After the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Commons regarding Russia, Dr Julian Lewis MP, chair of the Defence Committee and a member of The Freedom Association, asked the following question:
"No reasonable person can possibly doubt that the Russian Government have behaved with arrogance, inhumanity and contempt, not least in failing to respond to the Prime Minister’s deadline, which they surely would have done if they had known that they were innocent of this charge. In welcoming the Prime Minister’s expulsion of 23 diplomats who are really intelligence agents, may I ask her to make it clear that any retaliation in kind by the Russian Government will be met by further expulsions, perhaps including even of the ambassador, who spends so much time coming to talk to us in this place, bemoaning the poor state of Anglo-Russian relations? Does she accept that Russia traditionally respects strength and despises weakness, and that the time has come to recognise that 2% of GDP is not enough to spend on defence when we are reverting to the sort of adversarial relationship that we had when we spent a much higher proportion of GDP on ensuring that this country was well defended?"
One of our Eight Principles of a Free Society is "strong national defences". We completely agree with Julian that 2 per cent of GDP is not enough to spend on defence. It wasn't enough before this latest attack by Russia - even more so now.
This is the Prime Minister's reply:
"I thank my right hon. Friend for his remarks. In response to his first point, as I said in my statement, there are other measures that we stand ready to deploy at any time, should we face further Russian provocation. On his other point, as we review our national security capability and our modernising defence programme, we are ensuring that we have the resources and capabilities available to deal with the variety and diversity of threats that this country faces. However, as those threats diversify, not all of them will be responded to by what is conventionally considered to be defence."
We take her point that our intelligence and counter-terrorism services are playing an increasingly larger role in protecting UK citizens and interests, but every time we reduce the size of our armed forces it comes back to bite us.
Defence of the realm is the first duty of any government. We are not doubting Theresa May's commitment to defend our country - she proved that in her statement yesterday, however, we urge her to increase defence spending to ensure we are capable of dealing with threats we face in an increasingly hostile world.
Photo Credit: Official Portrait of Dr Julian Lewis MP