The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
My Lords, we have had another fascinating and thought-provoking debate today on the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. One of the challenges confronting anyone who has to wind up on such a debate is that I am confronted by a fragrant pot-pourri of issues relating to foreign affairs, international development, defence, global relations, global engagement and response to threats. It was a wide-ranging debate. I have a heap of notes here and will try to address some of the major issues that have emerged.
As usual, shining through the debate is the expertise your Lordships have in this area. In my opinion, the House of Lords is quite simply a centre of excellence. This was eloquently recognised by my noble friend Lord Godson in his excellent maiden speech. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I am very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, found the debate welcome and that I am visible to her. It has never occurred to me that that was a particularly pleasing prospect to anyone but, none the less, if it affords her pleasure, it is certainly always a pleasure to see her.
I will touch shortly on some of the substantive points that have been made. However, I would first like to return to our starting point and remind colleagues of the context in which this review has been conducted. As the most comprehensive report into our defence and foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, our review paints a compelling picture of the complex, diverse and swiftly changing pace of the threats our nation faces. I welcome the recognition of the significance of the integrated review which my noble friend Lord Howell, among others, articulated. I also welcome the comments made about the review by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton, and the noble Lords, Lord Robertson and Lord Alderdice, albeit that they had questions to ask. I much appreciated the comments on the integrated review by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I think it is recognised, across the Chamber, that this is a significant piece of work.
We are living in an age of systemic competition. As events on the Ukrainian border remind us, we are confronting a resurgent Russia, whose threat to our security goes well beyond the conventional. Contrary to what the critics say—that this is an incoherent or a disintegrated review—it is the very opposite: it is demonstrably integrated. We live in a world where Iran and North Korea continue to destabilise their regions. An increasingly assertive China is modernising and expanding its military. All the while, globalisation and technological proliferation are challenging western security and paving the way for global competition over our trade, values and interests. Gone is the notion that our western scientific edge will always win the day. Today, cheap technology gives our enemies more options. Gone, too, is the idea that our competitors wage war only in open, large-scale conflicts. Instead, our adversaries seek to target our values and undermine our democracy through insidious activity in the grey zone. Instead of a binary state of peace and war, we find ourselves caught in a netherworld of constant competition
However, as my noble friend Lord Ahmad outlined so eloquently, the integrated review presents a bold strategy for British leadership and the domestic renewal that will strengthen our nation at home and abroad. It is a plan to use all the levers of state in unison, with defence playing a vital role. It is a plan not just to protect our people and interests but to invest in science and technology while using our international networks and global footprint to exert influence intelligently to deliver an effective impact.
Coupled with our integrated operating concept and the recent publication of our defence Command Paper, we have signalled the biggest shift in our defence policy for 30 years. Backed up by the Prime Minister’s additional investment of more than £24 billion, defence will now modernise to meet the dangers and deliver a bold vision for the United Kingdom. That vision will see our Armed Forces operating on both sides of the threshold of armed conflict, and see our people forward deployed, persistently present—my noble friend Lord Lancaster rightly emphasised the importance of that—and constantly campaigning to protect and promote the interests and values of the United Kingdom and her allies. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is absolutely right about the essential role of allies and partners. That is the only route to aggregate improved global security and collaboration. I am pleased to confirm that the UK’s tangible dynamism is generating global interest. I will now try and pick up on some of the specific and incisive points which have been raised.
The noble Lord Tunnicliffe, kicked off the debate in response to the Minister. I have the greatest affection and respect for him, but today I thought he was rather more of a glass-half-empty rather than a glass-half-full kind of chap. I felt that his reflection was an unjustifiably gloomy perspective. I would just say to him, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, pointed out, that our whole approach is predicated on threat. That is what determines what kind of defence capabilities we need. As I said, we have over £24 billion to reform and reduce our Armed Forces, the defence budget will grow consistently between 2019-22 and 2024-25, and it comfortably exceeds both the 2019 manifesto of a 0.5% increase per year and the NATO commitment of 2% GDP on defence. We are securing jobs, investing in UK industry, buying the next-generation capabilities and research, especially in cyber and space. I would therefore say to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, that this is an exciting perspective. That is a defence future brimming with optimism and purpose, and this delivers what we need to meet the threat.
I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, was trying to nip at my ankles like a wee Scottie dog. I do not agree that this is the vision of a small gorilla beating its chest. This outlines the vision of a country that reflects a serious global defence contributor.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, like the noble Lord, Lord West, raised the issue of the Royal Navy, which is exceedingly important. As they are both aware, our ambition is to grow to 24 frigates and destroyers in the 2030s on a continuous drumbeat of shipbuilding, strengthening the union and UK prosperity to become the foremost naval power in Europe. They will be aware of the exciting shipbuilding programme now in course.
At times I rather felt that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, was looking through the rear-view mirror rather than gazing through a clear windscreen. She is absolutely right: of course the EU is important, and we seek a positive partnership with it, both diplomatically and in respect of defence. We are of course the biggest defence spender in Europe and the second largest spender in NATO. Separately from that, we have strong bilateral relationships with various EU countries and we certainly value these engagements. So there is no question that the EU and EU member states matter to us. The security of the EU directly impacts on the security of the United Kingdom and I wish to make clear that we are very conscious of that and will never overlook it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, among others, including my noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns, my noble friend Lord Balfe, and the noble Lords, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord McNicol of West Kilbride, raised the important matter of overseas development assistance. I have to say—I am probably repeating information already known to your Lordships—that we are having to pitch our ODA spend on the back of a UK economy 11.3% smaller than last year and undergoing its worst contraction for 300 years. The deficit this year is projected to be double its peak during the financial crisis. Against that backdrop, we have been forced to prioritise public spending, including temporarily—it is temporary—reducing ODA from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI. However, we are still spending £10 billion on ODA in 2021 and we will return to 0.7% of GNI as soon as the fiscal situation allows. It may be worth reminding your Lordships that the UK remains a development superpower because, based on OECD data for 2020, the UK will be the third-largest ODA donor in the G7 as a percentage of GNI in 2021, spending a greater percentage of our GNI than the United States, Japan, Canada or Italy.
On girls, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, that this year the FCDO will invest £400 million in girls’ education in over 25 countries. I, too, was conscious of something missing today, which is simply Lord Judd, who was her close friend. He was an indefatigable contributor to our proceedings and it has been clear from the comments made during the debate just how much he is missed.
My noble friend Lady Anelay and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, asked questions about the approach to ODA. The approach marks a strategic shift, because it is putting our aid budget to work alongside our diplomatic network, our science and technology expertise and our economic partnerships in tackling global challenges. That is an important tandem to observe and will make sure that spend is more focused and, I hope, more effective in creating and achieving positive results.
The noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord McNicol, and others, raised the matter of Yemen. The UK has pledged at least £87 million of aid to Yemen, making us the fifth largest contributor in 2021-22. That is a floor; it is not a ceiling. The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, asked specifically about the development strategy. As he noted, the Government committed to publish a new international development strategy, building in the priorities set out in the integrated review. The strategy will be published this year.
The matter of Afghanistan was raised specifically by my noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns. I reassure her that the UK remains committed to supporting Afghanistan on its path to a more peaceful and positive future. We are working closely with the United States and with our NATO allies and partners to support a secure and stable Afghanistan. That is a relationship—and interest—which endures beyond withdrawal. The focus now has to be on the political solution and political progress. That is the next phase of Afghanistan’s development, as the Secretary General of NATO so pertinently pointed out.
The matter of nuclear was raised by a number of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Reid of Cardowan, my noble friends Lord Howell and Lord King of Bridgwater, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and others. A number of issues arose. As a general observation, I would say that a policy of deterrence requires a deterrent which deters. It has to maintain that ability. That is why an increase in warheads was deemed necessary. In relation to the stockpile of warheads, we have consistently stated that we will both keep our nuclear posture under constant review in the light of the international security environment and the actions of potential adversaries. We will maintain the minimum destructive power needed to guarantee that the deterrent remains credible.
The modest 15% change to the nuclear stockpile ceiling and the decision about how we deploy weapons have been taken in the context of a darkening threat picture, and driven by changing judgments on what we need to deliver to achieve the required deterrent effect. So I say to the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, that as a Government we need to make these judgments and we do not apologise for doing that. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, specifically raised the issue of compliance with the non-proliferation treaty. We are fully compliant with the treaty and we are deeply committed to our collective long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons under the framework of the NPT. That is only achieved by multilateral disarmament, not by weakening the deterrent.
My noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater raised an important issue about communications in these difficult times. We certainly live in a very different environment to what many of us were familiar with some years ago. We take the crisis communications very seriously. We are confident that our nuclear communications infrastructure remains resilient in the current heightened security environment.
In a slightly different context, my noble friend Lord Wei raised vital matters such as defence, security and resilience against new threats of pandemics and disease. How do we respond, and what is our pre-planning? It is a vital issue and reaches across several government departments, so I shall look at his contribution in Hansard and offer to write to him.
A number of your Lordships raise the important issue of climate change in general and COP 26 in particular. The noble Lord, Lord McDonald of Salford, specifically raised this issue and was interested in overseas territories, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, also raised the matter. I noted her comments, but I would argue that the UK is making major efforts in setting an example and, with COP 26, providing a vitally important forum for discussion later this year in the very attractive city of Glasgow.
My noble friend Lord Sheikh asked about climate change. It will be the UK’s highest international priority for the next decade, including biodiversity loss. This week we committed to set in law the world’s most ambitious climate change target, cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. As I mentioned a moment ago, the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, was interested in the particular position of the overseas territories. We have been working closely with all overseas territories in the lead-up to COP 26. We regularly meet representatives, and our officials engage with them, from the overseas territories to ensure that their unique perspectives are accurately represented.
A number of noble Lords raised the issue of China. I thought the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, gave a fascinating analysis on China. He rightly identified the delicate and difficult balance of maintaining discourse and trade, but calling out wrong, however and whenever it arises. That is certainly the approach we would wish to pursue. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton, provided a thought-provoking commentary in relation to the United Kingdom articulating a moral authority. That is a profound and wise observation, and the integrated review reflects an aspiration by the UK to demonstrate, articulate and represent our values and principles and be a global leader for positive achievements in that respect.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, and my noble friend Lady Meyer also asked about our attitude to China. I have to say that we see China’s increasing international assertiveness and scale as potentially the most significant geopolitical shifts in the 2020s, but continued co-operation is vital in tackling the most important international challenges of this generation, from climate change to biodiversity. We will always call out what is wrong. The IR reflects that we need to adapt to a more competitive world; we are clear that China is vital to solving global issues, so we must and will continue to find areas on which to collaborate.
The matter of the Indo-Pacific came up. Specifically, the noble Lord, Lord, Bilimoria, echoed by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, had an interest in that issue. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, not just for his positive reception for the integrated review but for his helpful commentary on the language we use when we describe it as the Indo-Pacific tilt. I am pleased that that resonates positively with him. The Indo-Pacific is critical to the UK’s economy, our security and our global ambition to support open societies. By 2030, the Indo-Pacific will represent more than 40% of global GDP. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked what the Indo-Pacific tilt means. I would say it is a healthy miscellany of objectives, because it means a commitment to long-term, integrated engagement to ensure that we safeguard UK economic and security interests, and that open societies and values are protected. That requires both a diplomatic and defence endeavour.
My noble friend Lord Risby raised the matter of Russia and how we are responding to Russia. NATO is the enduring guarantee of our security and we work continuously to strengthen alliance capabilities to defend and deter threats emanating from Russia. We will work with NATO allies to ensure a united western response, combining military intelligence and diplomatic efforts. UK forces have a leading role in NATO’s enhanced forward presence in the Baltic states to enhance Euro-Atlantic security, reassure our allies and deter adversaries.
My noble friend Lady Meyer asked about Ukraine. We are unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as we have demonstrated through sanctions on Russia since 2014, and we are monitoring the situation closely. Since 2017, our Russia strategy and cross-government Russian unit has brought together the UK’s diplomatic, intelligence and military capability to maximum effect. It is a working example of the key principles of the integrated review.
I think the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, was the only Member to raise specifically the issue of the new structure for the National Cyber Force. I seem to have made a poor effort of reassuring him, so let me try and do slightly better. It is a partnership between Defence and GCHQ and the Defence and Foreign Secretaries have joint political accountability. Official level governance bodies engage the full range of departmental stakeholders in the National Cyber Force’s requirements, delivery and long-term development. The Ministry of Defence is providing the growth funding for the cyber force, so the MoD Permanent Secretary is the principle accounting officer who sits in defence and as part of strategic command. There is a well-integrated awareness of activity and a well-understood programme for activity.
I conclude by focusing specifically on defence issues. Let us be clear: the threats have moved on and we must move with them. The next decade will bring unprecedented levels of investment in defence, with more than £85 billion spent on new equipment and support in the next four years alone. There will be new ships and missiles for the Royal Navy, new fighter aircraft and sensors for the RAF and a more deployed and better protected Army. The threat is global; our reach with our allies and partners is also global. At home, our mission to protect our people and enhance our economy will extend to the very fingertips of the union. Even as we continue to support British industry and security to the tune of billions of pounds, we will keep strengthening our global leadership, shaping the open international order for the better and remaining a force for good in the world.
Above all in defence, we will continue backing our people. They are not just this nation’s finest asset but the best possible ambassadors for global Britain. In the midst of Covid, our brave men and women in the Armed Forces have shown their mettle. We will do more than give them the skills they need to adapt to a new age. We will do more to look after their families. We will do more to reach out to every corner of our country and create a military that truly represents us all. Our reforms will create a bolder force for a bolder Britain; a force both resilient and ready to confront the complex challenges of an era of constant competition.
This has been a fascinating debate. I repeat my appreciation of and gratitude to noble Lords who have contributed. It has been an important opportunity for an exchange of information and views and I thank noble Lords for their participation.