25 Oct 23. Robert Courts has been elected Chair of the Defence Committee. Robert Courts has been elected Chair of the Defence Committee. The results of the election were announced in the Chamber this afternoon following a ballot of the whole House.
Also on the ballot paper was Sarah Atherton and Mark Francois.
Chair of the Defence Committee, Robert Courts MP, said: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the country and our Armed Forces at such a crucial time for our security. My thanks to all those colleagues who supported me and to Sarah Atherton – a deeply respected committee member – for a well-fought election.
“All around us, the world is becoming more challenging. As a consequence, our Forces need more support, more investment, and more capacity, not less. Under my leadership, the Committee will continue to unpick the long-term issues that affect defence. We will seek to provide solutions for these, including tirelessly making the case for more investment in our Armed Forces. We will consider, not just how to build robust supply chains and bolster our industrial base, but we will also ask how UK defence should exploit emerging technologies of the future.
“Our soldiers, sailors and airmen represent the best of our country. As Chair, I will continue to advocate for the training and equipment they need to keep our country safe. Defence is in my political DNA. As not just a former Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security, but also as an MP representing the largest base in the Royal Air Force, I have an in-depth understanding of the challenges facing our military.
“As Chair, I won’t shy away from robust scrutiny and will lead through collegiate teamwork and consensus. I highly value the contributions of all Members and look forward to working together on holding the Government to account.”
23 Oct 23. UK must work with allies to achieve the Indo-Pacific Tilt. Today the Defence Committee publishes its report “UK Defence and the Indo-Pacific”.
Strengthening defence cooperation with allies
The report welcomes the announcement of the AUKUS partnership with the US and Australia and asks the UK to reaffirm its commitment as a reliable partner to countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific through regional bodies, such as ASEAN.
It also calls for the Government to continue to strengthen UK-Japan defence cooperation and remain steadfast allies. The Committee urges the Government to plan a programme of joint exercises with the Japanese armed forces and continue collaboration on science and technology programmes as part of the Hiroshima Accord.
The UK must also be a reliable partner to India and create strategic industrial partnerships to provide greater opportunities for the UK defence industry. The report calls for the UK to support efforts by India to reduce its dependency on Russian military equipment.
Tilt to the Indo-Pacific
The report is critical of the Government’s claim that they have “delivered” the Tilt.
The Committee concludes that the UK’s regional military presence in the Indo-Pacific remains limited and calls for an injection of cash, equipment and personnel into the region – whether this is additional or repurposed from elsewhere – if the UK aspires to play any significant role there.
The report highlights that without a larger permanent presence in the Indo-Pacific region, it is unlikely that the UK would be able to make a substantial contribution to allied efforts in the event of conflict in the region.
China and Taiwan
The report concludes that a possible conflict between China and Taiwan may only be years away and would have formidable consequences across the globe. The Committee urges the Government and the Armed Forces to prepare for any potential response, co-ordinated with allies and partners, to a range of actions by China against Taiwan.
The Committee also urges the Government to carry out an assessment of China to determine whether, under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it should be labelled a threat to national and international security.
The report calls for the Government to set out a single, cross-government Indo-Pacific strategy, with the Ministry of Defence including a comprehensive defence and diplomatic response to the growing threat posed by China under the CCP.
Vice-Chair of the Defence Committee, John Spellar MP, said: “The Indo-Pacific is of major importance for the UK, but it is unstable. Maintaining stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific will prove vital for long-term international security, and the security and prosperity of the UK.
“Despite the Government’s insistence that the Indo-Pacific Tilt has been ‘delivered’, our report found that the reality falls short of the rhetoric.
“We currently have no real military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific and are unlikely to be able to contribute significantly in the event of hostilities in the region. If we are serious about building up our presence – and if we are able to do so without disrupting our commitments elsewhere – we must allocate resources to efforts in the region, alongside our allies and partners.
“China has become increasingly aggressive in its pursuit of dominance, both regionally and internationally. It appears that China is preparing to confront Taiwan. In response to this, the UK Government and Armed Forces must ensure that we are prepared to respond to a variety of potential hostilities, from ‘grey zone’ activities to outright conflict. This needs to be more than just words, and must be treated with focus and urgency.”