The chair of parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee has voiced concerns over the Integrated Defence and Security Review
By Alistair Bunkall – Defence and Security Correspondent
Sky News Online – 14 September 2020
A review of British defence and foreign policy is "flawed" and should be postponed until the full effects on the COVID-19 pandemic are known, a senior MP has warned. The upcoming Integrated Defence and Security Review is set to define Britain's future defence and security strategy, and determine the shape and look of British Armed Forces for years to come.
Dr Julian Lewis, the chair of parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), has submitted evidence to the review expressing his concern, suggesting that under the current circumstances, it "smacks of desperation, immaturity or ulterior motives":
"To conduct such a review in the midst of a pandemic, which has dislocated our economy and shut down our society, is reckless and irrational. By offering detailed prescriptions on how to 'define the government's vision for the UK's role in the world over the next decade' at such a hideously inappropriate time, one simply provides a degree of 'cover' for a flawed endeavour."
Dr Lewis, who submitted his views in a personal capacity, was ejected from the Conservative Party when he beat Downing Street's preferred candidate, Chris Grayling, to become chair of the ISC. He is also a former chairman of the Defence Select Committee so his views will carry some weight in the security community.
The review is due to be published in November. Because of increasing tensions with China and Russia, and the rapid development of unconventional cyber and space capabilities, it is widely considered the most important review of its kind since the Cold War.
Over the weekend the Defence Secretary was forced to quash rumours that the British Army's tanks will be scrapped to save money, although Ben Wallace admitted tough decisions will need to be taken to ensure Britain's Armed Forces are modernised and positioned to fight future conflicts.
Without specifically referencing the mothballing of tanks, Dr Lewis took aim at Downing Street with a thinly veiled jab at the prime minister's senior adviser Dominic Cummings:
"If the Cabinet Office carries on regardless, one can only conclude that it is following another agenda in order to arrive at a predetermined outcome. Could that be, just conceivably, that even more conventional military assets should be slashed and scrapped than after the 2010 Review, so that inexperienced but opinionated advisers can promote their one-dimensional doctrine of '21st Century warfare'? That is the delusion which claims that new threats posed by cyber-warfare have superseded – rather than supplemented – the continuing threats from our opponents' Armed Forces."