Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier this afternoon by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place on the national security strategy and strategic defence and security review. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the national security strategy and strategic defence and security review. Our national security depends on our economic security, and vice versa, so the first step in keeping our country safe is to ensure our economy is, and remains, strong.
Over the past five years we have taken the difficult decisions needed to bring down our deficit and restore our economy to strength. In 2010, we were ordering equipment for which there was literally no money. The total black hole in the defence budget alone was bigger than the entire defence budget in that year. Now it is back in balance. By sticking to our long-term economic plan, Britain has become the fastest growing major advanced economy in the world for the last two years and our renewed economic security means that we can afford to invest further in our national security.
This is vital at a time when the threats to our country are growing. This morning I was in Paris with President Hollande discussing how we can work together to defeat the evil of ISIL. As the murders on the streets of Paris reminded us so starkly, ISIL is not some remote problem thousands of miles away. It is a direct threat to our security at home and abroad. It has already taken the lives of British hostages and carried out the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7 on the beaches of Tunisia, to say nothing of the seven terrorist plots right here in Britain that have been foiled by our security services over the past year.
And of course, Mr Speaker, the threats we face today go beyond this evil death cult. From the crisis in Ukraine to the risk of cyberattacks and pandemics, the world is more dangerous and uncertain today than five years ago. So while every Government must choose how to spend the money they have available, every penny of which is hard-earned by taxpayers, this Government have taken a clear decision to invest in our security and safeguard our prosperity. As a result, the United Kingdom is the only major country in the world today which is simultaneously going to meet the NATO target of spending 2% of our GDP on defence and the UN target of spending 0.7% of our GNI on development, while also increasing investment in our security and intelligence agencies and in counterterrorism.
In ensuring our national security, we will also protect our economic security. As a trading nation with the world’s fifth biggest economy, we depend on stability and order in the world. With 5 million British nationals living overseas and our prosperity depending on trade around the world, engagement is not an optional extra; it is fundamental to the success of our nation. We need the sea lanes to stay open and the arteries of global commerce to remain free-flowing. So the strategy which I am presenting to the House today sets out a clear vision for a secure and prosperous United Kingdom, with global reach and global influence. At its heart is an understanding that we cannot choose between conventional defences against state-based threats and the need to counter threats that do not recognise national borders. Today we face both and we must respond to both. So over the course of this Parliament our priorities are to deter state-based threats, tackle terrorism, remain a world leader in cybersecurity and ensure that we have the capability to respond rapidly to crises as they emerge.
To meet these priorities we will continue to harness all the tools of national power available to us, co-ordinated through the National Security Council, to deliver a ‘full-spectrum approach’. This includes support for our Armed Forces, counterterrorism, international aid and diplomacy and working with our allies to deal with the common threats that face us all. Let me take each in turn. First, the bottom line of our national security strategy must always be the willingness and capability to use force where necessary. On Friday evening, the United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed Resolution 2249, calling on member states to take “all the necessary measures” against ISIL in both Syria and Iraq.
On Thursday, I will come to this House and make a further Statement responding personally to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. I will make the case for Britain to join our international allies in going after ISIL at its headquarters in Syria, not just Iraq. I will explain how such action would be one element of a comprehensive and long-term strategy to defeat ISIL, in parallel with a major international effort to bring an end to the war in Syria. But today I want to set out how we will ensure that our Armed Forces have the capabilities to carry out such a task, and indeed any other tasks that might be needed in the years ahead. We will invest more than £178 billion in buying and maintaining equipment over the next decade, including doubling our investment in equipment to support our Special Forces, and we will increase the size of our deployable Armed Forces.
In 2010 we committed to an expeditionary force of 30,000. Today I can tell the House that by 2025 we are increasing that number to 50,000. As part of this, we will create two new strike brigades, forces of up to 5,000 personnel fully equipped to deploy rapidly and sustain themselves in the field. We will establish two additional Typhoon squadrons and an additional squadron of F35 Lightning combat aircraft to operate from our new aircraft carriers. We will maintain our ultimate insurance policy as a nation, our continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent, and replace our four ballistic missile submarines.
We will buy nine new maritime patrol aircraft, based in Scotland, to protect our nuclear deterrent, hunt down hostile submarines, and enhance our maritime search and rescue. We will buy at least 13 new frigates and two new offshore patrol vessels. These will include eight Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates. We will design and build a new class of light, flexible, general-purpose frigates. These will be more affordable than the Type 26, which will allow us to buy more of them for the Royal Navy, so that by the 2030s we can further increase the total number of Royal Navy frigates and destroyers. Not one of these capabilities is an optional extra. These investments are an act of clear-eyed self-interest to ensure our future prosperity and security.
Secondly, turning to counterterrorism, we will make a major additional investment in our world-class intelligence agencies to ensure that they have the resources and information that they need to detect and foil plots from wherever they emanate in the world. As I announced last week, we will invest £2.5 billion and employ over 1,900 additional staff. We will increase our investment in counterterrorism police and more than double our spending on aviation security around the world.
I can tell the House today that we have put in place a significant new contingency plan to deal with major terrorist attacks. Under this new operation, up to
10,000 military personnel will be available to support the police in dealing with the type of shocking terrorist attack that we have seen in Paris. We will also make a major new investment in a new generation of surveillance drones. These British-designed unmanned aircraft will fly at the very edge of the earth’s atmosphere and allow us to observe our adversaries for weeks on end, providing critical intelligence for our forces. We will also do more to make sure that the powers that we give our security services keep pace with changes in technology. We will see through the draft Bill that we have published to ensure that GCHQ, MI5 and our counterterrorism police continue to have the powers that they need.
Thirdly, we will use our formidable development budget and our outstanding Diplomatic Service to tackle global poverty, promote our interests, project our influence and address the causes of the security threats that we face, not just their consequences. Alongside the strategic defence and security review, I am publishing our strategy for official development assistance. At its heart is a decision to refocus half of DfID’s budget on supporting fragile and broken states and regions in every year of this Parliament. This will help to prevent conflict and, crucially, to promote the golden thread of conditions that drive prosperity all across the world: the rule of law, good governance and the growth of democracy. The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund will grow to over £1.3 billion a year by the end of the Parliament and we will also create a new £1.3 billion prosperity fund to drive forward our aim of promoting global prosperity and good governance.
Building on our success in tackling Ebola, we will do more to improve our resilience and our response to crises, identifying £500 million a year as a crisis reserve and investing £1.5 billion over the Parliament in a global challenges research fund for UK science to pioneer new ways of tackling global problems such as anti-microbial resistance. We will also invest £1 billion in a new fund for the research and development of products to fight infectious diseases, known as the Ross fund, and £5.8 billion in climate finance to play our part in helping poorer countries switch to greener forms of energy.
Taken together, these interventions are not just right morally; they are firmly in our national interest. They mean that Britain not only meets its obligations to the poorest in the world, but can now focus our resources on preventing or dealing with the instability and conflict that impinge on our security at home, investing at scale to create the economic opportunities that lead to long-term stability across the world, and responding rapidly and decisively to emerging crises overseas. Acting on all of these fronts gives us greater influence in the world.
Finally, Britain’s safety and security depend not just on our own efforts, but on working hand in glove with our allies to deal with the common threats that face us all, from terrorism to climate change. When confronted by danger, we are stronger together. We will play our full part in the alliances that underpin our security and amplify our national power. We will work with our allies in Europe and around the world, as well as seizing opportunities to reach out to emerging powers.
History teaches us that no Government can predict the future. We have no way of knowing precisely what course events will take over the next five years. We must expect the unexpected, but we can make sure that we have the versatility and the means to respond to new risks and threats to our security as they arise.
Our Armed Forces, and police and security and intelligence services, are the pride of our country. They are the finest in the world and this Government will ensure that they stay that way. Using our renewed economic strength, we will help them keep us safe for generations to come. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, the House is grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement. I am especially grateful to him for the very helpful briefing he afforded my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, of the Liberal Democrats, and me earlier today.
The noble Earl, for whom I have great personal respect, has a difficult job. Our country, people and way of life are again imperilled. Not only do we have to contend with the conventional challenges posed by air, naval and ground forces, but we face the threat of those who would walk down high-street Britain and shoot and kill our fellow citizens. The days when Britain might engage in a conflict and send our forces into battle while those at home were, in the main, safe are now long gone. Today any strategic defence and security review must take account of that.
When in Government, my party had a proud record in the area of defence. It was a Labour Government at the end of the last war who committed us to an independent nuclear deterrent and who helped create NATO. The then Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevan, said of the atom bomb:
“We have got to have this thing over here … we have got to have the … union jack on top of it”.
Bevan made sure that his opponents were excluded from the Cabinet committee that took the decision. That is my kind of Foreign Secretary. Under the previous Labour Government defence spending rose by an annual average of 1.8%, resulting in the modernisation of our Armed Forces. We published Britain’s first national security strategy, delivered the first cross-governmental approach to forces welfare and strengthened medical care and welfare support for those serving in Afghanistan. I judge the Prime Minister’s Statement on the SDSR against that background.
It is the second SDSR of Mr Cameron’s premiership. The first in 2010 was not strategic and not about defence or security. It was nothing more than a cost-cutting exercise run by the Treasury. The Prime Minister has since admitted that his Government took 8% out of defence spending over the past five years. Under his stewardship, defence has underspent the budget that Parliament has voted for it. Such has been the enthusiasm to put saving money at the top of defence priorities that the planned cuts in the size of the Army, announced in 2010, have been achieved two years earlier than intended.
Before the 2010 general election, Mr Cameron promised a bigger Army, Navy and Air Force. In fact, the Army of today is smaller than the one we put in the field against Napoleon. The Royal Navy has just 19 vessels. We are told in the Statement that in the long term we are to increase the size of our frigate fleet. Can the Minister tell us what is meant by “long term”? The French already have 23 service vessels, the Russians 35 and the United States 105. Naval manpower is a real problem. My noble friend Lord West said only recently that 3,500 to 4,000 people were needed to man the fleet correctly. Can the Minister say what is being done to reverse this?
As for the Royal Air Force, the number of planes is at an historic low. We have to rely on the maritime patrol aircraft of our allies to track Russian submarines close to our waters, following the scrapping of Nimrod. That massive error of judgment has to be seen against a background in which the Russians have increased submarine patrols by 50% in the past two years. We welcome the decision to acquire Boeing P-8 MPAs but will the Minister confirm that it will be seven years before Britain has a fully operational independent maritime patrol capability? Today’s announcement of the F-35s is welcome, as is any move to strengthen our high-end military capability, but why has it taken so long to make this decision?
Why is it taking 10 years to create the new strike brigades of up to 5,000 personnel for rapid deployment missions? The world could be quite different in 2025. Does this decision mean that we are abandoning our capability for sustained deployment, which was set out in the previous defence review? Can the Minister tell us for how long these new brigades will be capable of being deployed?
One of the greatest challenges we face is cybersecurity. The Prime Minister has said that due to the threats posed by Russia and ISIL, Britain will be investing in cybersecurity. The Chancellor, speaking at GCHQ, announced that spending on cybersecurity would be almost doubled to £1.9 billion over the period to 2020. He made that statement after the director of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, called on the Government to intervene in the cybersecurity industry because the free market was failing. Can the Minister say what the Government are doing about this? What projects will be part of the £1.9 billion fund? The Chancellor went on to say:
“Strong defences are necessary for our long-term security. But the capacity to attack is also a form of defence”—
I most certainly agree. He said that Britain is,
“building our own offensive cyber capability—a dedicated ability to counter-attack in cyberspace”.
Can the Minister tell us if such an offensive capacity already exists or is it just at the planning stage? If that is the case, what is the timeframe before it becomes operational? How much is being invested in the national offensive cyber programme?
I was in Paris the day before the attack; I was there again last Tuesday, and what a difference in the city in those few days. In view of the horrors of Paris, will the Minister comment on reports in the Daily Telegraph that our special forces have shrunk by 40% due to reduced numbers and restructuring, and will he comment on a senior MoD official telling that newspaper that,
“there is no point spending vast amounts of money on new kit if you don’t have the manpower to operate them”?
Still on personnel matters, noble Lords around this Chamber who have served or spent time with the Armed Forces will know that if service families are happy, the service men and women we send into conflict will have the morale they need to do the job—I am sure the Minister has found that in this time. Does he agree, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s changes to tax credits will be seen as a breach of the Armed Forces covenant? How well does he think ending annual pay rises for the forces will be received, if the Government go ahead with that? Is it any wonder that a survey by his own department shows that one-quarter of those serving in the Armed Forces plan to leave as soon as they can and one-third are dissatisfied?
The Prime Minister has committed Britain to a NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence. We welcome that but worry whether it is another of Mr Cameron’s cosmetic creations. For instance, can the Minister say how including the £800 million we spend on war pensions as defence spending will help protect and project Britain’s force and military capability?
The tradition of Governments of both main parties in this country has been to show how much we value the men and women of our Armed Forces by giving them the tools they need to defend and protect our country and ensuring proper remuneration for them and their families. That tradition, I fear, has been spectacularly badly served by this Prime Minister and this review.
My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for the briefing that I received, along with colleagues from the Labour Party, earlier today. I am sure that the final form of this document was a result of the events in Paris and, as with all reports, the devil is in the detail. The debate next week in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, will give us all more time to analyse that very detail.
This strategy points to a more forensic and measured analysis than its predecessor, which is welcome, and it is appropriate to the times we find ourselves in. I will concentrate my remarks on the interconnection between defence and the world, our alliances, personnel and cyber. It is a complete coincidence that the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, has covered much of the same detail. On Syria, my leader has made it clear that he is not a pacifist or a unilateralist, and he is concerned for security of the nation. He will be outlining the conditions under which we would support military action in the next few days.
It is pleasing that the Government see our defence and security as requiring such a strong commitment to our allies and to international efforts. There are few issues that we face that can be addressed without co-operation, from climate change to transnational terrorism to state aggression. It is the strength gained from working with our allies and like-minded states, in particular within the United Nations, NATO and, of course, the EU, that will allow us to overcome and address these issues.
Our soft power capabilities—the British Council, international aid, the BBC World Service and our diplomatic representation—are valuable assets for spreading British values. A recognition of their contribution to our security and defence is an important addition to the SDSR. Will the Minister confirm that there will be no cuts to the budgets of either the World Service or the British Council? I am sure the extension of deep country expertise to a wider span of areas that are vital to our security and prosperity will be welcomed at the FCO, but will the Minister point to how this dovetails with the possible cuts in the FCO’s budget, which officials have said may,
“imperil the UK’s diplomatic capacity”, if they go ahead?
Moving on to personnel, today I will focus on the Royal Navy and get into the detail of the other services in next week’s debate. Last week I was delighted to visit, with parliamentary colleagues, the two carriers, “Queen Elizabeth” and “Prince of Wales”, in Rosyth. They are an awesome sight and a tribute to British engineering and co-operation between manufacturers. While I welcome their addition to the fleet over the next couple of years, they bring with them a challenge. Will the Minister confirm that there are plans to ensure that there will be sufficient personnel with the right specialities to run the carriers with the Astute-class submarines, destroyers, frigates and support ship configuration? In particular, what action is being taken to ensure that there will be engineers at all levels of seniority and speciality?
As a member of the AFPS, I have visited service personnel in their workplaces, met families in their homes and spoken to senior officers and other ranks. I have to tell your Lordships that morale is not universally high. There is concern about salaries and allowances. Will the Minister confirm the rumours that the annual increment system will change, as will overseas allowances, as a result of MoD cuts? I welcome the move to support a service woman or man to buy their own home. A supported family is critical to the well-being of a serving member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. Will the Minister confirm that the covenant will continue and, more importantly, that its implementation is being monitored by the MoD?
On cyber, it is important that cyber intelligence is shared, as many of our systems are shared with our allies and our partners. I am concerned about defensive cyber. Cyber threatens systems and, by its nature, much of today’s warfare consists of systems of systems, with millions of lines of code, all interconnected and interrelated. It is great that we are working with our partners and allies on this, but adding to the connectivity is a multiplier of risk. So I welcome the joint cyber group, but there is an urgent need for recruitment and training. Will the Minister tell us how quickly we can gear up for this joint cyber group as the need is immediate?
I should not finish without a nod in the direction of how the SDSR is to be paid for. I am aware that the Chancellor will unveil the CSR on Wednesday. The Liberal Democrat Benches welcome the commitment to 2% of GDP, but that is another issue where the devil is in the detail. Will the Minister tell the House what sort of efficiencies the MoD is expected to make—apart from selling land and property—that will have no impact on the smooth running of the department? If we are to believe today’s
, it will be paid for from the welfare budget and from cuts to police and in grants to businesses.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their comments and questions. I particularly welcome many of the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig. It was regrettable that he felt it necessary to conclude his speech as he did, on a note of dissent. Nevertheless, taking his comments in the round, there is much to unite us, rather than the opposite. The noble Lord asked me a number of questions, as did the noble Baroness, and I will get through as many of the answers as I can.
First, on the Royal Navy, I would put it to the House—once noble Lords have had an opportunity to read the document, which is in the Printed Paper Office—that the Navy has benefited very considerably from the review. Full crewing of aircraft carriers, new offshore patrol vessels, new fleet solid support ships, 400 extra personnel, and a faster buy of F35 Lightning, to allow the carriers to embark up to 24 operational aircraft, are just examples of that. As for manning, the reorganisation of manpower within the Navy will ensure that sufficient people are trained and available to man and operate both Queen Elizabeth carriers. The requirement for each carrier is, I understand, a crew of 733 sailors. The planned retirement of HMS “Ocean” in 2018, combined with a rationalisation and reprioritisation of personnel across the naval service, plus the uplift of 400 extra personnel, which I mentioned, will ensure that sufficient people are trained and available to man and operate both carriers.
We will maintain our fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers. There has been no moving away from that commitment. We will also design and build a new class of lighter flexible general purpose frigates, as was mentioned in the Statement. I am sure that many noble Lords will welcome the fact that we are now committed to reintroducing maritime patrol aircraft. We will purchase nine Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft—that includes the aircraft we need in the envelope—advanced high-altitude surveillance aircraft, and 138 F35s over the lifetime of the programme. The MPAs will be based at Lossiemouth; that is considered to be the ideal location for the most common maritime patrol areas. Further details will emerge in due course. It is likely that there will be 400 additional personnel for Lossiemouth, to ensure that the MPA capability can be properly serviced.
On the F35, we will bring forward the purchase of nine front-line aircraft, which will allow the second F35 Lightning squadron to stand up in 2023. That is about a 60% increase in front-line aircraft numbers by 2023, compared with our previous plan. We are buying our current tranche of 48 F35 aircraft earlier than originally planned, to maximise our carrier strike capability in the early 2020s. As I have said, we are committed to a total through-life buy of 138 F35 aircraft. Decisions on the precise details of subsequent tranches will be taken at the appropriate time.
I am conscious of the clock, so I will get through as many questions as I can. When will the strike brigades be ready? The fielding of the strike brigades will start from 2018, delivering an initial operating capability by 2021, and moving towards a full operating capability from 2025.
The £1.9 billion that we have set aside for cyber is a national-level investment towards implementing the new national cybersecurity plan. I am advised that I have more time than I thought, which is good. The national cybersecurity plan will include a new national cybercentre, a stronger active defence programme, more funding for training of the UK’s next generation of experts in digital skills, a stronger regulatory framework, a stronger cyber sector, and funding for the national offensive cyber programme.
In September 2013, during the coalition Government, the Defence Secretary announced that, as the noble Baroness mentioned, Britain would build both defensive and offensive capabilities, including a strike capability to operate in cyberspace as part of our full spectrum military capability. The national offensive cyber programme is a partnership between the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ, harnessing the skills and talents of both organisations. As for the deterrence of cyberattacks, it is our aim to make ourselves a difficult target, so that doing us damage in cyberspace is neither cheap nor easy. We hope to build global norms in that regard, so that those who do not follow them suffer the consequences.
On the 2% commitment, I hope noble Lords will accept my assurance that we follow the NATO guidelines as to what constitutes defence expenditure. Like other NATO member states, we make periodic updates to how we categorise defence spending—for example, to reflect changes in the machinery of government—but all updates remain, and will continue to be, fully in accordance with NATO guidelines.
I shall briefly cover the question that the noble Baroness asked me about pay and allowances. It is not our intention to remove incremental pay or annual pay increases for those serving. We have reviewed military allowances: the vast majority will not change, but we are making minor changes to a few of them, and removing commitment bonuses. Commitment bonuses were designed as a retention tool, but we have no evidence that they influenced people’s decisions on whether to stay or leave. The Chief of the Defence Staff recommended that we remove them, so we will phase them out.
The remaining questions I will write on—but on the subject of the British Council, the SDSR refers to it by saying that we will continue to invest in it. It does not give a figure, and I think we will have to wait for the spending review announcement to know what that will be.
My Lords, in view of the importance of this Statement, the usual channels have agreed an extra 20 minutes for questions, so Back-Bench questions will be for 40 minutes. May I remind noble Lords that this time is for brief questions, not speeches? For noble Lords who wish to make speeches, there will be a two-and-a-half-hour debate on this subject on Thursday week.
I congratulate my noble friend Earl Howe on his presentation of a very substantial report, which the House will want to study. One thing that concerns me in it are the completely new elements that have come into our defence strategy. Drones, cyber and the interception of communications will play a much bigger part in the defence of this country than might previously have been the case. I am concerned about where we will be by 2025 or maybe—it may be better to look this far—by 2030. That is quite a long way away. My noble friend has already partly answered this but my concern is on how soon some of these capabilities, which in the present frightening state of the world are very desirable, will be ready and how the manpower challenge will actually be met.
My noble friend puts his finger on a central issue that we have been wrestling with over these past months. It is impossible to predict the threats that we will face in 10 or 15 years. We know that there are many uncertainties. The national security strategy sets out a quite different threat picture from that of 2010. In particular, the threat from terrorism has increased substantially and aggressive Russian behaviour means that state-based threats are more prominent. As the Statement said, we cannot choose between conventional defences against state-based threats and the need to counter threats that do not recognise national borders. We have to tackle both. We have attempted in this document, I hope successfully, not just to address the threats in order of priority but to plan for an array of capabilities that will make us much nimbler on our feet, more flexible and able to respond globally to any threat that materialises. My noble friend is right to put his finger on cyber and drones as new elements of this strategy. We must invest in these things but we must also ensure that the skilled manpower is there so that the equipment can be utilised to its best effect.
My Lords, I welcome the Statement as being better than the 2010 so-called strategic defence review. My welcome is therefore conditional. I have scanned through the document and much of it is filling in the gaps that were left some years ago, for instance, on the maritime patrol aircraft. May I ask the Minister a couple of questions? First, what is the difference between the rapid deployment brigades—I use “rapid” advisedly, because they will not be at full capability for 10 years—and 16 Air Assault Brigade, which was formed in 1999 after the last and only genuine strategic defence review, which was conducted by my noble friend Lord Robertson? If there is no substantial difference, why has it taken all this time over the last five or six years to decide to get the capabilities and to put them in effect for the future?
Secondly, is it not the case that the addition of 1,900 intelligence professionals at the centre will unfortunately be off-set if we reduce police numbers in the community, since the police act as a bridge between central intelligence—SIGINT and communications intelligence—and human intelligence, which is gained from trust by being in the neighbourhood? Finally, why does “innovation” not appear at any stage, particularly as regards cyber? Cyber now permeates everything from our weapon systems through our critical national infrastructure to central finance in London. The chief characteristic of cyber is constant entrepreneurial innovation and if we do not instil that at the centre of our processes, in procurement as well as in operations, we will fall behind in cyber. We are spending just under £2 billion there; the Chinese are spending $180 billion over the coming period.
My Lords, the noble Lord asked me three questions. The first was about the rapid deployment strike capability. The Army is able to deploy a division now with sufficient notice and has been able to for some while. During the time of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, as Defence Secretary, he was instrumental in ensuring that capability. This division could consist of an armoured infantry brigade, 3 Commando brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade as well as forces from other nations. This SDR is investing in improving the readiness level and upgrading the capabilities of the division, so that by 2025 we will be able to deploy a division comprising two armoured infantry brigades and a strike brigade, in addition to our high-readiness forces of 3 Commando Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade.
The noble Lord, Lord Reid, also mentioned intelligence and expressed a fear that this capability might be off-set by reductions in numbers in community policing. The SDSR document does not cover community policing, which is a matter for local forces, as he knows. We will no doubt be hearing news of that as the effects of the SR are made known. I cannot comment on that today but I can say that we will protect absolutely the counterterrorist police we need to ensure national security and that the funding for that will be ring-fenced. He also said that innovation was not mentioned. I will just refer him to part B of chapter 6 of the document, which is entitled “Innovation”, and is on page 73 and the following.
My Lords, can the Minister help to resolve a disconnect between the recent remarks of the Prime Minister and this document? The Prime Minister recently stressed the significance of the European Union for the UK’s national security in the context of, for instance, standing up to Russia, helping to stop Iran’s nuclear programme and tackling maritime piracy. But this document hardly mentions the European Union as such, as opposed to individual European allies. For instance, in chapter 5, “Project Our Global Influence”, you have to get to its seventh page before there is any mention of the EU. This seems to contrast with the Prime Minister saying a fortnight or so ago:
“to get things done in the world, and protect our country”.
One would have thought that would count as projecting our global influence, so why is there so little mention of the European Union?
My Lords, the noble Baroness should not read anything in particular into what she perceives as a paucity of mention of the European Union in this document. There is no doubt that our membership of the European Union adds value to our defence capability. We have only to look at the operation in the Mediterranean to rescue migrants earlier this year to see how the European Union came together. I was in Brussels last week at a meeting of the European Defence Agency, which is another means whereby member states can collaborate to ensure that we have such things as common standards in air-to-air refuelling, aircraft safety and a range of other areas. The European Union is a vehicle for co-operation, in parallel to our membership of NATO, and I would be the first to pay tribute to the work of its member states in protecting the security of Europe.
My Lords, I declare my interests as in the register. We should welcome this arrest in the decline in defence spending. We should also welcome the Government’s rather belated recognition of the damage that was done in the 2010 SDSR. But repairing the holes in our capability caused by that damage will take years and we need it today. In that context, for example, it is to be welcomed that the Statement says:
“We need the sea lanes to stay open and the arteries of global commerce to remain free flowing”, but for that we need sufficient escorts. Does the Minister agree that it is not enough to say that we will not reduce our destroyer and frigate force from 19? Does he not agree that that force is far too small and that waiting until the 1930s, as the Statement says, is completely unacceptable?
My Lords, I think the noble and gallant Lord meant the 2030s. This has been a matter of very deep consideration in the SDSR process. The commitment to maintaining our fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers is still there, as I have said. The Navy needs eight Type 26 frigates to undertake the core anti-submarine warfare role and we remain committed to building those ships. We are taking more time to mature the design and drive down the costs before we cut steel on the first Type 26. Meanwhile, we will build two more offshore patrol vessels to ensure continuity of work on the Clyde and to provide more capability to the Royal Navy.
The concept of designing and building a new class of lighter, flexible, general-purpose frigate is, I hope, interesting to noble Lords. We are clear that behind that lies an aspiration to increase the total number of frigates and destroyers available to the Royal Navy. If we can produce something that is more generic—that is less high-spec when it does not need to be state-of-the-art high-spec—that should benefit the reach and capability of the Royal Navy in the round. It should also benefit shipbuilders in Scotland and the rest of the UK. We will publish a new shipbuilding strategy in 2016 setting out the detail of that.
My Lords, although the review is light on detail and timing, it is at least strategic and therefore sets itself apart from the exercise in 2010. In the light of events that took place across the channel 10 days ago, I do not think this is the time for picking holes in the review, although there are a few holes to be picked. It is a time, however, for us to assert to our enemies and adversaries, both actual and potential, that this country still has robust defences and that we are still capable of deploying those forces in the defence of this country and of our allies and playing our part in the international community. After all, we are the second military power in the West.
I will make two points about the review. In relation to the deterrent, I fully support the reinforced decision made today to order the four new nuclear submarines. Will the noble Earl’s department be a bit more robust in taking on the opponents of Trident who say that it does not address the biggest threats that we face today? Were it not for the deterrent, we would face even bigger threats to our national safety and security today—that is, nuclear coercion and blackmail.
Finally, the noble Earl has the responsibility with other government Ministers to ensure that the safety and security of the people of this country does not depend on the military alone. If further raids are going to be made on the budget of the Foreign Office, the World Service and the British Council, then huge damage will be done to the reputation of this country abroad, and to the safety and security of the British people.
My Lords, as regards the last points that the noble Lord made in his speech, we will have to wait for the spending review announcement. However, I take on board all that he says, particularly about the Foreign Office. We are clear that we must maintain the global representation that we have at the moment, if we are to support this country’s interests.
The noble Lord began by making some very welcome remarks, for which I thank him, about the strategic nature of the review. It is indeed strategic. It has been a two-year exercise. It included the lessons that we learned from the last SDSR. More importantly, it involved a deep analysis of the evidence base and wide consultation across diverse stakeholders both at home and abroad. We have tried to be truly strategic in identifying what we wanted to achieve in the national security arena, as outlined clearly in the national security strategy, and how we will achieve that in the SDSR.
Further details will emerge over the coming days, which will flesh out some of the high-level aspirations set out in the document. Unfortunately, I cannot release those at the moment.
We still have a global power projection capability second only in NATO to the United States. We should remember that. We have among the most capable troops and aircraft ships and submarines in the world.
The Joint Force 2025 that we have designed is genuinely better equipped, more capable, more deployable and more sustainable than ever before.
As regards the deterrent, I welcome the noble Lord’s comments. The nuclear deterrent exists to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life. Other states have nuclear arsenals. There is a risk of further proliferation of nuclear weapons. There is a risk that states might use their nuclear capability to threaten us or to try to constrain our decision-making in a crisis, or to sponsor nuclear terrorism. We cannot rule out further shifts in the international order that would put us or our NATO allies under grave threat. That is the rationale and the context for the substantial investment that we are making in the successor programme.
The document tries to make and refresh the case for the deterrent. We thought it important to do that, to go back to first principles and to demonstrate why this was something that we felt it absolutely right to include in the forthcoming defence programme.
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl not only for his Statement, but also for the statement on aid. In relation to the new prosperity fund, which countries will receive our main emphasis? Are we talking about the BRIC countries and, if so, how do we ensure that the prosperity fund does not get close to tied aid and is appropriately poverty-focused?
My Lords, the prosperity fund will be focused mainly on emerging and developing economies. They are becoming increasingly important for global growth. As the ODA document sets out, we will give greater priority to promoting sustainable economic reforms that are needed to continue that. The prosperity fund, which will be worth £1.3 billion over the next five years, will be aimed at things like the competitiveness of an operation of markets, energy, financial sector reform, encouraging Governments to look at ways of bearing down on corruption and, in so doing, to address the need to reduce poverty.
The fund is designed to give an additional boost to the opportunities for international business, especially, but not totally, for UK companies. We are planning a lot of other work on promoting prosperity, which is set out in the document. I am sure that the noble Baroness will find that of interest. I cannot be specific about the countries that we will target at this juncture, but I hope that that general description will be helpful. Africa is going to be a major focus for this, not least sub-Saharan Africa, maybe looking at ways that the energy market, for example, can be encouraged in that area.
My Lords, would the Minister agree with me that some of the language we are using in this debate reflects an assumption that the world is binary and divided into allies and enemies? The reality is that allies become enemies, and enemies become allies. In any strategic approach to the future, could we be assured that that possibility will be taken into account? I worked on elements to do with Iraq in the 1980s, and we can see what happened in the 2000s.
Arms and resources that we sell to people who are rebels in Syria can then be used against us. Is that sort of strategic thinking about a non-binary, more eclectic world being taken into consideration?
The right reverend Prelate reminds us of a very important point of principle. As I hope he will find when he reads this document, running through it is a thread or theme that makes clear that government has to be joined up in all of this—much more joined up than it ever has been in the past. The way in which countries abroad are assessed as friendly, non-friendly or something in between is absolutely essential in our long-term planning. Having said that, we are very clear that we have our prime allies with whom we wish to collaborate, specifically when it comes to defence—not least the United States, France and, increasingly, Germany. However, it is possible for countries around the world to unite around a common objective, as we saw recently with the United Nations Security Council resolution, where all the members of the Security Council voted in one direction. That was a remarkable event in itself, and we should take our cue from that in deciding how to proceed further in the context of the Middle East conflict.
My Lords, one of the problems of SDSR 2010 was that so much depended on financial provision in 2015, which of course has not materialised. Could the Minister say how much of the £178 billion provision for buying and maintaining equipment over the next decade is guaranteed? Presumably, that includes the military equipment which is required for the two strike brigades which the noble Lord, Lord Reid, mentioned earlier.
My Lords, the figure of £178 billion is £12 billion more than we previously announced and is over 10 years, as the noble Lord rightly said. It will embrace a whole range of equipment, including equipment needed for the Army. It is not possible for me to define some of that equipment at this juncture, because we wish to leave our options open. But I hope he will take heart from the section in the report about equipping the Army with, for example, the new Ajax vehicle and the new MIV, as it is called. These highly flexible, speedy and capable vehicles will ensure that the strike brigades are supported, as they need to be, with the right equipment so that they can be deployed swiftly and effectively—sometimes, if necessary, at long range.
My Lords, I welcome this review. It starts to correct the devastation caused by the 2010 SDSR, but it does not resolve it. As the Minister said, the actual amount of extra money is not that huge, and certainly in the early years there is not very much at all. I am delighted that we are running both carriers and that we are getting some of the Sea Lightnings—I hope that is what we are going to call them—for the new carriers.
However, I have a couple of questions of concern, the first about the Trident programme. From reading the document, it looks as though the first replacement boat for Vanguard will arrive in the early 2030s. Running Vanguard on until 2028 was further than many of us wanted to do and was very high risk. Has advice been given that people are content to run Vanguard on for what sounds like another four to five years? That is certainly contrary to the advice that I thought we were getting in the Ministry of Defence some five years or so ago.
My other point relates to frigates. Very clearly, we do not have enough destroyers and frigates, which is a national disgrace. I am very concerned about timescales, and there is nothing in here about that. We really need to go out there and start ordering these ships and to work out a drum-beat for their delivery. The Minister talked about OPVs. I have not had a proper Answer to my Written Question, but can I assume that the three OPVs we are currently building will be run as well as the ones we have already and the two extra ones? If so, I have concerns about naval manpower.
My Lords, I am sure that many of us would wish that the Royal Navy was larger than it is, but we have had to look very carefully at what the Royal Navy’s tasks are and are likely to be and to configure the Navy accordingly. As regards the sufficiency of ships, we are advised by the Chief of Naval Staff that a 19-ship destroyer and frigate fleet, capable of co-operating on a global scale, is what is required. That fleet will, incidentally, be supported by a very capable and renewed tanker fleet, with two fast fleet tankers, four new Tide class tankers in the short term and three new fleet solid support ships in the longer term. A fleet of up to six patrol vessels will support our destroyers and frigates in delivering routine tasks and enhance our contribution to maritime security and fisheries protection. All this will mean not only that our fleet will have as many assets as it does today but that there will be high-end technological capabilities to provide a better contribution and to retain a world-class Navy up to 2040 and beyond.
As regards the Trident fleet, the advice we have received is that it will be both possible and safe to continue with the current Vanguard class submarines in service. However, as regards a successor, we need to get on with it. There is no doubt that we cannot countenance a delay in the construction of a successor, which is why we intend to move ahead with all possible speed on that front.
My Lords, I welcome this Statement and the full replacement of the Trident submarine fleet, and am conscious of what the Minister has just said about expediting the work on that replacement programme. Will the Minister confirm that each aircraft carrier will be able to conduct amphibious operations with its own helicopters, concurrently with its fixed-wing role? Will each carrier have the capacity to carry and deploy a Royal Marine commando group while deploying its fixed-wing aircraft?
My Lords, the intention is that the carriers will be able to operate in three configurations: first, carrier strike for mainly air operations, obviously; secondly, amphibious assault, with helicopters and Royal Marines on board; and, thirdly, what one might call a hybrid type of configuration, involving aircraft, helicopters and Royal Marines. These will be very versatile ships. They will be some of the most capable ships—if not the most capable ships—the Royal Navy has ever had. We need to make sure that the very large investment that we are making in them is deployed to best effect, and I think those varying ways in which we can use the carriers demonstrate that this will be a good investment.
My Lords, first, I strongly support what I can see of the new security strategy. There is one point I wish to raise. With the announcement in the Statement that we are going to take military action in Syria, can we be assured that this relates to, in the Prime Minister’s phrase, “going after ISIL”, and will not include military action against President Assad? Do Her Majesty’s Government now recognise that the earlier decision of the West to provide a great deal of weaponry to the rebels against Assad has had four results: one, Assad is still there; two, we have had a four-year civil war; three, we have had a major refugee crisis; and, four, we have created the space for ISIL to be created?
The implication behind my noble friend’s question is that it is the actions of the West that have caused the migration crisis and the suffering in Syria. I respectfully disagree with him on that. It is Mr Assad himself who is the prime cause of the suffering in his country and the migration crisis. It is Mr Assad who has created the vacuum that ISIL has, unfortunately, filled very capably.
As regards the Motion that may come to the House of Commons on Syria, I have not seen a draft of that Motion, but the discussions in Government involve a Motion which would focus on ISIL. It is very clear that the House of Commons two years ago rejected the proposal that we should be involved in a war against Mr Assad. I think the UN Security Council resolution also points us towards a very clear and focused campaign to eradicate ISIL, which is a clear and present danger not just to us but to many countries around the world.
My Lords, I commend the Government for the clarity and realism with which they have displayed the threats in the document before us this evening in the three tiers. However, I have looked very carefully at the ingredients of the three tiers and I can find in none of them a very possible and real threat to our kingdom—the very configuration of the United Kingdom—which is the possibility that, two SDSRs on, if we are having this debate in 2025, we may be in a kingdom outside the European Union and shorn of Scotland. Whatever noble Lords think about that as a prospect, it would be a first-order change in our strategic position in the world and there is not a whiff of it in this document. Does the Minister agree that sometimes the first people we have to defend ourselves against are ourselves?
I think we must all be mindful of that precept. I hope we have been mindful of it in this document. It sets out what we see as the tier-one risks over the next five years. Clearly, were there to be such a major change in this country’s place in Europe or, indeed, such a major change in what this country consists of, there would be an obvious need to look again at some of the planning encapsulated here. However, I put it to the noble Lord that neither of the events that he has postulated invalidates the key strands of thinking in the SDSR set out here.
Terrorism is going to remain the most direct and immediate threat to our domestic security and overseas interests. Cyber threats to the UK are significant whether we are in or out of the EU. The risk of international military conflict is growing. Although it is unlikely there will be a direct military threat to the UK itself, there is a greater possibility, I put it to him, of international military crises that may draw us in. There is instability overseas. Since 2010, that has spread significantly to the south and the Middle East and northern Africa, as the noble Lord knows. The public health threats and the major natural hazards that the report identifies will still be there regardless. Therefore, I hope that the House will agree that we have looked in the round here not at a crystal ball but at analysis of the threats that face us, analysing in turn what resources we need to address those threats.
My Lords, in supporting the counterterrorism strategy contained in the document, can the Minister confirm that the document takes into account the events of
I can give the noble Lord that assurance. We wish to see maximum collaboration with our friends and allies on the intelligence front. In the wake of the Paris attack, the question that we have asked ourselves is obvious: what are the capabilities that we need to counter such an event? We need the means whereby to protect our transport systems, borders, critical national infrastructure and crowded places. We need systems that give us data in advance about people intending to come to this country so that they can be checked against our records. We need emergency services to respond to such incidents were they, God forbid, to occur. We need Armed Forces who are ready to provide support at very short notice in the event of a terrorist attack. Those are the questions we have asked ourselves over the past few months. The answers are contained in the report and I hope they will be reassuring to the House.
My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that in the national security strategy one of the greatest risks we face is from pandemic influenza or indeed now the spread of global organisms with antibiotic resistance. What he said about the availability of resources to support research in areas of infectious disease is extremely welcome. Can he confirm that will include support for that research in the United Kingdom at centres of world-leading excellence such as Porton Down and the research facilities being created at the Francis Crick Institute? Can he also say in decisions yet to come and to be announced that the public health capability in Public Health England and through local authorities will also be give due regard in its ability to combat this particular great threat?
My noble friend, with his tremendous experience on this, knows that Public Health England will have to remain centre stage in the effort on major public health risks. However, I welcome his comments on the announcement around infectious diseases.
We are clear that the new £1 billion fund which will be rolled out over the next five years for R&D in products for infectious diseases—the Ross fund, which was mentioned in the Statement—will address the development and testing of vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, treatments and other technologies to combat the world’s most serious diseases in developing countries in particular. The Ross fund will more broadly target infectious diseases, diseases of epidemic potential, such as Ebola, neglected tropical diseases, which affect more than 1 billion people globally, and drug-resistant infections, which clearly pose a substantial and growing risk to global health. We look forward as a country to joining organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been so effective in tackling those issues around the world.