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Press Cycle 25.2 - SDR
What do you think about the Strategic Defence Review?

Closes 13th November at 23:59
"As Secretary of State for Defense, and as Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Harold Saxon oversaw cuts in military spending that undermined our readiness. He is desperately trying to undo the damage he himself inflicted. Better late than never, I suppose. But Labour does not need any comments from him about ensuring our country's safety. More than any one else, he worked to undermine it just a few years ago. All too characteristically, he tries to evade responsibility by shameful accusations against the Opposition "not caring" about our country's safety, and outright lying in the House of Commons about the Shadow Cabinet's commitment to Trident. Labour is committed to a strong defense and will avoid the irresponsible cuts that Conservative Governments have made. Labour will also ensure that increases are fiscally sustainable and responsible. Finally, Labour will act prudently in foreign relations, not nearly provoking wars for no good reason as we saw in the Falklands not long ago. Strong, responsible, prudent: that is Labour's commitment to defense.
Max Power, Labour
MP for Oxford East (1987-present)
Shadow Foreign Secretary (1994-present)
Westminster - Conservative backbencher William Harris praised the Government's release of the Strategic Defence Review ("SDR"), calling it "a foundation for a strong British armed services for decades to come." The long-awaited SDR envisions a British military capable of responding to two major international crises at once. Government's plans call for three new aircraft carriers, hundreds of armoured units, and increases to Britain air and sea forces.

"Without a doubt our nation, like all of our allies, including the United States, realized a significant windfall from the peace dividend after the fall of the Soviet Union," explained Harris. "And our defence posture reflected that reality while still keeping some tools in the defence toolbox. However, we have to prepare not for the situation 5 years ago or even now, but the challenges of five to fifteen years from now. Failed states and rogue regimes, humanitarian crises, and the necessity to respond quickly and project power throughout the globe are just some of the issues we will likely face in the years to come."

Harris also tore into Labour's shadow foreign secretary's critique of the SDR, saying his criticisms were disingenuous. "For a party that mentioned 'defence' once in its 1992 manifesto and offered no plans other than a single vague promise about ensuring defence capacity, and who repeatedly objected to levels of military spending in the 1980s and early 1990s, I find it remarkable that they are now trying to claim to be the party Britons can trust with our safety and security."

"The bottom line is that the Government has given our nation a plan for a 21st Century military. Even Labour doesn't disagree with the details - Mr. Power is simply upset it is a Tory Government proposing the changes," said Roberson, referring to the lack of criticism, so far, about the actual terms of the SDR by the Opposition. "Since Lady Thatcher took the helm of our nation, Britons have seen a military capable of respond to international challenges. That trend continued with Mr. Major and it continues with the Prime Minister today. While the components, size, and make-up of our armed forces may have changed over time, this Government will keep its sacred duty to protect our nation. Britons can trust the Government to deliver on defence and this SDR, because there the Conservative Party has a proven track record on protecting our nation and its interests, unlike our friends on the opposition benches."

Rt. Hon. William A. Harris
MP for Birmingham Hall Green
Conservative and Unionist Party
SOS for Defence 
SOS for Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Office
Opposition criticism of the Strategic Defense Review is completely misplaced.

The charge of running down the armed forces is an illusion. Certainly, there was a change in capacity and spending as the threat from the Cold War ended. That was to be expected. To have kept our forces at the same level of readiness when a major global threat had receded would have been unnecessarily wasteful.

It is also the case that over the past ten many of the factors that govern what is needed from our defensive forces have changed. 

For one the global threat has shifted. Smaller insurgent states are now more of an issue; peacekeeping in areas of difficulty presents a more pressing need, and there is a rising threat from rogue organizations that operate outside the boundaries of national control. Those are the new realities and any responsible government needs to respond to them.

Another critical change is that over the past ten years, equipment and resources have aged and have become dated. Technology and capability that was once considered cutting edge have been blunted. Our armed forces have good equipment, but they deserve the best.

For those reasons, and more, the government has undertaken a comprehensive review to understand the defense capability required. This has been undertaken prudently and objectively.

In short, this is not some ‘quick fix’. It is about equipping our military with the capacity and capability required to keep the United Kingdom and our allies safe for many years into the future.

That is a noble and important aim. And it is not one that should be subject to political games and petty point-scoring.
Mrs. Margo Leadbetter
Home Secretary and Secretary of State for DEFRA
Conservative MP for Surbiton
I am sorry that Margo Leadbetter does not want to hear any criticism of how this Government has handled matters of defense. But, that is rather how it works in a Parliamentary democracy: the Government cannot simply create its own reality and expect the Opposition to do nothing but applaud. She would have us believe that only now is the Government cognizant of dated equipment and resources. This is nonsense. That is a continuing challenge. Equipment did not magically main its cutting edge for ten years and only now, at the moment, become in need of replacement.

And, we are to believe that only now is the Government aware that "smaller insurgent states" and "rogue organizations" are an issue, although those have been pressing matters for many years. For all of this, they want to increase planned military spending by 3.5 billion annually. But, according to them, there was no shortfall before, or at least, they were not responsible for any shortfall, even though they ran the Government during the time that spending was billions less than it should have been. So, while they insist that only an increase of 3.5 billion annually will keep our nation and our people safe, they accept no responsibility for cutting defense to billions below where it should be.

Just as they starved defense previously, now they are rushing to increase it ... just as they suddenly discovered, after 15 years in power, how underfunded the NHS and other departments were. It's like they were entirely ignorant of their own actions over 15 years, and innocently walked into a situation of underfunded departments that could not possibly be their fault, even though they will also boast about how they have held power for 16 years because they are so wonderful. Perhaps there are two Conservative Parties that are unaware of each other? Yesterday, there was the Conservative Party of cuts that ruled for most of the past 16 years; today there is the Conservative Party of huge spending increases. One does wonder which Conservative Party will appear tomorrow. Tomorrow's Conservative Party will have to find a way to come up with another 3.5 billion annually. Will it be through raising taxes? They are rather good at that. Perhaps it will be through borrowing? They are good at that, too. Spending cuts in other departments, perhaps? Well, they used to be good at that. Perhaps they will discover that some departments are wastefully funded and can be cut. Anything to get through the day, I suppose.

Notwithstanding Conservative lies and hysteria, Labour has a long-term plan for increasing spending on our military that is sustainable, a plan that fits our prudent budgetary priorities, a plan that includes our aircraft carriers and maintaining our nuclear deterrent.
Max Power, Labour
MP for Oxford East (1987-present)
Shadow Foreign Secretary (1994-present)
Perhaps the Shadow Foreign Secretary would be so kind as to show me where I said I did not want to hear criticism. My not agreeing with the opposition’s assessment and my challenging of it does not equate to not listening nor does it represent denying their right to query and probe.

I have listened with care and attention, but I simply do not concur with what I hear.

The problem with the opposition argument is that it is based on fallacies.

Fallacy one is that this review of future requirements represents neglect in the past. It does not. Current equipment and capabilities are largely based on past reviews. The circumstances those reviews explored have now changed and so have the requirements. That is precisely why the government commissioned a new review: to ensure that our future defense resources are adequate to meet future needs. Many years from now, the current review will also be redundant and there will be a new one. That is how the process works.

Fallacy two is the assumption that, somehow, a major review of this kind should be a permanent process. While there is some truth in the fact that defense resourcing does flex from year to year, the purchase of major equipment and capability is capitalized and utilized over many years. We do not buy new ships every year as an average consumer might buy a new pair of shoes or a new sweater. Such a suggestion is simplistic and childish. 

Fallacy three is the denial by the Foreign Secretary that the nature of the threat to peace has changed. It is patently obvious that we have moved from a single major threat during the days of the Cold War to a much more complex geopolitical environment where threats are multiple and various. That requires a new defense and diplomacy strategy. Again, that is one of the reasons why the government undertook a review.

As for the Foreign Secretary’s other comments: this government will take no lessons on funding from an opposition that in its latest budget proposals failed to build new major hospitals and failed to staff fire stations properly. Such neglect shows a complete lack of attention to detail and a complete failure to meet the needs of the people of this country.
Mrs. Margo Leadbetter
Home Secretary and Secretary of State for DEFRA
Conservative MP for Surbiton

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