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Defence Spending — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:01 am on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee 10:01 am, 16th July 2019

In the four minutes available, I propose to make two points. First, I congratulate my hon. Friend Anne-Marie Trevelyan on a masterly introduction to the debate. Her timing could have been better—to secure a debate so close to the arrival of a new Prime Minister is perhaps chancing her arm. Nevertheless, if we are to get the issue in the news, we need to link it to that, so I will quote the responses of the two remaining candidates in the race to be the next Prime Minister to my letter of 26 June, which asked about their defence policies.

On 2 July, my right hon. Friend Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, replied:

“The armed forces have done some exceptional work of late in attempting to live within an increasingly stretched budgetary environment. I can give you an absolute commitment to fund defence fully. I believe Military spending should be dictated by the threats we face—and, it is clear that these threats have multiplied in both scale and complexity in recent years. I guarantee, of course, that we will exceed the minimum 2% NATO spending target and the Defence Budget will continue to grow at a minimum of 0.5% annually.”

On 8 July, the current Foreign Secretary replied:

“In this leadership campaign, I have given more attention to defence spending than any other candidate. I have pledged to increase the defence budget to 2.5 per cent of GDP over five years. I have argued that additional funds would need to be”— made available, I think he means—

“for new capabilities and not simply plugging gaps in existing plans. Were I to become Prime Minister, I would consider the path of further increases in spending once the 2.5 per cent had been achieved.”

That is their position.