9 February 2021
James Cleverly responds to debate on the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy

James Cleverly responds, on behalf of the Government, to a debate on the Integrated Review which will define and strengthen our position as an independent actor on the global stage and how we will back this up with action to secure our interests and defend our values.


The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (James Cleverly)

Let me first congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) on securing this debate, as well as the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar). Both have extensive interests and long-standing interest in this area. I pay tribute to the members of the House of Commons Defence Committee for their work, and I also thank the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees for their scrutiny of my Department’s work. I thank both their Chairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) and the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), for their contributions, as I do the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis).

The fact that I am joined on the Front Bench by my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Procurement—he represents Horsham, where my wife has family, as he knows—demonstrates the integrated nature of this review, as we have both a Defence Minister and a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister here. [Laughter.] It is an in-joke, Madam Deputy Speaker; he knows what I mean. Time prevents me from addressing all the points raised in this debate, but I hope that during this speech I will be able to cover most, if not all, of them. The integrated review is an ambitious and wide-reaching review, and the purpose of this integration is to examine every aspect of our international security, development and defence policy. It is my pleasure to respond to this debate on behalf of the Government.

The Government want UK foreign policy to deliver for our people and to be rooted firmly in our national interest. That is why the commitment to deliver a review of foreign, defence, security and development policy was announced in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019. As we said then, and as has been mentioned by right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East, the review is

“the most radical reassessment of our place in the world since the end of Cold War”.

When published, the review will define the Government’s ambition for the UK’s role in the world, outline how the UK will be a problem-solving, burden-sharing country, and set a strong direction for the recovery from covid-19 at home and overseas so that collectively we can build back better.

I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the Government intend to publish the review in March. [Interruption.] This year. The Government’s original intention was to publish the review in 2020. However, the House will agree that it would have been wrong to set out the Government’s long-term international vision while we tackled the early stages of a global pandemic. Providing a full response to covid-19 was and is the Government’s No. 1 focus; that is why it was right to pause the review in the spring of last year.

Work has, however, been ongoing, adapting to the ever-shifting geopolitical and geo-economic context caused by covid-19. The review has involved detailed horizon-scanning, covering trends, opportunities, risks and threats. It has involved evidence-gathering and policy analysis, and wide consultation with experts, academics and foreign partners.

The Prime Minister, supported by the National Security Council, is personally leading the review. The Foreign Secretary chaired a cross-Whitehall ministerial small group to advise the Prime Minister. Civil servants from across Whitehall have worked to ensure that the review draws on the full range of expertise and skills available to Government. This demonstrates the integrated whole-of-Government approach to this review, going further than the strategic defence and security reviews of the past. Our future strategy and approach to the challenges of the next decade will benefit from the collective might of our national security apparatus.

The Government have also looked beyond Whitehall to incorporate the expertise of the nation, speaking to key people and organisations with an interest in our nation’s security and prosperity. By reaching out in this way we have ensured that the best minds in the UK and beyond are feeding into the review’s conclusions and challenging traditional Whitehall assumptions and thinking.

The initial findings of the review are already informing our decision making. The announcements made in November’s spending review were informed by the first phase of the integrated review and set us on the right path to deliver on our visions and priorities. The Prime Minister has already announced the first conclusion: the largest increase in defence spending since the cold war, more than £24 billion over four years. This settlement is a signal of intent and heralds an era when we bolster our global influence. It ensures that our armed forces have the necessary tools and equipment to defend the UK and its people, cement our place as a leader in NATO and underpin our foreign policy and our ability to defend free and open societies.

On international development, changes to our ODA budget were driven by the economic impact of covid and are temporary. To ensure the maximum impact from our aid budget, the Foreign Secretary has set out the core principles for us to sharpen our focus this year.

The Government have signalled our intention to deepen involvement in the Indo-Pacific and have started to take steps in that direction. Last week, we submitted the notification of intent letter to begin the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership accession process.

The creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office itself was an act of integration, uniting development and diplomacy into one Department, bringing together Britain’s international efforts to have an even greater positive impact and influence on the world stage.

Let me end by saying that this is the opportunity to define and strengthen our place in the world. The integrated review will send a message about what the UK stands for as an independent actor on the global stage and how we will back this up with action to secure our interests and also defend our values.

The world has not stood still, and neither have we. The UK endures as an active global leader. In the past year alone, we have led the global efforts to deliver a vaccine, raising $8.8 billion for Gavi through our hosting of the global vaccine summit; we have demonstrated global leadership in tackling climate change, including doubling our international climate finance contribution to help millions around the world; and we have pushed back on those who would attack our values through the new bespoke immigration route for British national overseas status holders. This is global Britain.

The integrated review will build on that, setting out our vision for the next decade, based on our values and grounded in the UK national interest. We will announce the full conclusions of the integrated review in March, unleashing our independent foreign policy outside the European Union as we launch our presidencies of the G7 and COP26. 2021 will be a year of leadership for global Britain as a force for good in the world.