I don’t suppose that reading pages of Hansard is anybody’s favourite pastime, but now might be a good time to give it a try.
On Tuesday 26th February the House of Commons held a debate on Defence Spending. You can find it in Hansard here:
I will do no more than tempt you with parts of three contributions from MPs. Whether or not you consider this debate to be a positive one for our Armed Forces, there are some encouraging signs. When it comes to the point when the House has to make a decision it might make a difference if our membership has made it clear to their MPs where their priorities should be.
Quotes from the debate:
Mrs Madeleine Moon
One of the problems with being in a NATO alliance—I know this as a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly—is that there is nowhere to hide from our allies, and allies are noticing that Britain is withdrawing from exercises. They are concerned because they have seen Britain as an ally on which they could rely and depend. Does the Hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most worrying things is the lack of credibility of our armed forces—valiant though they may be—because of the cuts we face in expenditure?
Dr Julian Lewis
I am rather worried if our top security professionals do not feel even a twinge of doubt about the level of priority that we are giving to defence. When sometimes people stress the point, which is not without merit, that when we talk about spending 2% or 3% of GDP we are talking about inputs, not outputs in terms of capability, I say to them that of course it is true that we could spend a huge amount of money on defence, but if we spent it on all the wrong things, it would not do us a lot of good. Conversely, though, if we are simply not spending enough on defence, nothing that we can do will give us the outputs we need.
We have to ask what we mean when we say that Defence is the first duty of Government. If it is the first duty of Government, it is a duty that is more important than any other duty, because if we fail to discharge it everything else is put in jeopardy.
Sir Edward Leigh
Everybody has spoken with one voice. This has not been a party-political debate in that sense. Whether from New Forest East, Gedling, Moray, Aberdeenshire, Glasgow, Aldershot or Rayleigh, everyone has made the point— and the Minister has just echoed it, one of the first times that I have heard it from the Front Bench—that spending 2% on defence is simply not enough.
In the spirit of consensus, I echo what the Opposition spokesman said—that we cannot get security on the cheap. I also echo what the Hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) said, and I tell the Secretary of State to go back to the Treasury and No. 10 Downing Street and say that every single Member has made this point. He can go back and say, “This is not like the 1930s. This is not like the Fulham by-election when we were worried about public opinion on disarmament. We have the support of the whole House.” He should go back, get the money and make sure that we defend our country.