Integrated Review - Statement

– in the House of Lords at 2:02 pm on 23 November 2020.

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The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 19 November.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on the Government’s integrated review of foreign, defence, security and development policy.

Our review will conclude early next year and set out the UK’s international agenda, but I want to inform the House of its first outcome. For decades, British Governments have trimmed and cheese-pared our defence budget. If we go on like this, we risk waking up to discover that our Armed Forces—the pride of Britain—have fallen below the minimum threshold of viability, and, once lost, they can never be regained. That outcome would not only be craven; it would jeopardise the security of the British people, amounting to a dereliction of duty for any Prime Minister.

I refuse to vindicate any pessimistic forecasters there may have been by taking up the scalpel yet again. Based on our assessment of the international situation and our foreign policy goals, I have decided that the era of cutting our defence budget must end, and it ends now. I am increasing defence spending by £24.1 billion over the next four years. That is £16.5 billion more than our manifesto commitment, raising it as a share of GDP to at least 2.2%, exceeding our NATO pledge, and investing £190 billion over the next four years—more than any other European country and more than any other NATO ally except the United States.

The Ministry of Defence has received a multi-year settlement because equipping our armed forces requires long-term investment, and our national security in 20 years’ time will depend on decisions we take today. I have done this in the teeth of the pandemic, amid every other demand on our resources, because the defence of the realm and the safety of the British people must come first. I pay tribute to my right honourable friends the Chancellor and the Defence Secretary, who believe in this as fervently as I do. Reviving our armed forces is one pillar of the Government’s ambition to safeguard Britain’s interests and values by strengthening our global influence and reinforcing our ability to join the United States and our other allies to defend free and open societies.

The international situation is now more perilous and intensely competitive than at any time since the cold war. Everything we do in this country—every job, every business, even how we shop and what we eat—depends on a basic minimum of global security, with a web of feed pipes, of oxygen pipes, that must be kept open: shipping lanes, a functioning internet, safe air corridors, reliable undersea cables, and tranquillity in distant straits. This pandemic has offered a taste of what happens when our most fundamental needs are suddenly in question. We could take all this for granted, ignore the threat of terrorism and the ambitions of hostile states, hope for the best, and we might get away with it for a while, before calamity strikes, as it surely would. Or we could accept that our lifelines must be protected but we are content to curl up in our island and leave the task to our friends.

My starting point is that either of those options would be an abdication of the first duty of Government: to defend our people. My choice—and I hope it will carry every Member of the House—is that Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies, sharing the burden and bringing our expertise to bear on the world’s toughest problems. To achieve this, we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board. We have already united our international effort into a new department combining aid and diplomacy, led with grip and purpose by my right honourable friend the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Secretary. Next year will be a year of British leadership when we preside over the G7, host COP 26 in Glasgow, and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first United Nations General Assembly in London. We are leading the world towards net zero with our 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution. We are campaigning for our values, particularly freedom of religion and the media, and giving every girl in the world access to 12 years of quality education.

But extending British influence requires a once-in-a-generation modernisation of our armed forces, and now is the right time to press ahead, because emerging technologies, visible on the horizon, will make the returns from defence investment infinitely greater. We have a chance to break free from the vicious circle whereby we ordered ever decreasing numbers of ever more expensive items of military hardware, squandering billions along the way. The latest advances will multiply the fighting power of every warship, aircraft and infantry unit many times over, and the prizes will go to the swiftest and most agile nations, not necessarily the biggest. We can achieve as much as British ingenuity and expertise allow.

We will need to act speedily to remove or reduce less relevant capabilities. This will allow our new investment to be focused on the technologies that will revolutionise warfare, forging our military assets into a single network designed to overcome the enemy. A soldier in hostile territory will be alerted to a distant ambush by sensors on satellites or drones, instantly transmitting a warning, using artificial intelligence to devise the optimal response and offering an array of options, from summoning an airstrike to ordering a swarm attack by drones, or paralysing the enemy with cyberweapons. New advances will surmount the old limits of logistics. Our warships and combat vehicles will carry “directed energy weapons”, destroying targets with inexhaustible lasers. For them, the phrase “out of ammunition” will become redundant.

Nations are racing to master this new doctrine of warfare, and our investment is designed to place Britain among the winners. The returns will go far beyond our armed forces, and from aerospace to autonomous vehicles, these technologies have a vast array of civilian applications, opening up new vistas of economic progress, creating 10,000 jobs every year—40,000 in total—levelling up across our country, and reinforcing our union. We are going to use our extra defence spending to restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe, taking forward our plans for eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates, and support ships to supply our carriers.

We are going to develop the next generation of warships, including multi-role research vessels and Type 32 frigates. This will spur a renaissance of British shipbuilding across the UK, in Glasgow and Rosyth, Belfast, Appledore and Birkenhead, guaranteeing jobs and illuminating the benefits of the union in the white light of the arc welder’s torch. If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy. Once both of our carriers are operational in 2023, the UK will have a carrier strike group permanently available, routinely deployed globally, and always ready to fight alongside NATO and other allies.

Next year, “Queen Elizabeth” will lead a British and allied task group on our most ambitious deployment for two decades, encompassing the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and east Asia. We shall deploy more of our naval assets in the world’s most important regions, protecting the shipping lanes that supply our nation, and we shall press on with renewing our nuclear deterrent. We will reshape our Army for the age of networked warfare, allowing better equipped soldiers to deploy more quickly, and strengthening the ability of our special forces to operate covertly against our most sophisticated adversaries.

The security and intelligence agencies will continue to protect us around the clock from terrorism and new and evolving threats. We will invest another £1.5 billion in military research and development, designed to master the new technologies of warfare. We will establish a new centre dedicated to artificial intelligence, and a new RAF space command, launching British satellites and our first rocket from Scotland in 2022. I can announce that we have established a National Cyber Force, combining our intelligence agencies and service personnel, which is already operating in cyberspace against terrorism, organised crime and hostile state activity. And the RAF will receive a new fighter system, harnessing artificial intelligence and drone technology to defeat any adversary in air-to-air combat.

Our plans will safeguard hundreds of thousands of jobs in the defence industry, protecting livelihoods across the UK and keeping the British people safe. The defence of the realm is above party politics, and we all take pride in how British resolve saved democracy in 1940, and in how British internationalism, directed by Clement Attlee, helped to create NATO and preserve peace through the Cold War. The wisdom and pragmatism of Margaret Thatcher found a path out of confrontation when she met Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984. In each case, Britain tipped the scales of history and did immense good for the world. Now we have a chance to follow in this great tradition, end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up across our country, protect our people and defend the free societies in which we fervently believe. I commend this Statement to the House.”

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office, Constitutional and Devolved issues) 2:17, 23 November 2020

My Lords, the first duty of any Government is the safety and security of its citizens. The Statement on defence spending is obviously welcome news. The Prime Minister’s announcement of what he called, without any sense of irony, an end to the “era of retreat” is necessary, given that the Conservatives’ last two defence reviews have led not only to spending cuts of £8 billion but to a reduction in the size of the Armed Forces by 40,000 full-time troops.

The enormous international uncertainty we face today reflects the diversity of the dangers we face: adversaries investing heavily in new military; the devastating effects on our health and finances of the global pandemic; economic and security uncertainty as we hurtle towards the end of the Brexit transition without knowing if, when or what the deal will be; technological developments such as AI and sophisticated internet communications that we previously only imagined; and a climate emergency—while the Government’s seeking to write into legislation the right for Ministers to break the law has done little to enhance our international standing. So, there are huge challenges.

However, these uncertain and dangerous times also provide an opportunity for the Government to outline a new vision of the UK’s place in the world. We have been here before: soon after the Second World War, the leadership of Clement Attlee and his Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin was instrumental in setting up NATO. Its enduring strength in providing collective security serves as a constant reminder of what the UK can achieve on the world stage. In 2002 the significance of our landmark International Development Act was recognised throughout the world, and during the 2008 financial crisis we worked globally to secure an economic rescue plan. I know I am not alone in wanting us to show such global leadership again, because when we have the vision and the moral imperative, the UK is a force for good in the world. We must ensure that our Armed Forces are properly funded and that they are integral to that vision.

It was almost 60 years ago that Dean Acheson, a former US Secretary of State, observed that Britain has lost an empire but failed to find a role. We ceded that issue with our membership of the EU but, as we leave, the need to define our place in the world again becomes key. This is why it is so disappointing that the Prime Minister’s Statement fails to provide the strategy to meet the many challenges we face today. For a Statement on an integrated review, it does not feel very integrated, lacking both a wider foreign policy context and clarity about the Government’s priorities. For example, other than passing references, the Statement fails to mention the security implications of climate change and how we will respond. Can the noble Baroness tell the House when the MoD’s climate change and sustainability strategy will be published?

Also, there is no commitment in the Statement to the Conservatives’ election manifesto pledge to maintain 0.7% GNI on aid. Following the abolition of the Department for International Development, this could have been an opportunity to restore confidence in how we see our international role. The former Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement that abandoning the 0.7% pledge would be

“a moral, strategic and political mistake” was endorsed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Richards, a former Chief of Defence Staff, saying that this spending is hugely in the UK’s interests. The benefits that such funding has brought across the world reinforce why an integrated strategic approach is so important, and again bring home why those cuts to the budget jeopardise Britain’s soft power and influence. We have had many debates on this in your Lordships’ House and that soft power is critical to how we meet the threats faced and define our place on the international stage.

People need to be placed front and centre of our defence strategy, whether our brave Armed Forces personnel or those working in supporting industries. With the current jobs crisis, we welcome the commitment in the Statement to 10,000 new jobs every year. Can the noble Baroness say where these jobs will be and how they will be recruited and monitored? Will she today rule out any more personnel cuts across the Army, the RAF and the Navy? Can she also say what lessons the MoD have learned from previous overspends and mismanagement?

Last year, the Public Accounts Committee reported on the disastrous failure of the deal with Capita for Army recruitment. That contract has seen costs soar up to £677 million in 2018 and yet it has failed to deliver, leaving the Army understrength. The PAC also highlighted problems with other contracts and added:

“We are disappointed to see the MoD replicate the contract management errors that our Committee sees all too often across government.”

Our military deserves better and increases in spending must be matched by rooting out such scandalous wastes of public money.

I also ask the noble Baroness about the certainty of this funding and its impact on other areas of public spending. The costs of the pandemic are eye-wateringly large. Government borrowing between April and November was £215 billion and is projected to rise further. The deficit continues to grow. The announcement that the defence budget will grow by 4.2% above inflation each year means that, by 2024-25, it will be £7 billion higher than at present, in real terms. That is a significant increase, as she is aware. With the spending review this week, there are strong indications that the Chancellor will impose a public sector pay freeze, including for military personnel and those who have been at the heart of tackling this pandemic and protecting the public. Post Covid, we need to invest to regrow our economy and protect jobs. We all know that difficult decisions will have to be taken. Can the noble Baroness, without pre-empting the Chancellor’s Statement, tell the House whether the additional costs of defence spending will be met from increased taxation or cuts in other areas of public spending?

In his Statement, the Prime Minister is correct to say that

“our national security in 20 years’ time will depend on decisions” that he is making today. Unlike the extensive consultation in 1998, the call for evidence for this review lasted just one month. We expected to see the integrated review published this month and I understand it has now been delayed until next year. I do not know if the noble Baroness is able to explain the reasons for the delay, but I hope that she will tell your Lordships’ House that the delay will allow for engagement and consultation with all involved. Doing so will have an impact on the likely success of such an integrated review and strategy. We need an ambitious strategy to develop new international relationships and protect our country against serious threats in the years ahead. Defence spending is essential to this, but the Government still need to address the strategy and identify the diverse threats to peace and stability. Doing so requires a coherent, co-ordinated plan with, at its core, a vision of the UK as a moral force for good.

Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for answering questions on the Prime Minister’s Statement. The Prime Minister begins by saying that he

“will update the House on the Government’s integrated review of foreign, defence, security and development policy” but the Statement does nothing of the sort. It is simply a statement of increased military expenditure, particularly on the Navy. The Prime Minister has successfully wrenched the nation’s credit card from the Chancellor’s possession long enough to provide for significant additional expenditure on defence kit. In themselves many, if not all, of the items on the shopping list are clearly desirable. Who could possibly object to having more frigates or drones, better AI or the National Cyber Force? But it seems more than somewhat bizarre to be announcing this additional spending in advance of the completion of the integrated review. Could the noble Baroness explain to the House exactly when that review will be published?

It is particularly worrying when we hear repeated rumours of a cut from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP spent on overseas development. Can the noble Baroness the Leader confirm that these rumours are simply untrue? If she cannot, what is the rationale to spend more on military kit and to cut the aid budget? How could robbing Peter to pay Paul in this way possibly lead to a net gain in our credibility and reputation, taking account of the soft, as well as hard, power we wield as a nation?

The Statement waxes lyrical on the need to fight terrorism, and no one can disagree, but the best way to fight terrorism and protect our security as a nation is in the closest possible co-ordination with our nearest allies. Is it therefore not reckless of the Government to have completely failed to address security co-operation with our EU partners, as part of the Brexit negotiations? Does leaving the EU systems for sharing information on criminals and terrorists, and the European arrest warrant, not present a body blow to our ability to identify, track and trace individuals who pose a direct threat to our security?

There is no update or set of principles on foreign policy, just a general statement that the world is an increasingly dangerous place. This a pretty thin basis for detailed defence procurement priorities. In the Statement, the Prime Minister says that new technological advances will

“surmount the old limits of logistics”, but there are no advances that mean that fighting ships do not require refuelling or that sailors do not require feeding. When one of our carriers is deployed to the Far East, for example, how is it to be provisioned and, given that the new frigates will not be built for a number of years, how will it be protected?

While there is quite a lot about the Navy in the Statement, there is nothing at all about the Army. What does this mean for Army expenditure? For example, are the Government committed to keeping troop levels at their current levels and are rumours about reducing the number of tanks correct? How does this increased expenditure fit into the Government’s overall public expenditure plans? We will be hearing more from the Chancellor later this week but, given the weakness of public finances, the expenditure being discussed today simply cannot be funded by increased borrowing. To echo the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, which other areas of public expenditure will fall or which taxes will rise to pay for this?

The noble Baroness will no doubt say that she cannot give an answer to these questions because that would pre-empt Wednesday’s Statement—but today’s Statement pre-empts Wednesday’s Statement. The truth is that the Prime Minister has done what he does best: making exaggerated claims for future policy developments, while leaving the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pick up the bill. That is the fundamental problem with this Statement. It is isolated from the integrated foreign, defence, security and development review and from the overall tax-and-spend strategy of the Government. With its soaring rhetoric, Boy’s Own breathlessness and glowing references to past glories, it runs the risk of being isolated from any realistic assessment of Britain’s place in the modern world.

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their comments. I will start by talking briefly about the integrated review, as they both asked some questions about it. We will conclude and publish the full integrated review early next year. Both noble Lords asked about the delay and, as they rightly said, the review was announced in February; it was then paused in April, due to Covid, and restarted in June. So we did have a delay in the review and it will now conclude early next year. However, we are in the final phases of it, aligning our ambition with our resources. The defence settlement outlines the first conclusions of the review, which will put us on the front foot as we equip our Armed Forces for the threats of today and tomorrow, while ensuring that long-term defence projects have certainty and are not put on hold.

When the full integrated review concludes early next year, it will set out our overarching strategy for national security and foreign policy, including defence, diplomacy, development and national resilience. It will set the direction for more detailed strategies and departmental activity in the coming years. It will also set out the way in which the UK will be a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation, and a strong direction for recovery from Covid at home and overseas. That issue was touched on at the G20 virtual summit held over the weekend, when all the leaders discussed it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, rightly talked about making sure that all parties were engaged. I can certainly reassure her that this is a cross-Whitehall process, allowing all to contribute expertise and analysis—not only within Whitehall but with partners, including NATO. Our closest allies have been involved during the process and will continue to be so. She also asked about the defence review, which is ongoing. Further details will be updated in due course.

Both noble Lords asked about spending. This is the only multiyear settlement for any government department that will be announced this year. I can reassure them that it has been fully costed, building on extensive work by the Treasury and MoD to understand what future capabilities will cost and how much can be delivered through efficiencies.

The noble Baroness talked about jobs, quite rightly. We expect this settlement to create up to 10,000 jobs each year across the UK, and as many as two-thirds more in the supply chain. Both noble Lords will be aware that in 2018-19, the MoD supported over 400,000 jobs, while defence spent £19.2 billion with UK industry last year. This new settlement will support further jobs in a whole array of areas: in shipbuilding, for instance, and obviously in emerging technologies—in space and in the building of the Tempest. We hope that this spending will create jobs in a range of ways. Part of the investment will also be looking to upskill and make sure that we can provide jobs for people around the whole of the United Kingdom—Scotland obviously being key to some of the developments that we are talking about. Hopefully this will be a UK-wide investment in jobs.

Both noble Lords rightly asked about international development. We are of course extremely proud of our work there. We remain committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest people. Of course, our Armed Forces are also a humanitarian force for good, coming to the aid of the most vulnerable following natural disasters, bringing stability to countries marred by conflict with peacekeeping missions and bolstering efforts to tackle Covid in the developing world. Both noble Lords will both know that the spending review will be announced on Wednesday; funding will be announced then.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked about the Army. I can assure him that the UK will continue to have full-spectrum Armed Forces, including an armoured capability. But we also need to ensure that we focus on how the Army is equipped and what we want it to do. This settlement will ensure that our soldiers have some of the best equipment in the world, so that they can continue to do their fantastic job.

Both noble Lords talked about global leadership. They are absolutely right, which is why this settlement raises our defence spending to 2.2% of GDP. That is more in cash terms than any other European ally or NATO member, other than the United States. We will continue to lead internationally. Next year is a critical year for our international leadership, as we have the G7 presidency, COP 26 and the 75th anniversary of the first UNGA meeting in London. We will continue to play our part on the global stage, and this settlement will help us to do that.

Photo of Lord Lexden Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We now come to the 20 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief, so that the maximum number of speakers can be called.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative 2:36, 23 November 2020

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the battlefields of future warfare will lie increasingly right inside our societies and inside people’s minds? So, while these measures are obviously extremely welcome for our Armed Forces, in the Prime Minister’s own words, we must

“upgrade our capabilities across the board”.—[Official Report, Commons, 19/11/20; col. 488.]

Will she also assure us that when the integrated review eventually appears, having looked further at our defence needs, it will fully reflect what the Trade Secretary calls the “Pacific mindset”—along with the “Commonwealth mindset”—since these are the areas where our key future alliances increasingly lie for security and defence, as well as for trade and investment?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I thank my noble friend. He is absolutely right that we must look across all our capabilities to ensure an integrated response across the board to the threats and opportunities of the modern world. He is also right to emphasise the importance of the Commonwealth and the Indo-Pacific region. One of our greatest strengths is our alliances, along with our deep ties with the nations of the Commonwealth. We will continue to work closely with them, and of course the Indo-Pacific is the fastest-growing economic region in the world, so it is a crucial transit point for global trade, and a home to UK allies and trading partners. They will be at the forefront of our thoughts.

Photo of Lord Houghton of Richmond Lord Houghton of Richmond Crossbench

My Lords, the Statement last week is to be welcomed, albeit I think that it brought relief rather than jubilation to most defence and security experts. However, I too thought that the style and content of the Statement were somewhat disappointing. It is potentially a missed opportunity—little more than a hubristic announcement of a list of new defence capabilities. Will the integrated review itself give more evidence that the capability choices that have been made are matched to reconsidered strategy, particularly in the areas of modernised deterrence, national resilience, an integrated approach and—dare I say it—a more effective use of strategic information?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I thank the noble and gallant Lord and, yes, I can say that as we are now in the final stages of the integrated review, we are aligning our ambition with our resources. As I said in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, this defence review outlines the first conclusions of that and gives certainty to our defence projects. But the noble and gallant Lord is absolutely right: when we publish the fully integrated review, it will set out our ambition for the UK’s role in the world and our long-term strategic aims for our national security and foreign policy.

Photo of The Bishop of Portsmouth The Bishop of Portsmouth Bishop

My Lords, I welcome this announcement, with its impact on jobs and industry, including in the diocese I serve. I note the welcome emphasis that the Government appear to give to defence and security. Will the Minister therefore recognise that previous defence reviews set out grand, strategic ambitions but were not backed by the necessary resources? Will she specifically confirm the Government’s commitment to providing those resources to match the ambitions of the review, and will she further recognise that as we wait for spending commitments on development aid and public sector pay, how much the Government propose in additional investment is an accurate barometer of what they consider to be most important?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I reassure the right reverend Prelate that this settlement puts the defence programme on a sustainable footing and will make sure that our Armed Forces can meet today’s threats at the same time as delivering on a once-in-a-generation modernisation. This £16.5 billion increase over four years is the biggest uplift in 30 years, and, as I mentioned, it cements the UK’s position as the largest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in NATO.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Independent Labour

My Lords, I am sure that I do not need to remind the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that the Conservative Party manifesto contained a commitment to spend 0.75% of GNI on development aid. She failed to answer the direct question put by my noble friend Lady Smith and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, about whether this would be maintained. How, in the circumstances, can abandoning an election manifesto commitment of this kind even be considered—it is enshrined in law? Can she tell the House what the effect of doing so will have on the lives of millions of poor people living in dire poverty around the world, quite apart from the damage it will do to our international reputation?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

As I have already said, we are, and should be, proud of our international development work. I have also already said that the spending review will be on Wednesday and announcements will be made there. I will not say anything further on that today, but I can certainly say that we are absolutely committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest people. We will remain a world leader in this area through, as I have said, hosting COP 26, our G7 presidency and hosting a major girls’ education summit next year.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, I suspect that the Prime Minister’s Statement divides Peers, MPs and everybody else, to an extent, into those of us who speak on defence issues and those concerned about wider issues. Therefore, while I obviously welcome what the Statement said on defence expenditure, like other Peers, I ask the Minister what has happened to the 0.7% legal commitment to development aid. In the defence sphere, the Prime Minister talked about a

“once-in-a-generation modernisation” programme and how we are going to get away from the “vicious circle” of

“squandering billions along the way.”—[Official Report, Commons, 19/11/20; col. 488.]

Given that the cart has come before the horse—the expenditure has been flagged up before the integrated review is complete—could the Minister explain to us how the Government intend to avoid “squandering billions” and how they will improve defence procurement?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

As the noble Baroness says, we believe that this settlement gives a chance to break free from the vicious circle whereby we ordered ever decreasing numbers of ever more expensive items of military hardware. We have set out a number of projects that we will move forward across the Navy in particular but also with the RAF and others. We have also set out a very ambitious plan focused on using new technologies, AI, our new National Cyber Force and space. This is a broad package that we believe will truly help our Armed Forces modernise and be able to tackle the emerging and very different global threats that they are currently facing.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

My Lords, I certainly welcome this pledge to increase defence spending: the world is a very much more dangerous place, and I will take the noble Lord, Lord Newby, through a few more of the threats outside later, if he likes. Can my noble friend say whether I can be confident that this announcement marks a reverse in the defence cuts that have taken place over the last 30 years since the end of the Cold War? Before I sit down, I will also say that I was on the International Development Committee for six years in the other place and saw some quite excellent work done with British taxpayers’ money. I also saw some shocking waste: an example that particularly springs to mind was an African country buying a fleet of Mercedes cars for its Cabinet Ministers with British taxpayers’ money. I have to say, if I might, that not all money spent on international development, or indeed on defence, is well spent.

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I can certainly say to my noble friend that this is a significant investment in defence, and, as I have said, it is the biggest uplift in 30 years. The MoD is committed to making a step-change in defence transformation so that it delivers the digitised, efficient, productive and modernised defence that we require. We will also accelerate the adoption of new technologies, ensuring, all in all, that our military has the best capacity and capability that it needs, as he rightly says, to address the ever-growing challenges that we face.

Photo of Lord Boyce Lord Boyce Crossbench

My Lords, the Prime Minister’s defence announcement is to be greatly welcomed, especially the multi-year settlement. Also welcome is the firm recognition of the strategic priority to keep the sea lanes open. The key to this is destroyer frigate forces, which are of barely sufficient size for this task. Their numbers are imperilled by the decay, through old age, of the Type 23 frigate. The intent to build more ships for the Royal Navy is good news, but this ageing out of the Type 23 means that this intent must be expedited. Would the Minister agree that an in-service date of 2027 for the Type 31 is an unacceptably long time to have to wait for this much-needed asset to join the fleet and that the shipbuilding industry, which is much favoured in this announcement, should be made to do better?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I thank the noble and gallant Lord. Certainly, this settlement will significantly expand the Royal Navy: as well as confirming the current frigate orders, as he rightly says, we have also committed to the next-generation warship, the Type 32, and to research and support vessels. We are sticking to the timescale of 2027 for both the Type 31 and the Type 26. The Type 32 will represent an investment in UK shipbuilding of over £1.5 billion over the next decade and will, of course, create and sustain more jobs. We plan for this to be a UK-led programme that will revitalise the shipbuilding sector and create thousands of jobs. We believe that this is a strong settlement for the Navy, which will enable us to invest in new technology and ships and provide our Royal Navy with the capability that it needs.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, I am delighted that the Government are investing an extra £24.1 billion over the next four years. It is desperately needed after the reductions since 2010. The decision to base our defence and security on a maritime strategy is also correct and welcomed. As you can imagine, it is music to my ears to have the Prime Minister say

“If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy”,—[Official Report, Commons, 19/11/20; col. 488.]

and that we should become the “foremost naval power” in Europe. It would be very easy to express concerns about the many unknowns and possible pitfalls in this announcement: the timing of the frigate build, for example, is one of them, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, mentioned. However, today, I believe we should celebrate the extra money for defence in this increasingly dangerous and unstable world. Many of the details will have to await the review’s outcome in January next year, but I ask the Leader of the House to confirm that, as the Prime Minister is so positive about running two operational carriers by 2023, we will still be ordering a minimum of 90—if not more—F-35Bs to ensure that we have two air groups and an operational conversion unit.

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I welcome the noble Lord’s welcoming of this announcement. He has been a vocal and consistent strong voice for the Navy within this House, and I am glad that he is pleased. He is right that the carrier strike group 21 is an ambitious global deployment. From 2023, it will be permanently available to be routinely deployed globally, and, in fact, HMSQueen Elizabeth” will lead a British and allied task group on our most ambitious deployment for two decades, encompassing the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and east Asia. We are currently finalising our plans for the deployment with regional partners.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, pandemic was on the 2015 review risk register. Does the noble Baroness recognise that failing to address that has resulted in costs to the economy which are multiples of this defence uplift? What is the point of an integrated review, dismantling DfID even before the review began and this announcement before it concludes if we do not know what challenges the Government think we face and how we might tackle them with our allies? Does she think that global Britain is enhanced or undermined by cutting the development budget?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

As I said, we have already worked through the main findings within government to inform this announcement and they are the first conclusions of the integrated review. The Government are working to ensure that we have an integrated strategy. As I have said to a number of noble Lords, that will be published in its entirety in the new year.

Photo of Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Conservative

My Lords, the investment in space and cyber is most welcome. Many of the skills required are already held in the private sector, so will this review provide the catalyst to implement the whole-force approach? Is this not a golden opportunity to reset the relationship between defence and industry into one of genuine partnership?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My noble friend is absolutely right. That is certainly what we intend to do. On AI, for instance, the MoD is working with partners across government, UK industry and academia, and will invest in AI hubs to test and develop new models of collaboration and co-creation. On space, Space Command will be staffed jointly from the three services, the Civil Service and key members of the commercial sector, and will bring together three functions: space operations, space workforce generation and space capability. Such working together, as my noble friend set out, is at the centre of our approach, particularly in these new and emerging technologies.

Photo of Lord Stirrup Lord Stirrup Crossbench

Although the UK will still be spending a smaller percentage of its GDP on its defence than at the end of the previous decade, I welcome the financial settlement and the commitment to new and emerging technologies. However, conflict tends to bring with it rather unpleasant surprises. Will the noble Baroness the Leader therefore confirm that the four structures and processes that will be set out in the integrated review will retain the necessary agility and adaptability to enable us to respond effectively to those things that we did not or could not foresee?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

The noble and gallant Lord is absolutely right. Flexibility and being able to adapt to emerging threats are certainly at the heart of what this review will look to do. A lot of our investment in new technologies is based on the very issues that he raises: that we need to be able to adapt, because what we face now may not be what we face in years to come. We are all cognisant of that.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My Lords, it is 53 years since the British Government announced our withdrawal of forces from east of Suez, and we well know that our current Prime Minister wants nothing better than to move an increasing proportion of our forces back east of Suez. All the report says about that is that we will be extending our influence, but it does not tell us what influence over whom. Do we intend, as we build up our Gulf base, to defend Saudi Arabia against Iran? If we are to send a carrier task force next year into the South China Sea, is it our intention to challenge China and would that be good for our trade relations with it?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

As I have said, the full integrated review when published next year will set out our overarching strategy for national security and foreign policy.

Photo of Baroness Helic Baroness Helic Conservative

I join noble Lords in welcoming this significant and long-overdue spending commitment. What impact will it have on job creation in all four nations of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

As I said in a previous answer, we believe that this settlement will create jobs across the United Kingdom. For instance, in Scotland, we already spend £1.7 billion a year supporting 10,000 jobs, and we are taking forward our plans for the eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates currently being constructed on the Clyde. There will be further growth of jobs in Northern Ireland and, we hope, in Wales. This is indeed a good settlement for job creation in the United Kingdom. We want construction on those projects to be UK-led. As I said, we hope that 10,000 jobs a year will be created, with many more within the supply chains, across the UK.

Photo of Baroness Uddin Baroness Uddin Non-affiliated

My Lords, I am rather disappointed that one “shoddy practice” can be cited to discredit a whole generation of excellent international development work. What assessment have the Government made of the defence and security implications of the proposed US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan? What consideration has been given to ensure the empowerment and education of women and girls in conflict regions where our past military interventions continue to cause death and destruction in the present day?

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

The noble Baroness will know our absolute commitment to supporting women and girls in areas of conflict. It is one of the personal priorities of the Prime Minister, and we will continue to work on it. Indeed, it was one of the issues discussed by the Prime Minister with other world leaders at the G20 over the weekend. We remain committed to supporting security and stability in both Afghanistan and Iraq and will continue to work closely with our allies and partners on a collective approach to ensure that.

Photo of Baroness Goudie Baroness Goudie Labour

My Lords, I welcome the commitment to our Armed Forces and the Prime Minister defending our people and keeping the world safe, but it would be a moral, strategic and social mistake if we did not continue our foreign aid at the present 0.7% target. Since we have had such a target, Britain has achieved soft power and saved millions of lives in Africa by reducing the number of deaths from malaria and HIV. I hope that the Government will continue with these projects.

Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

The noble Baroness is absolutely right. I have said on several occasions in response to noble Lords that we are committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest, but, as I said, spending issues will be covered in the spending review on Wednesday.

Sitting suspended.