Integrated Review - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:04 pm on 17th March 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 7:04 pm, 17th March 2021

Sorry, 0.7%— I apologise.

We are acting compatibly with the International Development Act and will set out more detail on steps in due course. I remind the House that we remain a world-leading aid donor and will spend more than £10 billion this year to address poverty, tackle climate change, fight Covid and improve global health. This year, we will continue to be the second-most generous ODA-spending country in the G7 as a percentage of our national income.

The noble Baroness asked about the VSO. I am afraid that all I can say is that at this point no decisions have yet been made on the volunteering for development grant. She also asked about the advanced research and invention agency, which will be operational from 2022. We will invest at least £800 million to set up this body, which will focus on high-risk, high-reward research and have significant freedom to experiment with funding models. Its structure and operating model will empower scientists to make funding decisions and start and stop projects quickly. Of course, as the legislation comes through this House, there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss some of the issues she raised on it.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness talked about defence spending. We are increasing our defence spending by over £24 billion over the next four years, which is £16.5 billion more than our manifesto commitment. We are certainly investing in defence. There will be no Armed Forces redundancies during any restructuring, but the Army will be transformed to meet the threats of the coming decade. Our soldiers will have some of the best equipment in the world, including new vehicles, drones, electronic warfare and cyberspace capabilities. Next week, I think on Monday, the Secretary of State for Defence will set out those plans and your Lordships’ House will have the chance to look at them when they are published.

Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord talked about nuclear weapons. As they say, the review details our intent to increase the limit of our overall nuclear weapons stockpile to no more than 260 warheads. This is a ceiling, not a target, and it is not our current stockpile number; we will continue to keep this under review. We remain fully compliant with the non-proliferation treaty and absolutely committed to the collective long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons. However, in the review, we detailed some of the possible areas that might affect us in future—notably, for instance, the potential for the development of technologies that could have a comparable impact to weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, the noble Lord asked about trade and the figure of 80%. As he rightly said, we aim to secure agreements with countries accounting for 80% of the UK’s total trade within three years. So far, we have secured trade agreements with countries worth 67% of total UK trade in 2019 and, in addition to the agreement that we signed with the EU, we have secured FTAs with 66 non-EU countries. We have also applied for accession to the CPTPP.