The world is a dangerous place. Russia is in dispute with the European Union to our east. The Middle East is gripped by a series of civil wars and by a more general regional conflict between Sunni and Shia forces. Islamic extremism and terrorism stalks many streets around the world, with enclaves of terrorist rule in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.
In the last Parliament I supported the UK maintaining its commitment to spend 2% of national income on defence, as we promised NATO we will do. This commitment enabled orders to be placed for new ships, planes and army equipment, where real increases in the budget have been promised for future years. I also supported the maintenance of a nuclear deterrent, which entails building new submarines to preserve our continuous at sea capability which is central to the style of nuclear deterrent we own. I did not support all of the planned missions for our forces, disagreeing with intervention in Syria and speaking out for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
For the next five years I will want the government to keep to the NATO pledge. We need to spend more on ships and personnel for the navy, more on maintaining a slimmed down army following recent cuts, and more on airforce capability. As the economy grows, so if we keep to the 2% target so we can spend more on our forces. I will remain sceptical of the wisdom and need for us to send troops into difficult Middle Eastern civil wars.
I also think ordering four new submarines for our deterrent is essential. The Liberal democrats hope there is some cheaper means by owning cruise missiles or fewer boats. Experts agree there is no cheaper effective substitute for our current deterrent. Nor does Labour’s suggestion that we only need three submarines pass muster. Repairs, refits, resting crews all requires four boats to ensure and guarantee continuous at sea capability. The extra cost of the fourth boat is not great over the lifetime of deterrent, given the extra costs of adaptation and repair if relying on three boats. At least all three main parties of the last Parliament agree that the UK does need a deterrent, in an age when many more states and political movements gain access to nuclear weapons.
This is not a time to relax our guard or walk away from our NATO commitment.
Published and promoted by Thomas Puddy for John Redwood, both at 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU