Having served as a soldier in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, I retain a strong interest in defence issues. I was recently appointed Chair of the Conservative Backbench Defence Committee.
I have always believed that you should ‘speak softly but carry a big stick’. Strong and capable Armed Forces buttress our diplomatic and other efforts, and make conflict less rather than more likely. For these reasons, I strongly support our continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent.
I have strongly opposed the cuts, particularly over the last decade, in our Armed Forces’ manpower and capabilities. The Army has borne the brunt of these, and in 2013 I tried to amend the Defence Reform Act, which was part of the Coalition’s plans to replace 20,000 Regulars with 30,000 Reservists.
These plans also involved deleting the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, despite it being a better-recruited battalion than others in the British Army, against which many ex-Fusiliers and I unsuccessfully campaigned. The Integrated Review commits the Army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic Wars, which many are now calling into question given events in Ukraine.
The ‘wars of choice’ over the last 20 years have shaped our Armed Forces to address insurgencies where we have total air supremacy, rather than traditional state-on-state full-spectrum warfare against a peer adversary. The Government raise defence spending to at least 3% of GDP, and in a sustainable way given inflation increases.
For more information on my position on defence issues, please see my 2017 report, Hard Choices: Britain’s Foreign Policy in a Dangerous World, for the Politeia think tank. I have also expanded on Ukraine and the lessons for our defence in a recent article, and the 1922 Defence Committee released its report in May 2022.