of words like “ambition” and “innovation”, so let me bring the Prime Minister a little bit back down to earth, and sea. We have an aircraft carrier strike group with not enough aircraft and not enough ships to support it. We have rotting nuclear submarines, not a single one of which has been decommissioned. We have living accommodation for single personnel and families that is woefully inadequate and needing investment. Quite simply, the maths does not add up. The gap in what is needed to just deliver what is in-plan now is huge, even with the additional investment, so perhaps the Prime Minister could level with the House, the country and our armed forces and tell us now what is going to be cut so that this can be afforded.
The hon. Lady should recognise that this is the biggest commitment in spending on our armed forces since the cold war. Labour left a black hole in our defence money of £38 billion. [Interruption.] Yes, they did. This is a massive investment and it is designed to deal with the chronic problems that previous Governments have failed to address—modernising our forces with AI, with the future combat air system, and finally moving into cyber. I think that is the hard-edged investment this country needs to modernise our forces and take them forward. Labour consistently failed to do that.
As the Prime Minister just mentioned the National Security and Investment Bill, I hope I can rely on him to help the Intelligence and Security Committee to remove the obstacles that are being placed in our way in wishing to scrutinise the work of the Investment Security Unit.
Although there are strong analytical aspects to this review, it is suggested on pages 62 to 63 that our adversary, communist China,
“is an increasingly important partner in tackling global challenges like pandemic preparedness”— if you please—and that we want
“deeper trade links and more Chinese investment in the UK.”
Does not that unfortunately demonstrate that the grasping naivety of the Cameron-Osborne years still lingers on in some Departments of State?
Those who call for a new cold war on China or for us to sequester our economy entirely from China, which would seem to be the new policy of the Opposition, weaving, as they generally do, from one position to the next, are, I think, mistaken. We have a balance to strike and we need to have a clear-eyed relationship with China. Of course we are protecting our critical national infrastructure, and we will continue to do that, and we will make sure that through the National Security and Investment Bill we protect our intellectual property. We will take tough measures, as I have said, to call out China for what it is doing in Xinjiang. There is no one around the world who has done more on that matter than my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary or this Government, and we will continue to do that. Companies that profit from trade in forced labour will not be allowed to do so in this country. I think the whole House should be very proud of what we are doing.
I am really shocked that development is barely mentioned in the integrated review. When will the Prime Minister understand that full tummies, economic opportunity and stable Governments create the stronger, safer and more prosperous world that he wants, not more nuclear weapons? Looking at the cuts that we know of so far— cuts to the conflict, stability and security fund and 80% cuts in aid corruption work—how do they make sense to create this stable world? When do the Government plan to publish their development strategy, and will they actually consult the non-governmental organisations, the global south and, indeed, Parliament and the International Development Committee on this review? Please, tell us—we need to know the details.
As I have just explained, development remains an absolutely critical part of the UK’s foreign and overseas policy, and £10 billion is being spent this year alone. Given what this country has been going through and given that we have been obliged to spend £280 billion to prop up jobs and livelihoods, another £63 billion to support the NHS and £37 billion on supporting local councils, I think it is up to Members opposite to say which of that support for the NHS they would cut and what they would reduce to spend more on overseas aid. Of course we want the percentage to go back up again when fiscal circumstances allow, but I think people of common sense understand that £10 billion is a huge sum in the current circumstances, and they will appreciate that it is right to wait until fiscal circumstances have improved.
I very much welcome the integrated review as it is set out, and I welcome its aspiration to coherence. I also welcome the fact that many of the ideas, not just the author, have been stolen from the Foreign Affairs Committee, and for that I am very grateful. But may I ask that some of the aspects we have touched on in the past few years are addressed in the strategies that have not been clarified in today’s paper—strategies on artificial intelligence and, indeed, on different forms of financial threats? Where we need to see the UK setting up for ourselves is not just in aid and sticking to the 0.7%, which the Prime Minister has already touched on, but also in platforms, making sure that we do not just reallocate aid to defence, but actually increase the number of ships so that our presence in the east is real, not digital. We also need to look hard at the new threats—from cryptocurrency to the financial mis-dealings in the city of London—that threaten our national security so obviously, whether that is dirty Russian money or, increasingly, dirty Chinese money. We need to stand up for Britain’s interests and bring these tools together. This is a very welcome start, but will the Prime Minister please put some meat on those bones and make sure, when we hear the Command Paper next week, that we do not find that this is a snowstorm without the pounds attached?
It is a pretty big blizzard of a snowstorm when we consider that there is £24 billion and the biggest investment since the cold war. We cover every aspect of the subjects that my hon. Friend has just raised, from artificial intelligence to the threat of cryptocurrencies, and it remains the case that the UK, under these proposals, will continue to be able to project—one of the few countries in the world to be able to project—force 8,000 miles, thanks to our carrier strike force, and we are making the investments now. We are making the investments now that are grasping the nettle that previous Governments have failed to grasp for decades.
Reneging on the commitment to retain 0.7% of GNI on development spending is a short-sighted mistake, and the Prime Minister’s promise that it will be just temporary is not good enough. After all, he said in his own party’s manifesto he would not cut it. Weasel words on aid will not wash. The Prime Minister has said a number of times during this statement so far that aid spending will be restored “when fiscal circumstances allow”, but we all know that the fallout from this pandemic is going to last years, if not decades, so will the Prime Minister promise the House today that this unlawful development cut will be for one year, and if it might be for longer, why does he not just seek a vote on it?
The habit of reading out questions that have been prepared means that I am obliged to return the hon. Lady the answer I gave just a little while ago. We will of course return to the 0.7% when fiscal circumstances allow, but I think that, in the meantime, most people in this country will be amazed, proud and pleased that, in spite of the difficulties we face, we are spending £10 billion on the poorest and neediest around the world.
There is much to be welcomed in my right hon. Friend’s statement today, but is he not concerned that our position as chair of the G7 is undermined by Britain being the only country in the G7 that is cutting its development budget, in breach of our clear party manifesto commitment? If he is determined to pursue this aspect of his policy—I know my right hon. Friend; he is a democrat—when will he bring it to the House for a vote? Otherwise, he may be in danger, as from the start of the new financial year, of creating an unlawful Budget.
I have great respect and admiration for my right hon. Friend, who has campaigned for many years on international development and done much good, but I have to say, listening to contributions from around the Chamber, that we are in danger of talking Britain down. The investments we are making are colossal—absolutely colossal—by any international standards. We are the second-biggest contributor of aid in the G7 already, and in spite of all the difficulties occasioned by the pandemic, we are contributing £10 billion this year to support the poorest and neediest in the world. Yes, I can reassure my right hon. Friend that we will return to the 0.7% when the fiscal circumstances allow, but the law makes it very clear that when we have exceptional circumstances—I do not think anybody in this House or around the world would contest that we have had exceptional circumstances—we are entitled to vary that 0.7% commitment, and that is what we are doing.
Given that the Prime Minister said the climate crisis is his No. 1 international priority, it is disappointing that there is a climate-shaped hole at the heart of the Prime Minister’s review, with resources dangerously diverted to nuclear weapons. Earlier today, the Foreign Secretary justified breaking our nuclear non-proliferation treaty obligations on the grounds that nuclear weapons are
“the ultimate insurance policy against the worst threat from hostile states.”
The logical consequence of that position is surely that every country should be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons on the same insurance policy grounds. If such nuclear proliferation happens, and since we are increasing our nuclear warheads by more than 40%, how could we possibly have any moral authority to speak out against it? If that nuclear proliferation happens, does the Prime Minister think the world as a whole will be more safe or less safe?
It is entertaining to see the shadow Foreign Secretary nodding along to the hon. Lady’s denunciation of nuclear weapons after what we heard from the Labour leader—quite extraordinary. I really do not think the hon. Lady can have been reading the integrated review at all, because it sets out very clearly that we will be investing £11.6 billion internationally on tackling climate change. It develops the 10-point plan that the UK is advancing for tackling the emission of greenhouse gases. It stresses that this is the major western economy to go for a net zero target by 2050. She should be applauding the document, but I have to assume that she has not yet properly read it.
I very much welcome this integrated review, although I think there will be challenges in re-engineering Whitehall for this common purpose. How does my right hon. Friend assess the threat from Iran to the Gulf region and the UK’s strategic interests? What does he believe the opportunities are for increased peace and prosperity as a result of the signing of the Abraham accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain?
I thank my right hon. Friend, who knows whereof he speaks and has done much to advance the cause of peace in the middle east. It was an unexpected breakthrough for many in the foreign policy establishment to see the Abraham accords, and I think a significant and positive step forward. As for Iran, I must tell him—I am sure he knows—that we remain extremely concerned by Iran’s influence and disruptive behaviour in the region. In particular, of course, we are concerned by the risk of Iran developing a viable nuclear weapon. That is why we think it right that Iran should be in compliance with the joint comprehensive plan of action not just for the benefit of the region, but for the benefit and security of the people of Iran.
This integrated review looks like a desperate, confused and self-important search for purpose, far, far removed from the concerns of the people of Wales. With Welsh trade with our most important trading partner, the EU, collapsing as a result of the fundamental political and strategic error of our exit, is it not increasingly clear that the best interests of my country would be served not by squandering billions and more on literally useless nuclear weapons, but by our ability to pursue our own course in the world?
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the people of Wales voted to leave the EU. I think they did the right thing, for all sorts of reasons. Not that I think he supports them, but it is the Welsh Labour Government who continue to squander money hand over fist on all sorts of projects that I do not believe are in the interests of the people of Wales, including £144 million on a study for a bypass alone.
I welcome this integrated review. I recognise how difficult it is to do one during a pandemic. I am worried about designating China simply as a systemic challenge, given the terrible events in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Will the Prime Minister keep that under review? Does he agree that because the 0.7% cut is strictly temporary, relating to the pandemic, there is no need to amend legislation? Finally is not one of the most important reasons to build up Britain’s might to stand squarely behind individual British citizens in peril, such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, so that there are no more victims of Iran’s vile hostage diplomacy?
Yes indeed, my right hon. Friend is right in what he says about the ODA commitment and right in what he says about China. Of course we will keep that under review, although, as I said, the balance has to be struck. He is also right that the UK Government should stick up for British citizens, and I thank him for everything he did during his tenure as Foreign Secretary to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. It is a disgrace that she remains effectively in captivity in Tehran, and on
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. Will he outline the strategy to bring back into line recruitment of foot soldiers post covid, as well as recruitment of cyber-soldiers? May I highlight that the centre for cyber security in Europe is Belfast in Northern Ireland, with trained staff and low rates? Will he consider basing security in Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom?
The first point to make about the armed forces is that there will be no redundancies under this plan. There will be massive investment in our land forces and particularly in cyber-forces. We are taking the tough decisions needed to modernise and improve our armed forces. Yes, it is expensive—it requires £24 billion to do it—but it means taking historic and difficult decisions now, and that is what we are doing.
As someone who is proud to represent a constituency with tens of thousands of defence and aerospace jobs, I am delighted that at the heart of the review is investment in domestic industries. Does the Prime Minister think that increasing our sovereign defence manufacturing capability will assist us strategically in projecting power and sustaining operations across the globe?
Yes, and one of the things that our defence investments can do is help to entrench our Union and build jobs and growth across the whole of the United Kingdom. There is now a steady stream of shipbuilding contracts and many other defence contracts that will drive high-quality jobs for a generation to come.
Will the Prime Minister explain how building national resilience will include the digital transformation of the security and intelligence agencies, where the resources will come from, and whether it will include industry and international partners?
As I just said to Jim Shannon, we are investing massively in cyber and in upgrading the cyber-skills of our troops.
The late and respected American Senator John McCain said in a 2008 speech:
“We have to strengthen our global alliances as the core of a new global compact—a League of Democracies—that can harness the vast influence of the more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests.”
Can my right hon. Friend’s welcome vision, set out today, be aligned with smaller nations around the world such as Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, and Israel, which are vanguards of religious pluralism, democracy, a free society, the rule of law and security against terrorism? Can Great Britain lead a new alliance of democracies around the world, as proposed by the late Senator John McCain?
Yes. Our commitment to Israeli security is unwavering, and we continue to work closely with our partners in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Will the Prime Minister level with the country and tell us exactly how he plans to reduce the armed forces by 10,000 in the years ahead?
I have already explained that this is the biggest investment in our armed forces since the cold war, and there will be no redundancies across the armed forces.
I have been absolutely honoured this year to spend time with the Royal Navy, as part of the armed forces parliamentary scheme. In a world where new powers are using new tools to redefine the international order, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital that we now invest in new technologies such as cyber so that our fantastic armed forces personnel are fully equipped to face 21st-century challenges to our nation’s defence?
Yes, indeed, and that is why we are investing in cyber and in shipbuilding. By the end of this decade, we will have 24 frigates, as opposed to the 15 today.
The Prime Minister says that he is tough on illegal migration at home, but withdrawing and reducing aid, development and military support in areas of conflict, famine, war and instability will drive a new wave of international migration. Does he not accept that he cannot be tough, and claim to be tough, on illegal migration at home if his policies are driving it to start with?
The hon. Gentleman is not right; in fact, I think he is talking total nonsense. The most effective thing we can do to ensure that we protect ourselves against illegal migration is to do what we have done, which is take back control of our borders—a measure that he and the Labour party opposed, and that the Labour party would repudiate.
I strongly welcome and support my right hon. Friend’s statement today on our post-Brexit strategy, which is set out in the integrated review. Does he agree that global Britain needs to maximise and co-ordinate its opportunities to promote and protect British industry and interests across the world, including those of our overseas territories?
I thank my right hon. Friend. He is quite right because this integrated review supports our overseas territories and our Crown dependencies, and our armed forces will continue to deter challenges to Gibraltar. We will maintain a permanent presence on the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and the British Indian ocean territories. We will use our increased maritime presence around the world to protect the very territories and dependencies that he mentions.
Today we heard the PM speak about a premium based on speed. However, Scotland’s waters make up over 60% of UK waters, while the Royal Navy’s most northern surface warship base is on the UK’s southern coast. Can he confirm that this review means that, despite regular territorial incursions from Russia’s navy and air force, Scotland still hosts no major surface warships—a fact that means that scrambling the fleet ready escort to Scottish waters takes 24 hours? How on earth is that a premium based on speed?
I am interested to hear the hon. Gentleman’s emphatic desire, as a Scottish nationalist—a member of the SNP—for a UK defence role. I think he is absolutely right. But I can tell him that the salient point is that all our nuclear deterrent—all our submarines, I should say, are based on the Clyde.
I strongly welcome the much greater coherence that this review will deliver to our national security strategy, both for our nation’s immediate defence and so that all its elements are working together towards an open international order and being a force for good in the world, supporting open societies, human rights and good governance. As part of this, can I continue to assume that we will honour our commitment to be the country that leads the world in helping hundreds of millions of LGBT people to have the freedom to be themselves, with all the benefits that come from that for the prosperity of those states and the wealth of the spirit of the individuals involved?
My hon. Friend is totally right. This is one of the areas that I know that every embassy and consulate in the Foreign Office campaigns on. I believe that we make a huge difference around the world. There are countries that have changed their policies on marriage and their approach to LGBT issues in response to British lobbying. The latest Magnitsky sanctions that we have implemented are in respect of Chechnya for its policy on LGBT issues. We will continue to campaign and evangelise for our values and our beliefs around the world.
I draw the House’s attention to the fact that I am a member of the board of governors of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. In that capacity, I am aware of the importance of the work that it and other organisations do in protecting open, democratic societies across the globe. Not being a Scottish nationalist, I am also aware how important that is to the UK’s own national interest. Can the Prime Minister assure us that that work will continue despite the difficulties we face following the current financial year?
Yes, I can. I have seen the excellent work that the Westminster Foundation for Democracy does around the world. I have personally attended debates that it has championed in countries where democracy is precarious, and I thank the hon. Lady very much for what she is doing.
Our international ambitions must start at home, and through the integrated review we will drive investment back into our communities. It is essential that we ensure that the UK is on the cutting edge of innovation and create an entire country that is match-fit for a more competitive world. In my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central, advanced ceramics from local firm Lucideon recently landed on Mars. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the sky is not the limit when it comes to innovation?
I am thrilled and amazed to hear that ceramics from my hon. Friend’s constituency have landed on Mars. That is not the limit of our ambitions, as she knows, because the National Space Council has recently approved all sorts of missions and ambitions for the UK. But the point of what we are doing is not just to push back the frontiers of science and knowledge across the universe, but to drive jobs and growth in her constituency and around the whole UK. That is the point of the global Britain agenda, because we believe that by exerting British influence in the world in the way that we are, we can drive the UK economy and drive prosperity here at home.
I declare my interest as set out in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
I welcome the recognition in the integrated review of threats to our democracy and the role that technology, disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare play in those threats. On that basis, can the Prime Minister confirm that the online safety Bill that will be presented to the House this year will contain sufficient powers to tackle collective online harms, including threats to our democracy?
The integrated review is clearly extremely welcome. Does my right hon. Friend agree that a vigorous approach to foreign policy that recognises the importance of the Indo-Pacific region is key? Does he also agree that a truly global Britain that forges strategic ties with future superpowers, such as Brazil, which partnered with us in the development of the Oxford vaccine, is also of crucial importance?
I know that I speak for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and, indeed, for my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North himself when I say that we understand the importance of Brazil. I share his analysis about the future of Brazil. Together with the Canning of our times, the Foreign Secretary, we intend to build closer relationships not just with Brazil and the rest of the Mercosur countries, but with the Pacific Alliance countries too.
With hostile states, non-state actors, terror and crime groups all posing a threat to the UK and our allies, it is important to be prepared to adapt and develop our cyber-technology and capabilities. However, increasing our nuclear weapons arsenal is something I cannot condone. Both President Biden and Putin renewed their bilateral New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on nuclear weapons reductions just last month, so why is the Prime Minister going against the flow by increasing our arsenal?
Of course we are committed to nuclear arms reduction. Indeed, we believe that China should be brought into strategic nuclear arms reduction, but one of the most important things about having a credible deterrent for friend and foe alike is setting out what we have, and that is what this integrated review does.
I thank the PM for an important statement about the future security of our proud nation. Addressing both the challenges and opportunities the UK faces in a more competitive world is needed, especially when those who seek to harm us are using all the tools of modern technology at their disposal. Lancashire has a proud history of engineering technology solutions, so does the Prime Minister agree that in the future more investment in our technologies, such as cyber, will be key to our defence? Will he take account of Lancashire’s skills and ability to deliver?
I know that my hon. Friend was listening very carefully to the statement, and she will have spotted that there is a commitment to the north-west and to cyber in Lancashire. [Interruption.] I have heard your representations, Mr Speaker. You will have to wait for the Defence Secretary to explain exactly where it is going to be. To boost those skills and jobs for the long term and to make that transformation in defence technology that Lancashire is undoubtedly going to lead, we are investing £6.6 billion in defence research and development over the next four years.
We will certainly take Lancashire, even if the Prime Minister cannot say whereabouts.
The review and the Prime Minister’s statement are typically big on words, but scant on detail or strategy. It was a mass of contradictions steeped in a lack of realism when it comes to affordability and scope, and there was zero acknowledgement of the harm that years of underinvestment in our nation’s defence have caused. Ultimately, the world will judge him and his Government on their actions, so can he explain how breaching article 6 of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty fits with his commitment to international law?
I never saw such a seething mass of contradictions as the Opposition Front Bench, because we only have to go a few yards from the Leader of the Opposition to the shadow Foreign Secretary to find a complete gulf in their view on the very matter that the hon. Lady raises. The Leader of the Opposition claims to be in favour of the nuclear deterrent, and the shadow Foreign Secretary voted against it. The most consistent thing that our friends and allies, as well as our foes around the world need to know is that the UK is committed to the defence of this country and to our nuclear defence.
We do have to make sure that when we say how people voted, we are correct.
There is much to commend in this statement from the Prime Minister, but I am saddened to hear that we will be balancing the books on the backs of the poor. We are devastating the amount of money going to Yemen and Sudan, to mention just two countries where children, mothers and whole families are devastated by what they have to face. We are also aware that although funding is being decided, VSO currently does not know when that funding is coming. If it does not have funding by the end of this month, it will have to end its covid-19 response programme in 18 countries, leaving 4.5 million people without support. That decision cannot easily be reversed, so will the Prime Minister tell the House whether VSO will have some money to continue, and if not, when that funding decision will be taken?
I have much enjoyed working with my hon. Friend over the years, and I understand what she says about Yemen. I repeat: most people in this country will be reassured to know that the UK Government continue to be one of the biggest providers for the people of Yemen—the biggest in Europe. I strongly support VSO, which some of my family have done. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be setting out the position shortly.
Despite 20 years of bloodshed, the integrated review makes only two glancing references to Afghanistan. Given that 150,000 people, including 457 British servicemen and women, have lost their lives in that conflict, will the Prime Minister say how the UK will help to establish a lasting peace in the region?
As I have repeatedly told President Ghani of Afghanistan, our commitment is for the long term. He knows the difficulties of the current situation, and the decisions that the US Government have to take. The UK is working hard to ensure that there is a viable process, and that we do not see a return to the kind of civil war that I am afraid has bedevilled Afghanistan. I believe that the legacy of this Government and this country in Afghanistan—and the commitment of British troops, as well as the loss of life to which the hon. Gentleman rightly draws attention—is a proud one. We must ensure that it is not betrayed, and that we leave a legacy in the education of women and the security of the people of Afghanistan that is lasting and that endures.
As a former soldier, may I reassure the Prime Minister that taking the review back to first principles, and assessing the future capability requirements against the threat, is absolutely the right thing to do? Will he reassure me that where restructuring is needed—notably perhaps in my own service—our people will be looked after?
We are determined to look after all the wonderful men and women of our armed services, not just by protecting them after they have served, and by protecting veterans who may be at risk of vexatious litigation in the way I have described; we also have to ensure that we look after people during their service. In particular, we must look after families, who often bear the brunt of the commitments and sacrifices that our armed services make. That is why we have committed to wraparound childcare for those involved in our armed services.
We cannot hear. We will come back to Ms Eshalomi.
May I welcome the Prime Minister’s putting diplomacy at the very heart of the integrated review? With new resources going into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, do we not have an independent Britain which still needs to be at the heart of multilateral democracy, multilateral institutions and multilateral diplomacy around the world? That includes conflict prevention and conflict resolution.
We continue to support all the sustainable development goals that my right hon. Friend rightly mentions, and we believe passionately in diplomacy. The flag is going up around the world in embassies, legations and continents. The UK flag is going up, I am proud to say, in Australasia, Africa—around the world.
Why on earth slash budgets used to tackle corruption and promote good governance around the world? Why slash support for the research that our universities do to help the poorest countries to combat disease? Are not these exactly the sort of soft-power policies that deliver positive results and earn respect, rather than extortionate, grotesque and provocative nuclear weapons spending?
This is the country that spends the most on the global vaccine alliance. This is the country that spends £548 million on COVAX and £1.6 billion on Gavi. We lead the world in health protection, in tackling conflict and poverty, in championing female education around the world. I really think international observers who come across Britons around the world working in these fields would simply not recognise the discussion and debate that they are hearing today in the House of Commons. They know that this is a country that is massively committed to the welfare of the poorest and neediest in the world and will remain so.
Let us go back to Florence Eshalomi.
Many of my constituents are concerned that much of this review seems to have prioritised the global projection of hard power. The Government have chosen to cut our aid budget to countries in need, such as Syria and Yemen, and this will have serious knock-on effects. My constituent wrote to me and said:
“Britain has a good track record in recognising the crucial role that aid has in alleviating poverty and enhancing health equity.”
Does the Prime Minister agree that this Government’s cuts to aid will not just let the world’s poorest down, but make it more difficult for the Government to achieve their foreign policy objectives and maintain Britain’s global moral authority?
No, I do not remotely agree with that.
I share the view expressed by the Father of the House, my hon. Friend Sir Peter Bottomley, at the start. I am proud to be a member of a party which, in its last manifesto, said that it would spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid, but we all know that because of the fall in GNI, the 0.7% represents less money than it did a year ago. Now is not the time to cut our aid to Yemen or to withdraw our support for voluntary services overseas, so will my right hon. Friend consider bridging the gap by additionally donating extra supplies of the world’s finest, safest covid vaccine—the Oxford vaccine—to developing countries?
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for his suggestion. I remind him of what I said about the commitment of this country to overseas aid, which is enormous by any objective view. On the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, this is the only vaccine in the world, under the terms of the deal struck between the UK Government, the Oxford scientists and AstraZeneca, that is sold at cost around the world. I thank him for raising that, because it is another reason for people in this country to be proud of the outward-looking, engaging, fundamentally compassionate attitude of the British Government and people.
Dealing with authoritarian regimes around the world, especially those that do not want to play by the rules, is always complicated and difficult. I understand that, but we have to be consistent, coherent, determined and brutally tough when we need to be. What I do not understand, in relation to Russia and to China, is why the Government still refuse to declare what is happening in the Xinjiang province as genocide, why they have used every power to try to prevent Parliament from coming to a determination on that, why we will still not use the Magnitsky sanctions—which I applaud the Foreign Secretary for having introduced in the first place—against Carrie Lam for what is happening in Hong Kong, and why we still refuse to do enough about the dirty Russian money that is imperilling our financial transparency in the City of London and in our overseas territories.
As the House has heard many times, it is up to a competent court to determine whether genocide has taken place. We have consistently called out what has happened in Xinjiang, and what continues to happen. As for the use of Magnitsky sanctions, actually they have been used by this Government against Russia for what it did, and by the way, at that time, Labour Front Benchers, including the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, were sitting like great squatting Buddhas, immobile, while the then Labour leader was effectively endorsing the line from the Kremlin.
I think we need to be careful about what allegations we are making.
“Global Britain” remains the buzzword, and our armed forces have a key role to play with the integrated review. With that in mind, and given the many responsibilities that my right hon. Friend has committed to, can he reassure me that he will expand the Army to 100,000 as our chief ally, the US, has recommended, rather than see it wither on the vine to 72,000 by cutting recruiting, thereby avoiding redundancies?
My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the Army, including reserves, will be over 100,000, but it is the duty of this Government to take the tough decisions that are necessary to modernise our armed forces as well. That is why we are investing £24 billion and undoing some of the mistakes that I am afraid were made by the previous Labour Government.
I will now suspend the House for two minutes in order for the necessary arrangements to be made for the next business.