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Queen’s Speech - Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:58 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 6:58 pm, 16th October 2019

That is a matter way above my pay grade. When I next see the Prime Minister, I will pass on the noble Lord’s comments about the importance he attaches to this subject.

As my noble friend Lord Ahmad said, we are also determined to increase our co-operation with our Commonwealth partners. Some noble Lords seemed doubtful about this, so let me reassure them that Commonwealth member states including India, which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, in particular, mentioned, are increasingly engaged and cognisant of what we can all achieve together .

As we leave the EU, we remain absolutely committed to playing a leading role in international security and to sustaining and strengthening vital alliances. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, who just intervened, rightly said that NATO is the most successful alliance in history. It has kept us safe for 70 years and it remains at the heart of UK defence policy. The UK is NATO’s leading European ally, our defence budget is the largest in Europe and the second largest overall. We are one of only a handful of allies that spends more than 2% on defence, and 20% of that on major equipment; it is a shame that the noble Lord, Lord West, is not here to remind us of the ship programme.

The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, commented on the challenges facing NATO. The Government welcome the suggestion of a debate on the alliance and its future. Ahead of the leaders’ meeting in December, we will give this due consideration together with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, of a debate on defence matters. We will, of course, do that in consultation with the usual channels.

We remain committed to the rule of law internationally, to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the best way to prevent a nuclear Iran, to a clear, defensive and proportionate response to Russia and—as the noble Lords, Lord Kerr and Lord Pendry, raised—to de-escalation in Hong Kong. A number of noble Lords raised this subject. The Foreign Secretary has made our concerns clear to both the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, and will continue to do so. He has also spoken to a wide range of counterparts on this issue. We raised the situation in Hong Kong at the G7 and the UN. The way forward must be through meaningful dialogue with all communities that addresses the concerns of the people of Hong Kong.