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Defence Spending — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:47 am on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Defence) 10:47 am, 16th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I congratulate Anne-Marie Trevelyan on securing this important debate and for setting out the case. She highlighted the fact that defence does not feature in our postbags, as we are all aware, and as a result it does not get the focus it needs. She also talked about the conscious choice by Government in recent years to reduce Government spending on defence, which, as she said, was based on a false premise.

There were some excellent contributions to the debate, from my right hon. Friend Mr Jones, the right hon. Members for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) and for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois), my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), as well as the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon), for St Ives (Derek Thomas), for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton), for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti), for Witney (Robert Courts) and for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant). One point of consensus that all the speakers highlighted in different ways was the need to increase defence spending.

Labour is committed to spending at least 2% of GDP on defence, in line with our NATO commitments. The last Labour Government consistently spent well above the 2% figure. Sadly, since then we have seen a sharp fall in the real-terms value of the defence budget. Independent analysis by the House of Commons Library has shown that defence spending in the last financial year was £9.3 billion lower in real terms than when Labour left office.

The debate is ongoing on the appropriate level of defence spending, with both candidates for the Conservative leadership adding their thoughts. That is particularly galling when both of them have consistently voted for budgets that have slashed defence spending to what it is today.