DEFENCE – UK DEFENCE BUDGET – 27 November 2017

Dr Julian Lewis rose

[Emily Thornberry (Shadow Foreign Secretary): I will give way to the Chair of the Defence Committee.]

​Dr Lewis: In the past, it has been possible to make common cause between the Government and Labour Benches on the need to secure the future of the nuclear deterrent. Can we now make common cause on a recognition that the bare minimum of 2% of GDP is simply not enough, bearing in mind the fact that for several years after the cold war, in 1995-96, after we had taken the peace dividend, we were still spending 3%, not 2%, of GDP on defence?

[Emily Thornberry: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that question and I will come on to answer it if he will give me a moment.

Beside the specific proposals, there is a wider point of principle on defence spending, which takes us back to the question of falling growth. We on the Labour Benches have long argued that the way the Government meet the target to spend 2% of GDP on defence is wholly inadequate. Defence spending should mean spending on defence, not on Ministry of Defence pensions, as the right hon. Gentleman and the Select Committee have pointed out, or on any other items that the Government simply lump in to meet the target. We need to ensure, at a time when growth is being downgraded – we are dangerously close to a period of falling GDP – that the Government do not use that as an excuse to cut the armed forces budget, in effect treating the 2% figure not as a target but as a cap. If anyone thinks that is a fictional risk, let us take a look at the budget for international development. ... ]