Dr Julian Lewis: What recent assessment has the Prime Minister made of the adequacy of the NATO recommended minimum of 2% of GDP as the basis for future UK defence expenditure?
[The Prime Minister: We assess our defence spending constantly as to whether it meets our obligations and keeps our country safe. As figures published last month show, we are meeting the 2% NATO target this year.]
Dr Lewis: As the Prime Minister and, indeed, the Chancellor know, quality is not the issue with our armed forces, but quantity is. Given that we used to spend regularly between 4% and 5% of GDP on defence when we last faced a threat on the continent and a major terrorist campaign, should we not be aiming at a 3% target, rather than the bare NATO minimum figure?
[The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend is right: we do face very severe threats in our world. The point I would make to him is that the only way to have strong defence is to have a strong economy. That is absolutely key. We made some very clear commitments about the size of our armed forces, about the successor to the Trident submarine and also about the vital equipment programme, where we have the aircraft carriers and the other equipment vital to our armed services that are coming through. Those things are only possible because we closed the deficit in our MOD and the mess that we found when we became the Government and we have a strong economy.]