CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – SDR – 3 November 2008

[Mr Adam Holloway: Whether he plans to conduct a Strategic Defence Review.

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Bob Ainsworth): There are currently no plans for a new Defence Review. Defence policy and commitments are kept under continuous review.

Mr Holloway: Does the Minister accept that there have been significant changes to the threats facing this country since 1998 and 2002? What are the threats, and what is he doing about meeting them?

Mr Ainsworth: The Strategic Defence Review – the New Chapter – and the National Security Strategy revalidated the assessment of the challenges that we face, and said that the UK needed to maintain expeditionary, balanced and flexible armed forces. We continue to work against that baseline; nothing has changed fundamentally with regard to the threat or to the structure of the forces needed to meet it.]

Dr Julian Lewis: What has changed, particularly since the Strategic Defence Review in 1998, is that there has been a massive increase in operational commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given that fact, we are still spending the same percentage of Gross Domestic Product now as we were 10 years ago, even if we include the Treasury Reserve commitment to the campaigns. Is it not unavoidable for any Government to have to assess whether to spend more to meet the extra commitments, whether to reduce the commitments, or whether to do something in between? Any Government would need a Strategic Defence Review. Why are this Government not going to hold one?

[Mr Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends – and, indeed, Liberal Democrat Members – are very quick to say that they want a Strategic Defence Review. What they will not say – and repeatedly will not say – is whether they will spend more, less or the same on defence. In my opinion, Conservative Members' call for a Strategic Defence Review is a meaningless alternative for a policy. They need to tell us and to be straight with us about whether they would spend more on defence. Their leader has said that he will not, and he will not even commit to our current levels of spending.]