HAYES IN THE HOUSE: Timely, unprecedented and welcome investment
The freedoms that grace our nation depend on those willing to defend them with courage through their service and sacrifice. Soldiers, sailors and airmen from every corner of our Kingdom leave homes and comforts; families and friends to protect British interests in storms of all kinds, across vast oceans and distant landscapes. They deserve our thanks and need our support.
Which is why the Government’s decision to invest an additional £24.1billion in our armed forces over the next four years – the biggest spending increase since the premiership of Margaret Thatcher – is so welcome. It represents a once in a generation modernisation programme designed to ensure a versatile, mobile and resilient fighting force adequately equipped to defend our Kingdom, support international allies and protect the world’s most vulnerable people.
This hugely significant increase comes in addition to the Ministry of Defence’s £188.4 billion investment in equipment and support, including £46.7 billion in submarines, £24 billion in information systems and £19.5 billion in land equipment. Alongside this, the Chancellor’s commitment to invest an additional £100 million in research and development – centred on cutting-edge defence technology in aviation and space propulsion – used to prepare for and respond to emerging and evolving challenges. Taken together, these proposals will maintain our status as Europe’s biggest defence spender, with a budget second only to the United States within NATO.
As a former Security Minister and current member of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, I understand the changing nature of threats to our collective prosperity and national security.
Of course, our military should continue to emphasise its core priorities, including the capability to maintain a continuous at-sea nuclear deterrence, a carrier force that can strike anywhere around the globe and the armed forces necessary to protect the north Atlantic and Europe.
However, we must also acknowledge that hostile forces now seek to exploit Western reliance on ‘tech’ and the energy infrastructure which powers it.
With this in mind, the Prime Minister has made clear that much of the extra spending will be invested in the creation of a National Cyber Force – a group of computer experts able to conduct defensive and offensive operations; a Space Command facility aimed at launching our own rockets from 2022; and a new agency dedicated to artificial intelligence.
Moreover, as military technologies have a vast array of civilian applications, a new era of economic opportunity will be enlivened, with a renaissance in British shipbuilding creating 40,000 highly skilled jobs in advanced manufacturing – all this helping to level up our country by building back better.
Our departure from the EU presents a fresh chance to affirm our status as the foremost naval power in Europe, building alliances with old and new friends by extending British influence as a force for good in the world. Our Prime Minister’s determination to do just that was exemplified when he said: “This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life.”
Timely, unprecedented and welcome investment is action which speaks even louder than those fine words.