Politics

Tobias Ellwood: Next Defence Review Chance To Press 'Reset Button'

Downing Street says the integrated review will be government-wide, looking at the "totality of opportunities and challenges" facing the UK.

The Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, says the Ministry of Defence (MOD) should look at the forthcoming defence review as a means of improvement.

The Chairman of the Defence Select Committee has told Forces News the upcoming defence review provides the Ministry of Defence (MOD) with the chance to "press that reset button".

Tobias Ellwood MP described the review, described by the Government as the deepest review of British foreign, defence and security policy in 30 years, as "long overdue".

"This is our opportunity to press that reset button, understand what role we want to play on the international stage and then, I hope, invest in our defence posture so we can make our mark," he said as plans for the integrated review were launched.

Downing Street says the review will be government-wide, going beyond the traditional strategic defence and security review (SDSR) by looking at the "totality of opportunities and challenges" facing the UK.

It will look at defence, foreign and security policy, threats of the next decade, relationships with allies and changing strategy on the international stage.

"We've actually had six reviews since 2010, and for different reasons, they didn’t work. They were too close to a spending review at the same time, or they were curtailed by timing," Mr Ellwood said.

"This is a huge endeavour by the Government and we do have to get it right.

"Understanding what our defence structure is at the moment, understanding the threats - then asking that very difficult question: what do we want to achieve on the international stage?"

An F-35 fighter jet sits on board aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (Picture: MOD).

The Defence Select Committee chair added that Britain must assess its "reliable alliances" and "expectant foes in the future".

What’s going to be our competition? And then working out what we need to do to - use that phrase - 'level up'," he said.

"To make sure that our Army, Air Force and Navy, but also the wider areas of cyber and space security, are also considered too."

Procurement is expected to be one of the focal points of the review, while Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's chief adviser, has previously been critical of the MOD's procurement process, once describing the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier programme as "a farce". 

Mr Ellwood agreed that there is room for improvement.

"I think there are some savings to be made and it’s important that the MOD puts its hand up and says 'we can do things better'," the former defence minister said.

"Take the Type 31 procurement process for this new frigate that we’re doing - it’s not been well handled.

Watch: The Prime Minister promises the 'deepest' defence review since the Cold War, while speaking to the House of Commons earlier this month.

"So, talk of us being able to have a better industrial policy, of creating things which we can actually sell, which people actually want to actually buy elsewhere, is important for us to look at."

"This isn’t all about asking the Treasury for more money, it’s also about looking in the mirror and saying, ‘how can we do things better?'"

The Government said the review will aim to create a more coherent and strategic approach to UK overseas activity while continuing to commit 2% of GDP to defence and 0.7% on international aid.

But the MP for Bournemouth East said more must be spent to meet the demands of future warfare.

"I don’t believe, on current requirements, that we can actually honour that 2% itself," Mr Ellwood said.

A helicopter from 824 Naval Air Squadron hovers above HMS Queen Elizabeth (Picture: Royal Navy LPhot Belinda Alker).

"It’s not allowing us to meet our operational commitments right now.

"The character of conflict is changing - if we want to be that tier one, day one capability, then we have to invest more.

"That means looking more towards 3% than 2% [of GDP spent on defence] by the end of this parliament."

Departments across Whitehall will contribute to the review, including the MOD, while decisions will be made by the National Security Council.

The findings are expected by the end of the year, in line with the Comprehensive Spending Review, although it will take several years to implement the decisions made.

Downing Street says the review will be government-wide, going beyond the traditional strategic defence and security review (SDSR) by looking at the "totality of opportunities and challenges" facing the UK.

Cover image: A gunner from 63 Squadron RAF Regiment takes aim on Barry Buddon training range in Scotland (Picture: RAF).