DEFENCE – UK AMPHIBIOUS CAPABILITY – 21 November 2017

Dr Julian Lewis: In support of what the hon. Lady [Ruth Smeeth] just said, may I remind her that when the former Secretary of State for Defence [Sir Michael Fallon] came before the Defence Committee, he said that the reason for the review was an intensification of the threats? We would therefore expect to have more resources put into Defence, rather than fewer.

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Wayne David: I thank the Minister for giving way. She has talked about speculation, but will she confirm or deny the press reports that the new Secretary of State for Defence has asked the Treasury for more money?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Harriett Baldwin): I can confirm that there have been press reports. [Laughter.] I can also confirm that we are one of only 13 NATO countries that meet the guideline to spend 20% of our Defence budget on major equipment and research and development. I can also confirm that the Ministry of Defence will spend £178 billion on equipment and associated support between 2016 and 2026.

Dr Lewis: Will the Minister give way?

Harriett Baldwin: Members are eating into my time, but I will give way to the Chair of the Defence Committee.

Dr Lewis: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, but she does seem to have moved into discussing general expenditure issues and away from the specific topic. Does she remember writing to me on 25 January this year to say:

“There are no current plans to decommission the ships” –

that is, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark

“early, and I can reassure you that their out of service dates are 2033 and 2034 respectively ... HMS Bulwark continues to prove a vital asset to the Royal Navy ... HMS Albion ... is programmed to replace HMS Bulwark as the high-readiness ship this year”?

Does that remain the position?

Harriett Baldwin: I can indeed confirm that I not only wrote those words but recall writing them.

Dr Lewis: Does that remain the position?

Harriett Baldwin: I have already made it very clear on the record what today’s position is. [Interruption.] We can all see that the global security context is challenging. So, Members would expect us to ensure that, as we spend our growing budget, we focus expenditure ​on those capabilities that are most effective at keeping us and our allies safe, and at deterring or defeating our adversaries or potential adversaries.