Lammy: Ministers ‘dragging their feet on big decisions’ with defence policy refresh

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

David Lammy has accused ministers of “dragging their feet on the big decisions” following the publication of the government’s “refresh” of its integrated review of defence and foreign policy.

The government launched its integrated review refresh today, including announcing an additional £5bn for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the next two years “to help replenish and bolster vital ammunition stocks, modernise the UK’s nuclear enterprise and fund the next phase of the AUKUS submarine programme”.

The government said Rishi Sunak will also “set out an ambition” to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP “in the longer term”.

In a statement to MPs this afternoon, James Cleverly said the refresh shows that the UK will play a “leading role” in “upholding stability, security and the prosperity of our continent and the Euro-Atlantic” and that government investment in its Indo-Pacific strategy is “yielding significant results”.

The Foreign Secretary added: “Through these initatives and many others we have set out over the past two years, the United Kingdom will outcompete those who seek to destabilise the international order and undermine global stability.”

Responding to Cleverly’s statement, the Shadow Foreign Secretary argued that the original integrated review had some “serious shortcomings” and that, “in too many areas”, the promises set out in the review “have not matched reality” in the two years since its publication.

Lammy said today’s announcement was “welcome” but “overdue”, noting that Labour had been urging the government to revisit the review “for a year”. The Labour frontbencher told MPs: “We’re living in an era of intensifying geopolitical competition in a multipolar world.

“The interdependence of the global economy is increasingly being weaponised, and there’s been a blurring of the distinction between foreign and domestic policy. This is a challenging moment for our security and that of our allies and for our place in the world.”

On defence spending, Lammy welcomed funds for AUKUS and Ukraine’s replenishment but added that the refresh “does not answer growing questions concerning capability gaps that weaken our national defence and undermine the UK’s NATO contribution”.

He told MPs: “The [National Audit Office] recently said that the MoD cannot afford to develop all the capabilities set out in the 2021 integrated review. How does today’s announcement ensure the same doesn’t happen now the new 2023 integrated review has been published?

“The reality is that the government are dragging their feet on the big decisions. The long-term goal to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence sounds, I’m afraid, a little hollow promise. There’s no plan and there’s no timetable.”

“We welcome this refresh, but we will continue to provide robust scrutiny where necessary to ensure that our country’s foreign policy and defence systems are secure for the next generation,” Lammy said.

The original integrated review was published in March 2021 and set out the government’s national security and international policy objectives to 2025.

The government said the refresh was commissioned “to respond to emerging geopolitical threats, from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine to China’s economic coercion and increased competition between states”.

Measures set out include a new £1bn integrated security fund to deliver on the “core objectives” of the review, including in economic and cybersecurity and counter-terrorism, establishing an economic deterrence initiative to strengthen sanctions enforcement and an additional £20m of funding for the BBC World Service.

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