PM orders strategic defence review that will 'set roadmap' to reaching spending pledge

"Root-and-branch review" will set out a plan to hit 2.5% defence spending commitment, Starmer says
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By Tevye Markson

10 Jul 2024

The government will launch a strategic review of defence next week, Keir Starmer has confirmed.

The prime minister, who is attending the NATO summit in Washington DC this week, said defence secretary John Healey – who will oversee the review – has already begun detailed preparatory work for the exercise, which is to be completed within a year.

Speaking ahead of the NATO summit, Starmer said: “There is no more important duty for me as prime minister than keeping the people of our country safe. At a time when we face multiple threats at home and abroad, we must make sure we are ready to defend ourselves. That’s why I have immediately ordered a root-and-branch review that will secure Britain’s defences for the future. 

“Working with our most important partners around the world, our strategic defence review will make sure the UK is sending a clear message to those who seek to undermine peace and democracy – you will not succeed.” 

Labour has committed to increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP on defence "as soon as resources allow", but has not set a timeline. The Labour government is not thought to be considering using civil service job cuts to fund the rise, as the Conservatives had planned.

Travelling on a plane to the NATO summit earlier today, Starmer told reporters the pledge was “cast iron”. The new prime minister will reportedly call on other NATO countries to increase defence spending at the summit to respond to rising global threats.

The strategic review will determine “the future defence posture of the UK, the capabilities needed and will set out a roadmap to achieving 2.5% of GDP on defence”, No.10 said.

It will consider the nature of the threats the UK faces – including Putin’s ongoing brutal invasion of Ukraine, continued instability in the Middle East and the rise of authoritarian countries – and the capabilities the country needs to tackle them. 

This will include ensuring defence staff and armed forces have the capabilities and skills needed, delivering procurement reform, and developing a new defence industrial strategy.

The review will be conducted in consultation with allies, industry and external experts and its recommendations will be reported to the prime minister and defence secretary, as well as being laid before parliament.

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