Labour will review the threats the UK faces, assessing the Government’s defence policy against recent events and expert opinion and seeking to define a long term vision for UK defence policy.
We are determined that the limited consultation that came to characterise the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review is not repeated.
Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, in remarks at the launch of the review, is expected to say:
“The Arab Spring is the tip of the iceberg of the change we are likely to experience over the next decade.
“Britain needs a defence policy which can keep up. It must be flexible and agile, with new and wide-ranging capabilities. It must prioritise coalition-building, be attuned to the threats and trends of the future and co-ordinate defence with development and diplomacy.
“The Government’s rushed review has been driven by savings not strategy. The Government did not match ends with means, precipitated strategic shrinkage by stealth and has left us with dangerous capability gaps.
“David Cameron has shown an ambivalence towards defence policy which lies in stark contrast to the commitment shown by previous leaders, including Tony Blair or even Margaret Thatcher.
“We need a new defence strategy consistent with financial circumstances but also with strategic context. Labour is committed to being fiscally responsible, true to our own progressive principles and bold on defence reform.”
On coalition-building, he is expected to say:
“The US’s strategic reorientation makes their priorities more numerous at a time of more limited resource and the impact on how we work together must be considered. It’s untenable that the US President announces that this is a moment of transition and European nations act as if this is a period of status quo: European nations have to get serious. We must do more together to preserve our reach, and co-operation such as the UK-France agreement must become the norm not the exception.
“Time has come for a conversation on how European NATO nations co-ordinate spending reductions and changes to force structures. We need to explore how a 'Coalition of Cuts' can help us end the practice of fighting conflicts together but preparing for them individually”.
On bioterrorism he is expected to say:
“While the security environment of the 20th century was dominated by physics the 21st may see biology centre stage. Bioterrorism both exposes significant weaknesses in our security architecture and is a threat which could cause mass suffering”.
On Afghanistan he is expected to say:
“We have moved from a conditions-led to calendar driven approach and without a game plan for a long-term, representative political settlement the nation’s fragile fortunes could be reversed.
“Just because the Government don’t talk about this – the nation’s biggest defence priority – the challenge does not become any less pressing. The Government has to work at maintaining the consensus with the public.”