Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Strategic Defence and Security Review Debate

There are 9 key points:
• National security is the primary responsibility of government, and the Coalition’s decision to conduct a strategic defence review is welcome, a commitment that Labour had also made in our 2010 manifesto. Labour will work responsibly and in co-operation with the government on all areas concerning national security and the welfare of our armed forces.

• The Government’s number one security and defence concern is the war in Afghanistan. The Government has the Labour Party’s full support in pursuing military operations complemented by a political strategy for reconciliation and lasting peace. We will work constructively where possible and scrutinise where necessary. We welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring the SDSR will not impact on frontline operations in Afghanistan. We pay tribute to all men and women serving overseas.

• Today power is enhanced by our integration with global networks, political, social and economic, but our openness increases the threats we face. The threats are more complex, more difficult to map and harder to repel. Unfortunately, according to RUSI 68% of the defence and security community felt the SDSR was a ‘lost opportunity for a more radical reassessment of the UK’s role in the world’. This Security Review has not clearly defined Britain’s place in the world, nor altered the balance of Britain’s Armed Forces to meet existing and emerging threats.

• For all the talk for deficits, the Government must cut the strategic deficit at the heart of the Government’s plans. The NSS marks a potentially significant shift in strategy with an emphasis on mitigating risk, the ability to deter and the attributes of ‘soft power’. The Defence Review, however, contains no such emphasis on cultural or diplomatic power and interprets Britain’s ability to ‘punch above its weight’ in conventional military terms.

• There are strategic contradictions between the Security Strategy and the Defence Review. The Strategy says it will prioritise flexibility and adaptability across the Armed Forces, but the Review surrenders those in the Navy by cutting frigates and our amphibious capability. The Government said they wanted to take tough, long-term decisions, but in the Review have put off Trident to appease their coalition partners. In the Strategy the Government named their top threats to the UK to be terrorism and natural disasters, but the military role in tackling these within the UK is not mentioned in the Review.

• The Government have avoided tough decisions. Rather than get to grips with procurement, a review has been set up. Rather than come up with a strategy for integrating our Reserve forces, a review has been set up. Rather than set out their efficiency savings in detail, a review has been set up. Force generation? Counter terrorism? Preparedness for civil emergencies? All subject to review.

• The Defence Review is based on cash-driven, back-to-front decision-making. The defence review became a spending review, cutting what could be cut to meet fiscal priorities, not what could be done to reshape Britain’s armed forces around strategic security goals. In our February Green Paper, the Labour party was clear that the Review should be conducted on a non-partisan basis, ensuring consultation with the Department’s own personnel, Opposition, the Armed Forces community, Parliament, the defence industry and defence academia. This did not happen.
• The announcements in the SDSR set out a litany of broken promises to our Armed forces by the Conservatives, emphasising the opportunism of Cameron and Fox’s opposition. We will hold the Government to account for the promises they made in opposition, from a bigger army to increased numbers of helicopters in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

• Labour has a proud record of achievement in the area of defence. The Defence budget under Labour increased by 10% in real terms since 1997, modernising our Armed Forces. We published Britain’s first National Security Strategy, and delivered the first cross governmental approach to Forces Welfare and strengthened medical care for those serving in Afghanistan.

1. Main announcements

Royal Navy

• cut personnel by around 5,000 to a total of c. 30,000
• cut HMS Ark Royal immediately
• cut either the helicopter landing ship HMS Ocean or HMS Illustrious
• cut four frigates, leaving 19 frigates and destroyers
• cut a Bay Class amphibious support ship


• cut personnel decreased by around 7,000 to c. 95,000
• reduce by one the number of deployable brigades
• cut the number of Challenger 2 tanks by around 40 per cent and our heavy artillery by around 35 per cent
• 30,000 is the new limit for a one-off intervention (Iraq was 45,000 troops)

Royal Air Force

• cut personnel by around 5,000 to c. 33,000
• withdraw the Sentinel surveillance once it is no longer required to support operations in Afghanistan
• remove Harrier from service, which will mean a gap for carrier fast jet operations until the Joint Strike Fighter comes into operation in 2919
• not bring into service the Nimrod MRA4


• 42,000 frontline and civilian jobs will go.
2. Key issues

Carriers and capability

• The Strategic Defence and Security Review announced the immediate decommissioning of HMS Ark Royal and the deletion of the Harriers. The loss of HMS Ark and the Harriers mean that Britain will not have the capability to launch fighter jets at sea until 2019. Planes flown from Britain’s aircraft carriers have been used in almost every intervention in modern times, and for humanitarian missions. They allow us to protect our interests and project our power across the world, wherever we need to deploy troops. The current aircraft carriers need to be replaced, but the proposal to operate the new carriers but be unable to fly a single fixed-wing aircraft off them for ten years is absurd.

• Liam Fox has previously said it is “inconceivable” that a Conservative government would scrap or alter the carriers.

“The Tory Party also supports the new supercarriers which are vital in the new world order. Having the ability to park a large aircraft carrier next to a country with which you are having problems has major military and diplomatic advantages.
It is not just the military aspect that matters but also the diplomatic clout such vessels give you.
“I think it is inconceivable that an incoming Tory government would scrap or alter these vital two defence projects which are so important to Barrow, Furness and the South and West Cumbria and their highly skilled and vital workforce.”
Liam Fox, North West Evening Mail, 1 October 2008

“And we are now hearing rumours of further cuts and potential delays to the carrier programme. Make no mistake; any further cuts to our front line resources will have an impact on Britain's national security capability.”
Liam Fox, The Daily Telegraph, 6 December 2008


• The SDSR announced an agreement to delay a replacement for the Trident deterrent by at least a year, which they claim will save £750m between 2011-15.

• The Tories championed tough decision-making, but biggest decision of all has been postponed.

• This decision has been taken to appease Lib Dem. Defence of the coalition has taken priority over defence of the nation. The President of the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Ros Scott, has written:

“Let us be clear, this is a significant victory for Liberal Democrat campaigners, and a fantastic example of what our Ministers can and do achieve in government…Today is yet another day that we can all feel hugely proud to be a party of government, delivering key Liberal Democrat priorities.”

• Nick Harvey during Liberal Democrat Party conference suggested that the decision to renew Britain’s nuclear deterrent, Trident, may not be taken in this Parliament and will be a ‘headache’ for Labour, showing that the government are willing to play politics with our National Security.

“The point I want to clarify today is that main gate is the point at which that really becomes an issue. That’s the point at which the contracts are signed, it’s the point of no return, it’s the point at which the metal starts being bashed and the money starts being spent. That is currently scheduled for the very end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015. If it were to be delayed until just after May 2015, the election, that is of no great financial significance, it is of no great military significance, it is of no great industrial significance but believe me it is of profound political significance. The Conservatives know that they are not going to be able to look to the Liberal Democrats to help them get that through parliament, so the issue will be a hot potato for Labour. On the eve of the next general election, determined to portray the Liberal Democrats as crypto-Tories who’ve propped them up for five years, Labour will have the headache of deciding whether they are going to ride to the rescue of the Conservative Party on Trident. The Liberal Democrats are not going to change our mind. As for Labour, watch this space. This story ain’t over yet, it’s going to run and run.”
Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat Party Conference 2010


• Liam Fox, in his letter to the Prime Minister less than a month ago, indicated the vital importance of the Nimrod MR4 and the deletion of it increasing the risk to our deterrent. The Conservatives now need to answer how the nuclear deterrent and overseas territories will be protected with the cancellation of Nimrod.

“Deletion of the Nimrod MR4 will limit our ability to deploy maritime forces rapidly into high-threat areas, increase the risk to the Deterrent, compromise maritime CT (counter terrorism), remove long range search and rescue, and delete one element of our Falklands reinforcement plan.”
Liam Fox, Leaked letter to David Cameron to the Telegraph, 28 September 2010

£38bn shortfall

• The Government’s explanation for the cuts in the Review has consistently been that the legacy of the Labour Government forced their hands, absolving them of responsibility:

“This Government have inherited a £38 billion black hole in our future defence plans”
David Cameron, SDSR Statement, Hansard, Vol. 516, No. 54, Col. 797

• This is, however, untrue. The report (Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2009, p.22) from which this figure has been taken actually said that the size of the gap in the projected procurement budget over ten years in £6bn. The only way one can find the £38bn figure is if you assume that there will be no increase to Britain’s defence budget until 2021. That was never going to be the case under a Labour government. There was a 10% rise in the defence budget since 1997 and defence expenditure was consistently above 2.5% of GDP – incidentally, one of the highest levels in the world.

• The £38bn is a figure has been created to the Government cover to make fast savings from the defence budget as part of their overall strategy to cut the deficit early and quickly.

3. A flawed Process

• The Strategic Defence and Security review has been a flawed process that has drawn criticism from the within the Armed Forces and across industry and academia.
• Criticisms have been raised about the lack of consultation, the pace of the process and that the consultation has been Treasury led and a cost cutting exercise rather than focused on UK Security need.
• In Liam Fox’ own words, the process is ”looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR and more like a ’super CSR’.“
“Frankly this process is looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR (Strategic Defence and Strategy Review) and more like a “super CSR” (Comprehensive Spending Review). If it continues on its current trajectory it is likely to have grave political consequences for us, destroying much of the reputation and capital you, and we, have built up in recent years.”
Liam Fox, Leaked letter to David Cameron to the Telegraph, 28 September 2010

• Rushed decisions without adequate consultation risk leaving the UK without the necessary capabilities for the future. Our national security is too important for the wrong decisions to be made.

Armed Forces
“For two reasons, it is impossible for the strategic defence and security review to be other than an exercise in cuts. First, there is not time for it to be anything else before October 20. Secondly, Whitehall lacks the right ways of thinking in order to analyse national security safely. ... We see no evidence that [the Review] is addressing broader national security. “
Professor Gwyn Prins London School of Economics Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham Former Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) Canon Professor Nigel Biggar Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, University of Oxford Admiral of the Fleet Sir Julian Oswald Former First Sea Lord
Letter to the Daily Telegraph, 5 October 2010

“I think it's been rushed. I do worry that a so-called strategic defence and security review is nothing of the sort. ‘All the rumours that I hear suggest it's a cost-cutting exercise. What you need is a rigorous foreign policy review, roots up, define our national interest, decide what advances it, what threatens it, what our priorities should be [and] once you've established that everything else follows."
Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, BBC Online, 5 September 2010,

Defence select committee “An SDSR that takes no account of what the defence industries can provide in this country, in terms of skills and capacity, and which does not explore fully what sovereign industrial capabilities are required, would be a folly. “
Defence Select Committee; The Strategic Defence and Security Review, Page 15, 15 September 2010

“However, we have serious concerns that the defence industry has only been formally consulted in very few areas. There is a very real danger that the examination of which capabilities are required for the UK’s security and defence needs is disconnected from the examination of how, when and at what cost those capabilities can be provided and sustained, and the vital skills base retained. Treating defence industrial capacity and capability as an after-thought risks reducing the robustness of what the SDSR will propose.”
Defence Select Committee; The Strategic Defence and Security Review, Page 16, 17, 15 September 2010
Industry “A decision to move Trident renewal to the defence budget without commensurate transfer of funding calls into question the integrity of the SDSR process and complicates the future funding of our conventional capabilities and our nation’s ability to support its allies. It is vital that all this confusion is cleared up as soon as possible.”
Ian Godden, Chairman of ADS 25 August 2010, Letter to David Cameron

The Prime Minister, Cabinet and the National Security Council (NSC) bear direct responsibility for deciding Britain’s global role, identifying key interests, assessing the major threats to the UK and deciding what military posture and capabilities are needed. Surely none of them really believes that this important strategic process could be condensed into just 4½ months simply to meet a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) deadline? ‘Decide in haste, repent at leisure’ comes to mind. The last time a Conservative government held a hasty and ill-considered Defence Review it precipitated an invasion of the Falklands, cost 6 ships, 34 aircraft, 258 lives and £3bn – and then had to be rewritten! Most experts consider that the current Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is also being rushed through with undue haste. Capital items take up to 15 years to design and build, but have an effective life of 30 years or more. Hasty cutting of major programmes will create gaps in our capabilities that are irreversible. Surely, we must beware of acting before thinking – ‘READY, FIRE, AIM’?

Academics “Whenever you talk to someone in the MoD, or to the military, or to defence industry you get the same picture. The strategic direction in the middle is not happening.”
Professor Michael Clarke, The Times, 22 September 2010

The first is that it promises, like its predecessors, to be a cosmetic exercise. Around the SDSR, the Conservative-Liberal coalition is erecting a host of discursive ploys to convince the public that this will be a truly 'new approach' to defence policy thinking. It has coupled this with a policy architecture drawn straight from the US, such as a National Security Council, a National Security Strategy (NSS) and the idea of quadrennial defence reviews. These features give us cause to be suspicious about any potential for radicalism, over and above the fact that it will be Conservative ministers who will likely hold the whip-hand in the review discussions.
Oliver Daddow Oliver Daddow, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics, History and International Relations, Loughborough University RUSI, 19 August 2010,

Liam Fox “Frankly this process is looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR (Strategic Defence and Strategy Review) and more like a “super CSR” (Comprehensive Spending Review).
Liam Fox, Leaked letter to David Cameron to the Telegraph, 28 September 2010

If it continues on its current trajectory it is likely to have grave political consequences for us, destroying much of the reputation and capital you, and we, have built up in recent years. Party, media, military and the international reaction will be brutal if we do not recognise the dangers and continue to push for such draconian cuts at a time when we are at war.
Liam Fox, Leaked letter to David Cameron to the Telegraph, 28 September 2010

Our decisions today will limit severely the options available to this and all future governments. The range of operations that we can do today we will simply not be able to do in the future. In particular, it would place at risk:
The reduction in overall surface ship numbers means we will be unable to undertake all the standing commitments (providing a permanent Royal Navy presence in priority regions) we do today. Assuming a presence in UK waters, the Falklands and in support of the deterrent is essential we would have to withdraw our presence in, for example, the Indian Ocean, Caribbean or Gulf.
Deletion of the amphibious shipping (landing docks, helicopter platforms and auxiliaries) will mean that a landed force will be significantly smaller and lighter and deployed without protective vehicles or organic fire. We could not carry out the Sierra Leone operation again.
Deletion of the Nimrod MR4 will limit our ability to deploy maritime forces rapidly into high-threat areas, increase the risk to the Deterrent, compromise maritime CT (counter terrorism), remove long range search and rescue, and delete one element of our Falklands reinforcement plan.
Some risk to civil contingent capability, including but not limited to foot and mouth, fire-fighting strikes, fuel shortages, flu pandemics, Mumbai style attacks and the 2012 Summer Olympics
Liam Fox, Leaked letter to David Cameron to the Telegraph, 28 September 2010

Conservative MPs “The coalition Government are in a very difficult position; we recognise that. If we delay the SDSR and allow more time for wider conversation and consultation to take place we will end up making strategic defence and security decisions based on a monetary bottom line already allocated by the Treasury rather than on the actual threat. On the other hand, if we delay the CSR until the SDSR has taken place, we will hold all other Government Departments hostage and delay the reduction of the deficit. But we are where we are.”
James Arbuthnot, Chair Defence Select Committee, Hansard 16 September 2010

In the Select Committee report, we express strong criticisms of the process the Government are now pursuing. We welcome the creation of the National Security Council and the expansion of the review to include security issues because it is increasingly impossible and unwise to try to draw the distinctions between defence and security that might have been appropriate in previous times. The world has become smaller. The threats we face are trans-national and the solutions must be comprehensive and cross-governmental. However, we now have a review that is being conducted by a body-the National Security Council-that until a few months ago did not exist, and at extraordinary speed. Our major concern, therefore, is lack of time. In practice, the timetable has been about five months.
James Arbuthnot, Chair Defence Select Committee, Hansard 16 September 2010

Am I right in thinking that somewhere in the report, the Committee comments on the unfortunate consequences that might arise if defence estates were closed down because of the review without proper thought being given to the effects on the local economy and community, such as those that would occur if RAF Lyneham in my constituency were closed?
James Gray, Hansard 16 September 2010
4. Broken promises: then and now


• In opposition: The Conservatives consistently called for a larger Army, calling specifically for an increase to the Army by three battalions.

“In the real world the only logical conclusion you can come to is that the army is already too small. Let me tell you that the Conservative Party will ensure that whenever the election comes the need for a bigger army, returning to proper, planned, establishment levels will be a key battleground. But if we are to deal with overstretch and the breaking of the harmony guidelines we will have to go further. We want to see the restoration of the three infantry battalions cut by labour as soon as possible once we have seen the MoD's books and identified the savings to pay for them. A bigger Army for a safer Britain.”
Liam Fox, Speech to Conservative Party Conference, 2 October 2007

“But there is something else that we need to understand and that is that we will never be able to really improve the welfare of our forces unless we also look at expanding our Army. I am delighted that Liam has made his priority restoring those cuts to the Army, the three battalions that should never have been abolished by this Government.”
David Cameron, Speech to Conservative Party Conference, 3 October 2007

"Put simply, we need to have a larger army and we need more infantry. It's as simple as that," he says unequivocally. "It is absolutely unacceptable to send our forces into battle without giving them the right equipment for the job."
Liam Fox, The Daily Telegraph, 12 July 2008

• In Government: The army will be reduced by around 7,000


• In opposition: Liam Fox called for the ‘earliest possible increase in the number of helicopters, armoured vehicles and other key battle enablers’.

“The Government must always ensure that our troops are properly equipped for the crucial operations in which they are involved. That includes providing the earliest possible increase in the number of helicopters, armoured vehicles and other key battlefield enablers.”
Liam Fox, Hansard, 15 October 2009, column 479

"We must make sure our soldiers have the tools they need - more counter-IED capability, more helicopters, more surveillance drones, more heavily armoured vehicles, and more transport aircraft. We must support their families here in Britain, and give every assistance to the injured.
"And to do all these things we need one thing more than anything else - leadership. That's something that's been desperately lacking. We've had four defence secretaries in as many years; the last one was part-time and the current one ranks 21st out of 23 in the Cabinet. That's not a great starting point when we're fighting a conflict thousands of miles away. This is a new kind of war, it's a necessary war, and we need strong leadership and relentless focus to explain that to people in Britain.
"The lessons of 1939 show that Britain can turn things around in war. Six years of effort later, we won the war. I'm confident we can see success in Afghanistan. I've been out there and seen what a tremendous job our servicemen and women do. It's time they got the right kind of support from the Government at home."
David Cameron Blue Blog, 6 September 2009

• In Government: Failure to go ahead with the 22 Chinooks announced by Labour last year

Royal Navy

• In opposition: Liam Fox stated that any cuts to the Royal Navy would be ‘a betrayal of our heritage and downright irresponsible in a dangerous age’.
“The fact that our navy is able to accomplish so much and be held in such high regard even after a decade of Labour neglect is testament to the professional ethos of every sailor, marine and submariner in the Royal Navy. To think that Britain can manage its current maritime responsibilities with anything less than it has now is not only unrealistic but a betrayal of our heritage and downright irresponsible in a dangerous age.”
Liam Fox, The Daily Telegraph, 6 December 2008

• In Government: The surface fleet reduced to from 23 to 19.