EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Modernising the British Armed Forces
DATE: 1 pm – 2 pm: May 21st, 2019
VENUE: Committee Room 12, House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA United Kingdom
SPEAKERS: Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP and James Rogers, Director of the Global Britain Programme at the Henry Jackson Society
EVENT CHAIR: Dr. Alan Mendoza
FULL NAME OF FIRST SPEAKER: Dr. Alan Mendoza
FULL NAME OF SECOND SPEAKER: Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP
FULL NAME OF THIRD SPEAKER: James Rogers
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Right, good afternoon everyone. Welcome to this Henry Jackson Society session on modernising defence and on looking at strategic priorities for UK defence policy. I am delighted that our speaker today is one of our Ministers in Defence. It is an unusual process to have the Minister decide to address us on this subject, but I think that you can be safely assured that with Tobias Ellwood you will get a firm, fair, and very, very precise account on what we ought to be doing. It may well, though I shouldn’t prejudice your comments, be UK government policy that he is discussing that will be enacted. So, it is a good opportunity to hear directly from that. Very brief introduction to Tobias; he is the member of Parliament for Bournemouth East. He had a distinguished military career before he actually took office in 2005 in Bournemouth East. He has been a regular on foreign and defence issues for the past few years; in particular, in 2014 he took his first ministerial office in the Foreign Office concerning the Middle East. So, a nice quiet patch for you there (laughs) and of course it is somewhat a rarity to see somebody who knows something about the subject being appointed to the department that they’re actually currently serving in. So, delighted to have such an expert before us today. Following Tobias’ comments, James Rogers, who runs the Global Britain programme at the Henry Jackson Society, has been responsible for a number of our key products including the Geopolitical Audit, will respond to what Tobias has said. So, please do give our distinguished ministerial guest a very warm welcome.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Well, I’m just going to pop that down there. Thank you very much indeed for that very kind introduction. I’m just scanning around the room here and I see some very clever people in the room, which suggests that I might be in the wrong room but I am really pleased to be here. I was in those seats in the back row when I was a wee nipper, so look where you might end up. I say that just as a kind way of saying that the work that the Henry Jackson Society does is actually quite critical in allowing government, well the parties, to help shape policy, to keep us on our toes, to recognise some of the wider issues that are kicking around, and to test us; to test what our policies are. So, very grateful that we have events like this and you invite people like myself to turn up. When I was on one of the back seats there, listening to others stand here and talk about policy, I actually worked for Tom King and very kindly is now very Lord King. Tom King was the former Defence Secretary, so pleased to see you here sir. Slightly worrying to be now listened to when I used to work for you, make the tea for you, many, many years ago. But, a real pleasure to speak and advance some of the thoughts that the new Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, espoused at her first major speech, the Sea Power Conference, only a few days ago. I am very moved because what’s on my mind at the moment is a major event that I attended just last week, which was the 75th anniversary of the Battle for Monte Cassino. This is always overshadowed by the D-Day landings, which we are about to recognise, but those historians amongst you will be aware that after we did pretty well in Africa there was the desired charge up the soft underbelly of Italy. That was very much Churchill’s determination, but it was no walk in the park. In fact, everyone turned up in their desert fatigues, including Montgomery and so forth, and ran into what is called the Winter Lines, which were a series of major defences that Hitler had put to prevent the 8th and 15th armies under Montgomery and Mark Clark from making progress. At the apex of that was this beautiful monastery built in the 7th century, which ended up being bombed from the air because it was so pivotal in giving direction for the German artillery as we tried to make advances. To go to the cemetery, which is now the base of the abbey itself, and to see the sacrifices that were made. It was in many ways a flawed campaign, but was learnt in combined warfare, what was learnt in the use of intelligence, what was learnt about following the orders of seniors, indeed applied to the Anzio harbour amphibious landing, which again mistakes were made there. They were applied only a few months later to the D-Day landings themselves, and ultimately tying up the German effort in Italy. Of course, this denied those troops moving to the Western Front, the new front, as it would open up a near month later. But in speaking to the veterans, and I’m really very, very proud to be the Veterans Minister and talk to them on a regular basis and support them, they speak about a time that Britain was great. A time that Britain led, a time that Britain looked at possible solutions, a time when we were expected across the world to, not necessarily have all the answers, but certainly provide solutions as to how we might move forward. Our special relationship with the United States was just developing through Field Marshal Sir John Dill and that bond has developed ever since. It wasn’t of course just Britain that was there, there were 12 other nations. In fact, it was the Polish who finally took the abbey itself. But, it’s cemented, I think, in our DNA after the First World War as well of course, this sense of duty that we have to look after our interests beyond our shores and to defend our values beyond our shores. This makes me reflect on today, as we have our heads down with Brexit distractions. We seem to be more risk-averse, perhaps because of Afghanistan and Iraq and the financial crises as well. And yet, the world is changing so fundamentally around us. That perhaps is my biggest message, and I am pleased to see that Penny Mordaunt, the Defence Secretary, is also saying this as well; we must strengthen our hard power, we must increase defence spending, we must ask ourselves what role do we actually want to play and with that will there come a cost? That’s why it’s important for us to have a greater debate with the nation as to what role exactly that is. That’s the question I pose, because I have a concern that there is a naivety, a collective naivety by our nation, on two accounts. Firstly, is the actual threat that is coming over the horizon: the changing character of war. Secondly, what exactly are our current capabilities? I will develop those as I speak. I think the first thing is really just to explain how that character of war is changing, because from where I sit the world is actually more dangerous since the time, or the beginning, of the Cold War. That’s quite a statement to make, but it’s not because it’s coming from a single adversary but simply because of the diversity, the complexity, of the threats that we now face. We need to diversify our capabilities as well if we want to continue in that same spirit that I saw reflected at Monte Cassino and no doubt that we will see again in Normandy as well. Now, just take some of the big building blocks of the threats that we face. We know extremism continues, we pat ourselves on the back because of Iraq and Afghanistan but if you read any Iraqi newspaper, get a translation of those, you’ll see that there are IEDs, suicide bombs, every single day in Baghdad and elsewhere. We don’t see them on our headlines because it’s not the scale that we’re used to. Nevertheless, the threat remains. There are 10,000 ISIS fighters still kicking around and there’s another 20,000 that are simply just dispersed: foreign fighters gone back to where they come from. They’ll be moving to different parts of the world; they’ll be going to Somalia, to Al-Shabaab, they’ll be going to Boko Haram in Nigeria, they’ll be going over to join the Khorasan group towards Afghanistan or supporting the Taliban’s efforts as well. Extremism is not going to go away until we actually look at what drives it, what drives the extremism? That’s the absence of governance and the absence of security but also the false belief in a very peaceful religion. So, these are wider, bigger challenges but that’s exactly what Britain could be doing; it’s finding some of those solutions or working with those countries to make them more stable, otherwise the problem just disperses. The second challenge of course is resurgent nations, Russia and China for example. Doing things in a different way, we have an acute threat from Russia in its expansion, its provocation, and what’s going on but we have a more chronic challenge of China. Now, China is very, very, interesting in how it’s advancing because on one side there are business people, quite rightly, saying, “We need to embrace China, we need to include them, we need to have them on board”. On the other side, there’s another school of thought which says quite the opposite, “They’re aggressors, they’re using their Confucius programmes to actually indoctrinate people, etc.”. For example, what they’re doing in Africa in their trade mechanisms and so forth. Sri Lanka is the most recent example where they built a port, a naval port, but the financing was such that Sri Lanka couldn’t pay for it. So now, it has been handed back to the Chinese. Now, they are doing this subtlety across the world. The port of Piraeus in Athens, who owns that? It’s owned by the Chinese; they own most of the ports in Greece now. There is nothing illegal about this at all, I’ll make this very, very clear, but we must ask ourselves what is the long-term strategy of China? So, all this discussion about Huawei I firmly understand because ultimately security is so important, and as we become ever more reliant on data then absolutely we should have faith in our own security structures. But, the bigger question is actually to do with China’s growing place in the world. President Xi in our lifetimes will become more powerful than Chairman Mao. It will become economically more powerful than the United States and also militarily more powerful than the United States. We need to have a grown-up conversation, we need to allow them to join the international top table in a way that they actually recognise and agree to. That is the critical piece, because they were not involved in the post-war rulings that were put together. The Bretton Woods organisations that were formed, they had no say in the international rule spaced order that was determined after the Second World War. In fact, they fight against it and they don’t agree with it. But, the parameters that those organisations that were created then are now out of date, they no longer apply in a modern context and need to be updated. When it comes to cybersecurity, except from China, I personally feel Western cyber weapons systems will become more dangerous than atomic weapons and I’ll explain that. With atomic weapons we know who is in the atomic weapon club. They get checked, mostly. We have a cultural discussion about when and where they should be used, or the fact that we don’t want them to be used, and we have treaties. We have made efforts to actually reduce the stockpiles of nuclear weapons systems. Now, transfer that across to the cyber world. Do we have any control or understanding as to which states have cyber weapons systems or not? We don’t, it’s all clandestine. Do we even know when these weapons systems are actually used or not? We get an idea because you read in the papers, but actually we don’t. We could be hit by something, example being Instagram. If you’re on Instagram, there was a breach in that security only the last couple of days. There’s been breaches to these very same places of Parliament, NHS and so forth. Can we put our finger on who exactly it was that did these attacks? We can and we try to, but it’s all a bit vague. There’s no rules, there’s no organisation. We can’t go to somewhere and say, “They attacked us and therefore this is the just punishment that we should retaliate with”. A great example of this is North Korea. There was that slightly crazy movie, I can’t remember the actor that was in it, but he portrayed the North Korean president – anybody help me out with this one?
Audience Member: Seth Rogen
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Seth – there we go. Seth –
Audience Member: Rogen
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Rogen, okay. It wasn’t a great movie, but he mocked the North Korean president. North Korea’s response was to target the Sony offices in Los Angeles. They caused £400 million of damage over a long period of time. They tucked in, got to know all the computing systems, waited their time, and then caused all the machines to break down. Now, had that been a military attack, had that been a physical attack on (inaudible), had it been bombed, the United States would have then said, “That’s an attack which I can recognise”. Article 5 would click in and so forth, and there would be a response. Do any of us here know exactly how America retaliated? We don’t, and we don’t because there are no rules. There’s no UN organisation you can go to and say, “They just attacked me”. More worryingly than atomic weapons, this is why this is dangerous, is that you don’t have to be a nation-state to have this capability. You simply need a laptop and a lot of coffee to drink in order to keep you hacking away until eventually you can cause problems. That’s where the character of war conflict is actually changing because if you refer to the thinker Sun Tzu, the art of war is to affect your enemy without resorting to fight. Now, if somebody can tap into our traffic light systems in the city of London causing chaos there, that’s going to economically hit us and cause the pain to set us back. Likewise, if our nuclear power stations suddenly for some reason all clicked off or even changing our medical records in the NHS, these are all simple ways that can affect us and our ability to run. They are affecting our way of life, which is ultimately what the extension of military into the world of politics is all about. I ask ourselves if we are ready for that as a nation? Firstly, to defend our own values, our own standards, our own beliefs, and our own way of life. Then the next step towards helping others, who are less capable, to step up and help them as we did 75 years ago. That is the dilemma that we currently face and this is the changing world that we have. We are sitting here on the precipice of fundamental change in the way our lives operate such as with the advance of 5G, the use of data, millions of machines talking to each other, etc. My grandchildren will not need a driver’s licence. They will simply have an app, press a button, and a driverless car will turn up. That’s the way we’re going to; this is the world that we’re going to be so heavily reliant on such as how we move, how we talk to each other, and how we do business. This is because of data, and data will replace terrain as the prize to own and interfere with. That is what we need to do to wake up if we still want to be that Day 1, Tier 1 capability. But, it’s more than that. Post-Brexit we need to think about how we’re actually going to trade. We need to think about who we’re going to do business with and what values are we going to then uphold. So, the shipping lanes that we need to do business with, the areas we need to do business with, because at the moment those very areas that we think and shout out in the Parliament the whole time, “Let’s reach out to our Commonwealth friends”. Well I can probably name you any African country that we can possibly do business with where China is already there. Russia is probably there already. They’re clever about it, they don’t just go in there to do business and chop trees down and dig for oil. They actually go up and start helping to train the presidential guard. Now, why is that clever? If you’re training the presidential guard, if you are providing security for the president’s inner court, you then have access to the very people that hang around the court and of course then can influence what they’re thinking as well. The world is changing very, very fast and I’m really concerned that we are actually going to be left behind unless we start to invest, unless we start to better coordinate the Rolls Royce departments that we have to be more proactive on making our mark across the world. We are too slow in stepping forward. That does not always mean that we do the heavy lifting, but what it means is that we have an honest conversation with the general public about the state of our armed forces today. This has to be where we go forward. So often I hear potholes, it rings with me and you mention that in the chamber, money is provided. I don’t know where it comes from, but enough people are shouting out about potholes that somehow it resonates upward. From local authorities all the way up you get the Chancellor mentioning the actual issue, that tactical micro issue in his budget statement. We need to make more noise about our actual capabilities and about the actual threats coming over the horizon. We pat ourselves on the back that we have two wonderful new aircraft carriers, but if you keep the budget suppressed by building two aircraft carriers and you don’t increase it to make it understand that, then it will affect the rest of the surface fee and that’s exactly what’s happened. Our fast jets, fantastic. F-35s coming online, Typhoons as well. But go back to (inaudible) in the Gulf War. We had 36 fast jet squadrons and today we have six. We have Tempest coming on the line, that’s fantastic but the scale of what we’re doing is minimalist compared to what we were capable of before. Back in the 80s, MOD spending was on a par with Health and Education. Ever since the end of the Cold War, every single year it has slid back and back and back. You come to, let’s say, the Army as well. Our tank, our main battle tank, is 20 years old. Now, the French and the Russians have upgraded theirs two or three times in that same space. Our Warrior is even older. Now, our armed forces are aware of this, our adversaries are aware of this, and the only people we kid when all we do is talk about the fantastic bits of kit that are coming online is the general public. They’re the very people we need to convince, to say, “If you want to pay for potholes, fine, but also support more funds for our armed forces”. That leads me to recruitment and retention. Now, Mark Lancaster is doing an excellent job in helping meet the recruitment numbers. The actual, what’s called, the initial support, in other words, wanting to indicate that you might want to sign up is increasing. These are those showing the desire to take a look at it. But, we need to transfer that into actual applications and that again is happening as well. So, Army, Air Force, and Navy; those numbers are up. Where we’re suffering is retention, we’re not keeping people. That’s because we’re building good accommodation but not fast enough. We’re returning people back from Germany but we’re not building the kit, the actual housing that they need fast enough as well. So again, we look to the Treasury to recognise that bigger question that Penny Mordaunt spoke about in asking ourselves what role do we actually want to play. If we aspire to play that role on the international stage, if we want to show that leadership that we’ve done 75 years ago and indeed in the First World War as well a hundred years ago, then absolutely we need to pay for it and that requires us to have the support of the British nation. That’s exactly what I’ll be fighting for. Thank you very much indeed.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Thank you Tobias, I think we heard you loud and clear on that score. James, would you like to respond?
James Rogers: Yes, thank you. That was a very interesting and significant intervention I think, and I agree with almost every word of it. The one thing which I want to add, that I hope will supplement what Tobias has already said, is, well two things. Firstly, I think we need to understand fully what our new opponents are seeking to achieve. In that context, I think they are seeking to diversify across the board and they understand increasingly that they are engaged in a form of geopolitical confrontation with us and ideological struggle. I think we haven’t fully understood the implications of this and what it means for us as a country, or our allies, or our rules-based system that we’ve played a disproportionate role in helping to construct, or even the very essence of our values and our democracy and things along those lines. What I think that they’re trying to do is two-fold; there are two different components to this. That is to dislocate certain elements of the rule-based system. Firstly, by either replacing it regionally or globally with something else. We saw the Soviet Union and the Third Reich seeking to do that in the past. Also, in a subtler way, to simply dislocate it and let it fall to pieces. We’ve seen to some extent Russia doing this to Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe with forms of information warfare. we haven’t fully understood this and the way it’s also beginning to come into our own country. this is where i get quite concerned because there’s been a lot of discussion recently about confronting this problem within our own political domain. Of course, there is a dimension where we have to do this but to my mind the only way that we can actually succeed along these lines is if we actually take this confrontation back to them. We can’t wait here within our domestic space; we have to wait within their domestic spaces. that will rewire the means to reach them in an increasingly sophisticated way. The one thing that the UK is, is relatively small. However, the one thing that UK has been able to do in the past is to pack a formidable punch across a number of different domains. This is because we sought to confront our opponents asymmetrically, i.e. to confront them in ways which they’re weak. I think that Tobias has done a great job in explaining that cyberspace is going to become increasingly important, but I think that other areas are going to become important too. This extends to firstly a traditional context, to the extent that those kinds of countries that we are beginning to confront are building their traditional capabilities and the means to expand them beyond their own homelands, and secondly to additional spaces, such as, “space up there”, but more importantly the information space which is becoming increasingly global and interconnected because of the advent of social media and other forms of information technology. I think what this means is that we need to diversify our understanding of defence to encapsulate these different domains and to understand the way in which they supplement the existing domains we’ve been fighting in. Even to some extent, just look in the past to see examples of where a similar transformation has taken place. So what does this mean very broadly? I think it means that we need to increase the amount of money that we invest; not spend, but invest, in our military capabilities which are extended in scope. Also, to understand to no small extent that this is not necessarily about increasing defence spending but rather about normalising it; to bring it back to historically normal levels, which will allow us to take on the competitors that seek to undermine us and values and structures that we have constructed and believe in. On top of that, I think we have a big role in the coming years to empower our allies, both traditional in a European context and also in a context of exploiting and working with new allies around the world that will help us engage in the new zones of confrontation.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Thank you, anything to respond?
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: No, that’s very good.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, good, right. We have a worrying degree of, sort-of, I suppose, harmony of thought here on the panel. I’m hoping there might be some dissenting voices out there – ah I see a member who wishes to go first. Yes?
First Question: I’m not sure I can be dissenting, (inaudible), the question –
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Be difficult then.
First Question: What?
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Be difficult.
First Question: I’m always difficult (inaudible). (Inaudible), about the change in the threat (inaudible), and all that. (Inaudible), perfectly sensibly and all that’s quite correct. However, the obvious solution to all this was to do something about the main battle tank, which is now 20 years out-of-date, and secure more Treasury funding for traditional defence mechanisms. (Inaudible), what kind of cyber threat you describe. So surely, your problem and your solution are actually out of sync.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Okay, I am sorry that you drew that conclusion. To make it very, very clear, which I thought I’d done but I’m happy to underline it, there is a myriad of threats out there and we have to ask ourselves: what role do we play on the international stage? I used the bank, and I can give you 30 other examples, of where we’re failing to invest. The public probably think all is okay. I was not saying we get new tanks and our cybersecurity will be sorted, so please don’t make that assumption.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Right, can we give maybe a name to the affiliations that we have. I’ll take a few questions at once, starting here.
Second Question: My name is Leslie (inaudible), one of my roles is Deputy Lieutenant for the Borough of Tower Hamlets. I was very pleased to be able to get the Army presentation team (inaudible) in the borough for the first time ever. I was amazed to find that there are 200 different occupations that we can do in the Army, and I think getting more people to know about the Army, join the Army, (inaudible) in every form they can will serve a purpose for retainment.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Just going to take a couple questions.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Yeah, yeah, I’m going to take a few. Yes, the lady over there and then you. Yes?
Third Question: (Inaudible) from the Daily Mail. Tobias, would you enter the race for Prime Minister and if so, what would you increase the defence budget by?
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, and I am going to take the liberty of asking what you would want to increase the defence budget by, even if you say no to the first part of that question. And here?
Fourth Question: Thank you very much. Hugh Grant, society member and former law enforcement intelligence analyst of transnational crime and (inaudible). You just can’t look at criminality (inaudible), without (inaudible) military, military industrial complex. My question is, given the fact that you’re an ex-Foreign Office man and we’ve never got a Defence Secretary who’s (inaudible) ex-military. What are the opportunities for greater synergy, at least on information warfare and (inaudible), and I suspect a lot. I will just say the remark about presidential guards, even if you said nothing else, I am really (inaudible), there’s so much in that short paragraph. Thank you very much.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Firstly, three excellent questions. Firstly, on the exposure. Our armed forces are shrinking; we know that from the numbers. We’re actually haemorrhaging around 2,000 every single year net. We need to change that, we need to have a conversation with the nation to say, “It’s good to be in the armed forces”. I’m concerned that people have got this perception, this myth, that if you join the armed forces somehow you’ll be affected by mental health, you might consider taking your life, or consider taking drugs and so forth. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, with you serve your armed forces not only does Britain benefit from that but you as an individual benefit because you are less likely to be affected by those things than your civilian peers. If you are affected, we need to make sure that help’s there and that’s part of the work that I do as part of our mental health strategy. So, I am really pleased that you’re doing these outward engagements, also because of the transferable skills. Anybody that joins our armed forces today; not only are they going to go to places they never thought existed and learn things about themselves they didn’t realise they could do, but they’re also going to serve their nation and make their Mum and Dad so proud when they march off that parade square for the very, very first time. Ultimately, they’re going to pick up skill sets which will be transferable into civilian industries. Grit, tenacity, determination, leadership, and teamwork. Surely, any business employer would want to have those on board. However, if you’ve got this idea because you’ve been watching Homeland or Bodyguard that somehow they might be broken, then that’s the bit of myth we have to fix. So, I am really pleased, thank you for doing that. Right, to the question. No, I am not standing. Absolutely not, I made it clear on the weekend. I do not have the experience and I do not have the rank to stand as leader. I wish some of my colleagues with humility would take the post a little bit more seriously. This is not a reality TV show. The ambition is good, it allows us to elevate ourselves and reach higher levels, but ambition on its own is purely selfish and trying to promote the individual. Leadership is the combination of ambition and vision. Getting other people to believe, to motivate other people to join you in your vision, to support your vision, to advance your vision, that is what leadership is all about. How does it look to a nation when we’ve got the biggest issue there, Brexit, and yet we’ve got so many – what is it up to 20, 25? You’re probably keeping count. Or, people thinking of toying or denying being firm with the answer to say, “No, I am not going to stand”. I’d have more respect for those who confirm that they rule themselves out, rather than playing with the media who love these questions as you’ve illustrated here today, no offence. But actually, Brexit is the one issue that dominates. You actually take away Brexit from our party, and I digress slightly, you’ve actually got a country whose economy is better than Japan and Germany’s, whose inflation is under control and meeting our targets, with wages beating inflation, that has got better green credentials than any others in the G20, investing money in the NHS, improving schools and so forth. All these things are fantastic. The deficit? Down from £150 billion to less than £30 billion. But, all that disappears when suddenly you put Brexit back on the table. We can’t do anything until we solve Brexit and all this talk about leadership contentions just shows us being a little bit self-indulgent and a little bit too parochial. I think we need – yes, we will have an exciting leadership campaign, which we must have to reinvigorate our party in order to show that we can look beyond our base to win the next general election. The time will come for that, I’m sure, quite soon but until it does, let’s take the office very seriously, let’s back this Prime Minister, let’s get Brexit across the line, and then we can move forward. FCO, DIT, and MOD: this is something I’ve written about. These are great Rolls-Royce departments, absolutely brilliant, but they do work somewhat separately from each other. I think that – sorry who raised the question? – the fact that you’ve got people coming with experience from others, well, it should be that we go to someone like Kenya, help with the security if it helps with governance and so forth, and then we punch in with the DIT (Department of International Trade) to land those trade deals. That’s the way it should work, that would be the grand strategy that I would want. Brexit isn’t going to go away, even if we got the deal through in a couple weeks’ time, it will still be that big issue because we’re going to have to for a long time work out what the future trading relationship will be. I would love to see the development of an empowered Deputy Prime Minister with the arc of looking after these internationally-focused departments of FCO, DIFD, MOD, DIT, etc. and then bringing together that grand British strategy of how we get back to playing that role on the international stage. I think that’s where a Deputy Prime Minister could do that, leaving the space for the Prime Minister to focus on domestic issues. To some degree, that’s exactly what Obama did, leaving John Kerry to focus on those other aspects. I think he did it with some effect.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Percentage of defence spending.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Say again?
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Percentage of defence spending. How much should we –
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: No, I thought I made the point but I am happy to articulate it again. The first question is to say, “What role do we play?” and then you work back from that. Stamping out to say, “I want 3%, 4%, 5%”, that’s cart before the horse. Determine what role, agree how we actually take part in the international stage, confirm therefore what is required for that, that leads you then to what percentage increase you are expected or need to have.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: But you are confident that we would need a defence increase?
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Absolutely, absolutely.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Right, gentleman at the back, lady there, and then we’ll come back.
Fifth Question: Timothy (inaudible). Can you explain to me why a young person would want to join the Army, (inaudible), 40 years of (inaudible).
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Lady here?
Sixth Question: Where does NATO –
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Your name.
Sixth Question: Jolene Boxsonworth. Where does NATO fit into this, and should Turkey still be a member of NATO?
Dr. Alan Mendoza: And there was a question – I’ll go right to the back there as well, yes go on. Yes?
Seventh Question: Wally (inaudible), the Times. Very interesting on China, saying that Beijing needs to be right at the top table to (inaudible) that conversation. I just wondered if you had some more about your assessment of Huawei, whether the UK should now employ Chinese technology more widely (inaudible) in the future?
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay?
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Yep. Firstly, to do with rules of engagement, yellow card and so forth. I don’t want to be in that place where, 40 years from now, those serving in Estonia or Ukraine have their doors knocked on and then are asked to account for what happened in these current times. I can’t say more because there’s two separate consultations now going on, but I absolutely agree with you with the spirit of what of you say. The first part to do with Northern Ireland is to do with the Stormont Process that we have to honour. I served in Northern Ireland, I would hate to see it go back to the way it was with the border there, it was terrible when that existed. Part of that process was the reconciliation of looking back over some of the unresolved matters. That’s why we are where we are, but it’s not been handled well and the Northern Ireland office recognised that. That’s why they’re looking to advance how they can make the process better. Any soldier who is invited to participate, to give evidence and so forth, the MOD is absolutely there and ready to provide all the legal support and any other support that they actually might require. That is separate to what Penny Mordaunt is now doing, because it’s all about process, i.e., “What do we do in the future?” She’s launched a separate consultation to absolutely look at the fact that what happens in making sure that nobody then will hesitate in doing their actions. We can’t be in that position where any soldier thinks, “Is this going to come back and bite me?” because that actually affects our operational capability on the battlefield.
Fifth Question: That happened in Iraq as well.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Sorry?
Fifth Question: That happened in Iraq as well.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: No, that was to do with vexatious claims and that’s what we need to stop. That’s what this consultation will try to look at in order to prevent that from happening. But, I do say that we try to set, and I go back to before, the standards and values that are upheld and admired across the world. So, it’s important that we have processes that are in place to make sure that every soldier, sailor, and air personnel is operating from those same standards. NATO, Turkey, good point. This is another example of an organisation where, go to cyber for example, Article 5, it was written before data or the vulnerability of data ever came about. Now, we need to recognise that the world has advanced and thus our rules need to advance. Our organisations need to move forward as well and that includes NATO too. On Turkey itself, there are questions about Turkey’s behaviour too. It’s beyond my pay grade to do that, but ultimately it shows perhaps the dangers separate to extremism, separate to resurgent nations, separate to criminality, which are rife. It’s the fact that there’s a growing trend towards greater populism, greater independence, I mean these walls are going up which are preventing nations from actually working more collaboratively together. That’s a trend that we need to try and reverse.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Wally?
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Thought I’d avoided Wally (laughs). Again, I think we’ve got this in reverse order. The conversation needs to be had not just with China but with other nations as well, to say, “What are the rules we need to abide by?” We can’t avoid the direction of travel as to where cyber-capability is taking us and our reliance as well. We have an absolute obligation to keep our nation safe and secure, and that’s why the discussions are taking place at the moment. I had dinner with the Defence Secretary and [US] Secretary of State Pompeo and we raised these matters as well. There are an awful lot of discussions that are happening behind the scenes, but ultimately there’s this wider question as to the fact that rules are not in place to protect bad behaviour when it comes to breaches in security. The stealing of intellectual property, the international legislation is failing to keep pace with the technological changes that surround us. They’re the bigger questions which must be addressed, and they will then include how tech companies such as Huawei fit into that.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, yes? One, two, and three, yeah.
Eighth Question: Michael (inaudible), member of the Henry Jackson Society. I understand fighting fire with fire in the First and Second World War. Where I get a bit stymied, we the UK and our other close allies, capable of fighting at such pernicious baselines as, you of all people witnessed first-hand. Are we capable of sinking to those depths to fight whatever is waiting for us in the winds, but not in the form of a shoot-out at the OK Corral?
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, sir in the white shirt?
Ninth Question: Hi, (inaudible), Davies, Labour member of the House of Lords and former Minister (inaudible). I very much agree with what’s largely been said and I (inaudible) Defence Secretary (inaudible). I think I would add one thing to what has already been said. First of all, cuts over the last 10 years (inaudible), it’s almost as if they’ve been planned. Is that possible? I do have a couple of examples. We had very good long-range reconnaissance and maritime aircraft in Iraq. We had four of them, (inaudible) cost, and we completely sabotaged them. We cut them up, literally cut them up and destroyed them, and holidayed for 10 years with no long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. (Inaudible), inconceivable that anybody could be quite so confident as to do what was done (inaudible). (Inaudible) on the basis of (inaudible) 18 combat aircraft, 18 fighter planes, (inaudible) employing these carriers (inaudible) aircraft. If you do that, you actually (inaudible) money (inaudible) whatsoever, because those aircraft might be utilised for air defence (inaudible). But, they won’t have any capacity to render any effect. Locally, there is no point in sending them back other than to defend themselves. I mean, the whole thing is completely and astonishingly wrong. There is no whatsoever (inaudible), no one properly (inaudible). That needs to be exposed and I hope that (inaudible) Mrs. May is gone will be brave enough to actually examine these matters and we should hear (inaudible). We sure as hell never did buy a single component or system or subsystem either from Russia or from China (inaudible) today. (Inaudible), quite honestly, (inaudible). But actually at the same time, (inaudible), about China is that there is no conflict of interest necessarily between ourselves and/or the Europeans and China. All this conflict of interest between China (inaudible) maybe a little bit terrified (inaudible) with the military build-up of the Indians and the Japanese. Loathe small countries like Vietnam and (inaudible). There is a clear common interest in the Far East today (inaudible) between (inaudible) and China (inaudible). (Inaudible) between China and Russia (inaudible), but I don’t think the common interests will last (inaudible). So, I am very patiently awaiting the confrontation between China and (inaudible). (Inaudible), of course –
Dr. Alan Mendoza: (to Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP) Let’s just do these two.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Yeah.
Ninth Question: (Inaudible), but I don’t think (inaudible). Russia is very dramatic and it seems to be an eccentricity concerned with Russia, (inaudible), about China.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, because that’s quite a long intervention but an important one, we’ll let you answer those points and then come to you in the next round.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Okay, really interesting points. Firstly, it is to do with our professionalism and the capability of our armed forces. I can stand in front of you today to say that we have the most formidable and most professional fighting force in the world. There’s some competition for that accolade, but absolutely from our special forces all the way through. We can be very, very proud; we are revered by our friends and feared by our enemies. What we need to do is ensure that we have enough of them and that’s absolutely critical for the work that we need to do. So, do they have the grits, do they have the training to deal with the sharp issues? Absolutely right. So, you spoke of cuts? Absolutely right. STSR 2015; committed ourselves to all sorts of military, maritime, air, and land capabilities. The money wasn’t forthcoming so we were absolutely left wanting. On the carriers themselves, the way the carriers will work is not necessarily a carrier strike. It could be littoral, it could be humanitarian and so forth. You add assets onto the carrier, that’s it’s benefit, depending on what task is actually be provided. You can upscale, we have the numbers of F-35s. If there’s a requirement to upgrade to have 18, 24, we can go there. But, would you have that as your basic squadron level along with heli-rotary systems? That’s actually an operational matter that we need to do. There is that flexibility, I make that very, very clear.
Ninth Question: There’s no justification for something like that on one of the carriers unless you were going for a carrier strike in-between. The other things are extras and depend of course on the second carrier’s (inaudible).
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Yeah but forgive me. You never know where you’re going to go, you can’t send your carriers out expecting to have blue skies operations when something might be turning around. Let’s say they’re in the Mediterranean and they have to go to the South Asia, because there’s a humanitarian crisis there, and all you’ve got is a stack full of F-35s. So, I think we should live the operational capabilities to the Navy themselves.
Ninth Question: The question was about having an effective carrier force or not. It’s still quite a trouble in investing in F-35s since you’ve got a viable number.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Well, I can come back and say it was the Labour government that gave us these two rather large aircraft carriers in the first place. We have to work with what we’ve got.
Ninth Question: (Inaudible).
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Oh, absolutely, but we have to work with those aircraft carriers themselves. On China and Russia, you are absolutely right. The Vostok-2018 was a massive training exercise between these two countries involving 300,000 service personnel. This is Russia and China learning each other’s languages, learning each other’s voice procedures, learning each other’s capabilities, okay? That is a concern for us. Neither of these countries, going back to Kissinger’s time, actually liked each other and now they’re training together on a huge scale and in all three dimensions of war. That is the worry that we have as to where does this actually take us to? I predict that, unless we have that rational adult conversation with China over the next year or so, that we will see ourselves falling into a second Cold War between the West, well primarily the United States, and China. That’s what we must avert; China is on the rise, there is no turning back, and we need to embrace that but we need to do that which develops trust with this evolving superpower. Otherwise, it could end up in a very, very bad place indeed.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, starting in the back there.
Tenth Question: This is just a point to China –
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Your name?
Tenth Question: Jack, sorry, from Scotland. (Inaudible) sort of alienated the Obama Administration so even though (inaudible) with China is possible, we also need to avoid alienating allies that we might going with into the Cold War.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, over here?
Eleventh Question: (Inaudible), former (inaudible). (Inaudible) rules-based function. I mean most academics are now saying that this is (inaudible). (Inaudible) this latest edition of National Affairs (inaudible). Even Trump says that, despite (inaudible), take a position responsibility (inaudible), and therefore (inaudible). (Inaudible) the European, (inaudible) still operating from what I’ve seen, maybe the Dutchman (inaudible), talking about the European (inaudible). (Inaudible).
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: We can go back in time and say we should’ve the F-35C or B or whatever. The aircraft carrier we got is the one that we inherited. To have the F-35C, just to make it clear if we’re going to get technical, you need a catapult. To run catapults, unless you have the EMAL system, you need steam. To have steam on board, you need something that generates steam. What generates steam on the American aircraft carriers? The nuclear turbines. So, they have steam on board. Our ones are diesel. For whatever reason, they’re designed to be diesel. There’s no steam on board. So if you wanted to retrofit, you would have to have your own steam capability put on. The cost of that, just so you can have an F-35C, was prohibitive and that’s why the decision was made to go for B itself. I don’t think it’s helpful to go down memory lane to say why we should have done what. I’ll respond to the nimrods, because you happened to raise it and I missed it. This is the old Comet fuselage, as you know. It never got its air worthiness certificate. It was costing a huge amount of money, which is why it eventually was scrapped. The decision was made, we got the PH and which I think you now approve of, so we’re able to replace that capability. But, I appreciate that there is a love for some of these old assets. We are where we are today and the most important thing is to make sure we have the budget to meet our operational requirements for the future itself. Let’s not forget where the threat is coming from. We speak about the navy; China’s navy is increasing by the size of our navy every single year! Now that alone is a single fact that should worry all of us. We are blind to it, as to where this is all going. As I say, it’s not something we should stop and it’s not illegal but we need to have that bigger conversation as to where this is all heading and we need to wake up to where this is all going. At the moment we’re not. We should be speaking with Donald Trump, we should be speaking with our allies, and we should be recognising that if we want to protect those international rules-based values that we have then the order that was written after the Second World War needs updating.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, yes?
Twelfth Question: Ross Hunter, member of (inaudible) council. I was on to (inaudible’s) question.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Make it a quick one, if you may.
Twelfth Question: Northern Ireland, (inaudible), skilled and willed for the bigger challenges.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Very good.
Thirteenth Question: (Inaudible).
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Okay, and finally?
Fourteenth Question: James (inaudible), intern at (inaudible). My question is to (inaudible). Two weeks ago we had the first reported case of an actor responding physically to a cyber-attack (inaudible), bombing the origins of the cyber-attack. This type of attack will happen more and more, how do we stay ahead of the curve? And I’m sure the government and armed forces are, hopefully, talking about this, but what do you think of all this?
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Really good questions. I mean, firstly where are our armed forces unable to move forward. Nick Carter, General Carter, has been very involved with this. Allowed greater say by the three single services to advance their own capabilities but also with a joint capability as well. If any of the future leadership contenders are listening, and this is my own personal view rather than policy I make this very, very clear – I see notebooks getting out already I’ve not even said anything yet – the character board’s changing and it touches on the point that you say. You know I would like to see us join together the cyber and space capability. 100 years ago, we created the RAF. It branched away from the Army. It was seen as that credible service that needed to stand alone and have its own decision-making. I pose this more as a question than as if I would ask, but if the character conflict is changing more to an attack on data, then maybe the pooling of data and having that fourth service is something to be perhaps considered. It would be a statement, if nothing else, with intent of where we would want to go. I make it clear that this is not government policy, but it is something that, with the pace of change going forward, is worth further debate. On the British industry, the new Defence Secretary has made it very clear that she wants to really energise British industry. We need to make things that other people want and that is her clear message. That means looking to our industry, our defence capability. We have one of the biggest, if not the biggest, aerospace capabilities in Europe. In advancing that, we need to make sure that we make things, including the Type-31 which is our next project which we can definitely sell and which is why the E is tucked on the end of that. Sir, best of luck at Sandhurst. I just go back there and still have shivers because of the way it just – it’s just an incredible place, it really is. So, I wish you all the best as you embark on what I’m sure will be an amazing military career. The cyber-attacks and what’s going on, I touched on that before. We are just not having that conversation at the moment. We are building resilience, and again we lead the world on that. People come to us for advice on how to protect our economy, how to protect our service industry, how to protect our banks, and how to protect our governmental capabilities as well. We’re very, very strong on this, but building up these walls doesn’t actually answer the question of what actually happens when an attack takes place. How do you identify who the attacker was, who do you go to actually ask for compensation or indeed some form of punishment, and how do you retaliate? I think these are all open-ended questions and I think Britain should be doing that, providing that, for leadership with our Western partners to say what the answers should be.
Dr. Alan Mendoza: Very good. James, do you want to conclude?
James Rogers: Yes, thank you very much for coming this afternoon and listening to Tobias’ inputs and thoughts on the future of Britain’s defence modernisation. I hope many of the ideas he has put forward come to fruition in the years ahead; particularly seeing a larger investment in our military and defence capabilities, which I think is critical for the years ahead particularly as the international system becomes more volatile. So, thank you very much for coming and I hope we will continue these discussions on the future of Britain’s place in the world and Global Britain more generally. Thank you.