POINTS OF ORDER – DEFENCE EXPENDITURE – 4 February 2015
Dr Julian Lewis: On a Point of Order, Mr Speaker. May I inquire whether there is any way within the rules of order that I can draw attention to a possible misprint on the Order Paper to the House of Commons relating to the cross-party Early-Day Motion 757 on defence spending, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff), along with the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the right hon. Member for Coventry North-East (Bob Ainsworth) and my right hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hampshire (James Arbuthnot) and about a dozen others including me? It reads as follows:
"That this House believes that the UK faces a growing and ever more complex range of current and future threats … and supports the UK devoting at least 20% of its Gross Domestic Product to defence."
When I signed the Early-Day Motion, I was under the impression that I was supporting 2%. It is beyond even my wildest dreams to have 20%, but a figure in between would not be unacceptable.
Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his Point of Order. He inquired whether there was a mechanism within the rules of order. As he well knows, there is, and he has just used it. It was 31 years, three months ago that I first met the hon. Gentleman. All I will say about him tonight is that once a propagandist who seizes his moment, always a propagandist who seizes his moment.
Rory Stewart: Further to that Point of Order, Mr Speaker. There is a serious point underlying this matter, which is that the 2% figure is indeed what the UK Government have encouraged every other NATO country to contribute of GDP to defence. This 2% figure is essential both to UK national security and to our international reputation.
Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has reaffirmed the 2% point.
Sir Gerald Howarth rose –
Mr Speaker: If Sir Gerald Howarth really must make a Point of Order, I suppose that we must hear him.
Sir Gerald Howarth: Further to that Point of Order, Mr Speaker. May I put it that there needs to be an investigation. Clearly, the Table Office is under the impression that those right hon. and hon. Members have suggested 20%. I have to say that I could not possibly cavil at that. It seems to be the very minimum that we should be spending on defence in view of what has been suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), the Chairman of the esteemed Defence Committee. Will you, Mr Speaker, confirm with the Table Office that it has accurately recorded that which right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have tabled?
Mr Speaker: I have always known that the hon. Gentleman is no great advocate of increased public expenditure, but defence tends to be an exception. He has made his own point in his own way.
Sir Edward Leigh: On a Point of Order, Mr Speaker. You talk about the main act, but is this not an appropriate overture for the main act? After all the Scottish people are determined to stay in the Union precisely because they want to maintain Trident.
Mr Speaker: That may be so. We will leave it there. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.