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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered defence spending.
It is a pleasure to lead this important debate on defence spending, and to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting us time to discuss the funding of our nation’s defence at a time when our world is more unstable than ever and detractors wish the western liberal way of life and our values harm.
It is rare for us to be able to discuss money in this place. Today, we must consider what value we place on our nation’s defence, how the huge sums of money allocated to it are used, the interconnectivity of the Foreign Office’s assessment of global instability, our world-class military tacticians’ understanding of how we can protect our citizens and allies, and what we need to have in place to do so. We need to understand why projecting our cultural and economic values and ethos, and promoting Britain’s and our allies’ economic stability and prosperity, is vital.
The question is: is a percentage figure the way to judge whether we are investing enough? We need to look ourselves in the eye and ask why there is so little appetite among politicians to invest properly in defence spending. The issue is simply not in our postbags. The NHS is now in receipt of a huge extra budget of £20 billion a year by 2024. The Prime Minister agreed to such an enormous increase because it was clear from the hundreds of colleagues who spoke up on the matter that their constituents had too much unmet need and that resources needed to be increased. We needed to address old age—that great success story of the NHS—and mental ill health, because we want a healthy and happy population, and we now realise that it makes economic sense. In wishing to improve the lives of our constituents, the Government assessed that a step change in funding was required.
Defence, on the other hand, does not feature in our postbags. Commanding officers are not allowed to talk to MPs about the problems they are experiencing, including a lack of investment in the sites that they manage and resources to support their serving personnel, who have no choice about their location and environment. There is no mechanism to share concerns about kit provision or whether we will be able to sustain a long conflict. Due to secrecy or national security, the politicians who should be speaking up about whether more investment in defence is needed have too few facts to assess the reality of the situation.