Ben Wallace MP: We will mobilise, modernise and transform the Armed Forces to tackle new far-ranging threats

Much of the work of the Armed Forces is unseen, but we are always ready to defend the United Kingdom, writes Ben Wallace MP

Ben Wallace MP

Somewhere, right now, deep under the ocean is a United Kingdom submarine. Patrolling the depths. Silent, unseen. Day in, day out, the boat provides the UK’s nuclear deterrent and in doing so guarantees our nation’s integrity. Meanwhile, onboard the British-designed and made Trident submarine, Royal Navy sailors perform their duties with diligence and determination. Last week, on the eastern reaches of Ukraine I observed Russian separatist trenches first hand. But our friends in Ukraine are not alone. Our Army is there too. Training and advising. Making sure Russian efforts to undermine the international rule of law that we all live by are unsuccessful.

First Duty

At home, our troops are ready and able to help respond to terrorism and natural disasters, as well as standing ready in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Our Armed Forces are always ready to contribute to the first duty of any government – defence.

Much of what we do is unseen. Over the horizon or under the sea. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It does. In the 21st century, securing the nation is no easy task. The threats ranged against us come from far and wide. From terrorists, aggressor states, natural phenomena. We face threats in different domains – land, sea, air, space, cyber. Day and night. Winter and summer. Our adversaries are constantly looking for new means of attack. In the 21 years since I left the Army, warfighting has changed beyond recognition. Drones, the internet, satellites and AI all pose deadly new challenges. 

Determined 

As defence secretary, I am determined to meet these 21st-century challenges by delivering reform. It is vital the UK delivers an up-to-date defence capability to ensure we not only defend ourselves but play a leading role in shaping global security while supporting our Allies and protecting the international rules-based system. We need to mobilise, modernise and transform. To achieve that aim I am lucky I have some of the finest minds, innovators, industry and armed forces in the world to work with. The excellent Modernising Defence programme announced in 2018 by Gavin Williamson must be more than just a document, it must guide our investments and leaders.

Recognised

I was delighted in September when the prime minister and chancellor recognised the importance of defence in the new government. The record £2.2bn settlement means we can start by investing in the most important thing of all – our people. I want better accommodation, childcare and career pathways for our Armed Forces. I want to ensure that we don’t overstretch and hollow out our equipment. And I want to empower new methods and technology to defend cyberspace and real space.

Embrace

After Brexit, Britain will want to spread her wings to new markets and new territories. We will want to strengthen our international links. For example, the Five Eyes nations already trust and share the same values. We’ve also recently signed a statement of intent with Italy, who we will now be working with alongside Sweden, on the Tempest and our Future Combat Air Strategy to maintain our air superiority. In defence, we must embrace our friends even more. Helping each other – from the Arctic to the Pacific.

Modern and Potent

The UK defence industry supports 260,000 jobs across our four nations. Whether it’s shipbuilding in Scotland, Merseyside and Plymouth; aerospace in Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire and Filton; armoured vehicles in Wales; or missiles in Northern Ireland. Across the UK we make, mend and service cutting-edge equipment for our Armed Forces. Not only do our skills mean we export nearly £20bn a year in aerospace and security products, but they give our armed forces access to the best, our citizens’ irreplaceable skills, and bring in tax receipts for our Treasury to spend on our wider public services.

Defence must be Global Britain’s ‘tip of the spear’ and ‘spine of our nation.’ It must be modern and potent. It must be ready and able. I am determined to make sure it will be.

Ben Wallace is Conservative MP for Wyre and Preston North and defence secretary