James Sunderland speaks in debate on the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy

James Sunderland calls on the Government to use the Integrated Review to define the UK’s strategic role in the world; with better alignment of UK foreign and defence policy, enhanced defence expeditionary capabilities and a comprehensive defence industrial strategy to support our defence manufacturing sector.


James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

It is something of an irony that the debate is about publication of the integrated review, but I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) for convening it and giving us this opportunity.

At the heart of the review is the need for the UK properly to define its strategic role in the world. What is it that we want to do? In my view, policy follows strategy, so it stands to reason that our global strategy will pave the way for the next generation of integrated foreign, development and defence policy aims to 2030 and beyond. For those in any doubt at all, defence spending is a necessary evil to keep us safe. Today we face a multitude of threats in multiple domains. Some are known to us and some are not, and we are living in an era of constant competition and persistent engagement with our foes, so we need an insurance policy that lies in having some of the most potent military forces in the world—both nuclear and conventional.

Thanks to the commitment of this Government, with an additional £16.5 billion being pumped into defence over the next four years, the MOD finds itself in the position of being able to think long term with its planning. It provides certainty, security and the confidence to make longer-term decisions. I cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the review in a few minutes, but I want to focus on a number of areas.

First, we need to better align our foreign policy with our defence policy, so let us clarify that relationship. Cutting overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% is not popular, but charity begins at home. I support the decision, albeit with two conditions: that it reverts when we can afford it; and that it comes with a requirement for a comprehensive review of how we spend the money overseas. Let us tighten the relationship between hard and soft power; embed Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and MOD advisers within foreign Governments; and make those Governments more accountable for how they spend our money. Let us make better use of military training teams to engage in upstream capacity building, particularly in countries where existential threats continue to hinder progress.

If we are serious about being a global power, perhaps even east of Suez, our forces need to be truly expeditionary. We must therefore enhance our ability to project force anywhere in the world at unlimited liability and at readiness. Our naval platforms, ro-ro ferries and long-range aircraft, such as the C-17, will need to be augmented.

We must also never take a risk with the extensive logistic capabilities that we will need to support our combat and combat support arms. The Navy will need more warships, not least to protect our carriers, as quantity does have a quality all of its own. I would also like to see a bigger surface fleet, albeit with less capable platforms, perhaps, but to enhance our global presence. We will also need to invest in our forward operating bases, not just our traditional P jobs in Cyprus, Gibraltar and Ascension, but also further east in Diego Garcia, Bahrain, Singapore and elsewhere. Defence relationships with NATO, the UN, the Five Eyes community, the five power defence arrangements, the EU and through bilateral agreements will also need to be reinforced.

Lastly, we need a comprehensive defence industrial strategy to support our nascent manufacturing capability. I continue to find it crass that we are investing huge sums in overseas military equipment when we should be protecting jobs and livelihoods at home. We have some of the best manufacturers and integrators on our shores, so let us invest in them by building British, buying British and selling British. I hope that once it is published, the integrated review will be what it needs to be.