Politics

Gavin Williamson Reflects On An 'Amazing Year'

The Defence Secretary also confirmed an update on the Modernising Defence Programme will be given before Christmas.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has reflected on an "amazing year" in an exclusive interview with Forces News.

When asked whether he had any highlights, Mr Williamson nominated seeing HMS Queen Elizabeth in Manhattan, visiting service personnel in Afghanistan and Somalia as particularly notable.

He also denied that Brexit was distracting his attention from defence matters.

"You have the people who are the finest people right across Government in this Department," he said.

“The Ministry of Defence, our Armed Forces are really the greatest example of what Britain wants to achieve abroad… So much about how we convey what Global Britain is about, is going to be through our Armed Forces; a presence around the world, Britain making a difference,” 

He was also keen to stress that NATO, not the European Union would remain the cornerstone of Britain’s defence relationship with Europe.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson with UK troops in Afghanistan
The Defence Secretary with UK troops in Afghanistan

The interview was recorded prior to the announcement of a no confidence motion in Mrs May’s leadership of the Conservative Party but Mr Williamson was still keen to stress his loyalty to the Prime Minister:

"We've got a Prime Minister who has a strength and a solidity that actually few other politicians have and she is going out there, is doing everything, and will continue to do everything she can do to deliver on the referendum result and she has mine, and I'm sure, all of my colleagues absolute 100% backing.”

Theresa May, husband and Gavin Williamson at Armed Forces Day in Llandudno
Gavin Williamson alongside Theresa May and her husband on Armed Forces Day 2018 (Picture: PA)

He also pledged that the Modernising Defence Programme would be brought before the House of Commons before MPs break for Christmas.

Mr Williamson said the atmosphere within the MOD had changed since he became Secretary of State, moving on from austerity towards one of increased spending and investment.

“We’re really seeing Britain invest in our defence. We need to because the world that we see today is a much more challenging and dangerous than it was just a few years ago.”

Many say the defence budget is still too small, even after a recent boost from the Chancellor at the last budget, and while Mr Williamson said every penny had to be spent “carefully”, he also said:

"I think going from 36 billion to 39 billion ain’t a bad start."