New Forest East


[The Secretary of State for Defence (Gavin Williamson): As we see it, 2% is very much a floor: a base on which to build. We can be very proud to be one of the few nations in NATO that meet the 2% commitment, and we can be exceptionally proud of the work done under the leadership of my right hon. ​Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon) – and, of course, that of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor before he moved to the Foreign Office – in establishing that all NATO members needed to spend more.]

Dr Julian Lewis: There are various metrics by which our peacetime defence investment can be measured, one of which is how it compares with spending on other high-expenditure departmental matters such as health, education and welfare. Does my right hon. Friend recall that as recently as the 1980s, we were spending roughly the same on defence as we were spending on health and education? I am not saying we should repeat that, but given that we are spending two and half times as much on education as we spend on defence, and four times as much on health – and that was before the recent rise – does he not believe that defence has fallen a bit too far down the scale of our national priorities?

[Gavin Williamson: I could see the excitement on the Chancellor’s face as my right hon. Friend outlined his proposals. I was not sure whether it constituted agreement that we should be setting those targets, but I am sure that we shall have to negotiate on the issue over a long period.

We must ensure that NATO is adapting – and continues to adapt – to the times, and also to the threats that it faces. Since its creation, we have always seen Britain leading from the front. Not only do we assign our independent nuclear deterrent to the defence of the alliance, as we have for the past 56 years, but our service personnel and defence civilians are on the ground in Eastern Europe at this very moment, providing a deterrence against Russian aggression. ...]

[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]