Defence and foreign policy review paused as resources diverted to Covid-19 response

PM tells MPs government has “scaled back” work on integrated review as resources are diverted to tackle the coronavirus response


Photo: Ben Stansall/PA Wire/PA Images

The government has “scaled back” work on a wide-ranging defence and foreign policy review that began at the beginning of this year, it has been confirmed.

The integrated review of foreign policy, defence, security and international development was formally launched in February and was expected to be published alongside a comprehensive spending review this summer.

In a letter sent to three select committee chairs on 24 March, Boris Johnson said resources from across government had been diverted to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, and work on the review had been pared back.


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The letter was in response to a series of questions about the review sent by defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood, foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugenhadt, and international development committee chair Sarah Champion.

The prime minister said he would write to the committee again when it was “clearer how and when we will be able to resume work on the review”.

The defence committee is carrying out an inquiry into how the government should conduct the review, and has called for people to submit evidence on areas such as the decision making structures needed for the review, and the purpose, scope and frequency of integrated reviews in general.

The foreign affairs committee is conducting a second inquiry, focusing on the Foreign Office’s role in the review.

Last week former national security adviser Lord Ricketts said the review was unlikely to be finished until 2021.

Ricketts, who as the government’s national security adviser oversaw a similar review in 2010, said government needed to be clear on new timings for both the review and the spending round. 

He told CSW he did not expect the review to be completed until early next year.

“It seems to me that the government is going to be doing nothing but this crisis until the mid year, probably. And so it would be sensible to give themselves another six months, nine months… They needn’t be precise about a time when they delay it. But I think they now need to be making clear there will be a delay and new timings will be agreed,” he said.

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