Rishi Sunak unveils £5bn extra defence spending ahead of Aukus summit in US – UK politics live | Politics

Rishi Sunak unveils £5bn extra defence spending ahead of Aukus summit in US

Good morning. Rishi Sunak is in San Diego, California, where today he will meet Joe Biden, the US president, and Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime minister, for an Aukus meeting. Aukus is the Australia/US/UK security pact, primarily focused on providing Australia with nuclear-powered submarine capacity. It was set up when Boris Johnson was prime minister, and now provides him with the material for one of his most over-used jokes.

The meeting will coincide with the publication of the government’s update (or “refresh”, as it is officially called) to the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy first published in 2021. Liz Truss ordered the update during her short-lived premiership, because she wanted it to take a tougher line on China. IR23, as the “refresh” is also called by No 10, will be published this afternoon.

Overnight, Sunak announced that the Ministry of Defence will get an extra £5bn over the next two years as part of the review, and that the government is committing to raising defence spending to 2.5% of GDP “in the longer term”. In a news release No 10 says:

The 2023 integrated review refresh [IR23] confirms that an additional £5bn will be provided to the Ministry of Defence over the next two years, to help replenish and bolster vital ammunition stocks, modernise the UK’s nuclear enterprise and fund the next phase of the Aukus submarine programme. It follows a £24bn four-year uplift in defence spending in 2020, the largest sustained increase since the cold war.

The prime minister will also set out an ambition to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP in the longer term, and the UK will lead a conversation with Allies on future posture and burden sharing at the Nato summit in Lithuania this summer. We will review defence spending after 2025 in light of this ambition.

As my colleague Aubrey Allegretti reports, Conservative MPs are particularly interested in what IR23 will say about China and, speaking to reporters on his flight to California, Rishi Sunak said it was too simplistic just to categorise China as a “threat” (which is what China hawks in his party want). Sunak said:

I don’t think it’s kind of smart or sophisticated foreign policy to reduce our relationship with China – which, after all, is a country with 1.5bn people, the second biggest economy, and member of the UN security council – to just two words.

That’s why in the integrated review you will see a very thoughtful and detailed approach to China …

I think [China] presents an epoch-defining challenge to us and to the global order.

Aubrey’s full story is here.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Keir Starmer is doing a visit ahead of the budget on Wednesday.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

2.30pm: Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

After 3.30pm: James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, is due to make a Commons statement about the integrated review refresh.

Around 3.30pm UK time: Rishi Sunak records a series of broadcast interviews in San Diego.

After 5.30pm: MPs start the second reading debate for the illegal migration bill.

7pm: Sky News hosts a debate for the SNP leadership candidates.

7.30pm: Sunak meets Joe Biden, the US president, and Anthony Albanese, the Australian PM, at the Aukus meeting. Sunak will also have a bilateral meeting with Biden.

I’ll try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.

Rishi Sunak speaking to reporters on his flight to California last night. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/AP

Key events

No 10 says it is ‘pleased’ BBC’s dispute with Gary Lineker has been resolved

At the No 10 lobby briefing the spokesperson said the government was glad that the BBC’s dispute with Gary Lineker had been resolved. He said:

We’re pleased that this situation has been resolved and that fans will be able to watch Match of the Day as normal this weekend.

The spokesperson repeated the line used previously about Rishi Sunak being “disappointed” by the language used by Lineker in relation to the government’s small boats policy, and the rhetoric used by ministers, but the spokesperson declined to say Lineker should apologise.

The spokesperson also declined to offer full backing to Richard Sharp, the BBC chair (and Sunak’s former boss at Goldman Sachs). No 10 is still waiting for the outcome of the review into the appointment process being carried out by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, the spokesperson said.

Russia and China will be ‘breathing sigh of relief’ because £5bn extra for MoD not enough, says Tory defence committee chair

Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons defence committee, told Sky News this morning that the extra £5bn for defence announced by Rishi Sunak was not enough. Pointing out that Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, was lobbying for twice that sum, Ellwood said that extra £5bn, although welcome, would not reverse the cuts to defence spending in the last defence review.

He also claimed that countries like Russia and China would be “breathing a sigh of relief”. He said:

The next couple of years are going to get very, very dangerous indeed. This year particularly, 2023, will be critical for Ukraine.

Britain has done brilliantly in stepping forward, pushing the envelope, because we have become rather risk averse, too timid, in dealing with aggressive nations such as Russia and China.

But we can only do that with the hard power. And I think Russia and China will be breathing a sigh of relief that we have not invested further in our armed forces at this time.

We are at the foothills of another cold war. Globalisation in its current form is actually dying. And it’s countries like Britain that usually step forward and other nations follow. We can only do that if we invest further in our defence.

There are no urgent questions in the Commons today, which means James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, will deliver his statement on “IR23”, the update to the integrated defence and security review, at 3.30pm. After that is over, Andrew Griffith, a Treasury minister, will give a statment on the sale of the UK arm of the Silicon Valley Bank.

James Cleverly confirms BBC World Service to get extra £20m for its 42 language services

The Foreign Office has confirmed that, as part of the integrated defence and security review update being published today, BBC World Service will get an extra £20m. It says this will protected its 42 language services for the next two years.

James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, said:

As the world’s most trusted international broadcaster, the BBC World Service is a vital tool in providing accurate and impartial news, analysis and discussion in 42 languages to 365 million people around the world each week.

This one-off funding will allow the BBC World Service to maintain its unrivalled status as the world’s largest international broadcaster, and to continue playing its crucial role in tackling harmful disinformation through providing trusted, impartial news and analysis globally.

Last year the Foreign Office said it was spending £94m a year on the World Service.

MPs will vote on the illegal migration bill at 10pm tonight after the second reading debate. In a clear and hard-hitting report on the legislation, the Institute for Government thinktank says there are seven questions ministers need to answer to explain how it might work. The IfG says:

Without increased capacity to remove people, classifying ever more arrivals as inadmissible will not help the government reduce the backlog or the money spent on accommodation – or improve public trust in the immigration system. And at a human level, it has the potential to cause serious harm to vulnerable people.

Keir Starmer has urged the government to negotiate an end to the strike by junior doctors taking place in England today. He said:

The way to resolve strikes is to get around the table and to negotiate and compromise and come to a settlement. That’s what the government needs to do.

Many people will be really anxious today. They know there isn’t full emergency cover, they know that operations are now going to be cancelled, including in serious areas like cancer.

So the anxiety this will put upon people who rely on the NHS is huge.

Junior doctors on strike outside St Thomas’ hospital in Westminster, London, today.
Junior doctors on strike outside St Thomas’ hospital in Westminster, London, today. Photograph: Maureen McLean/Rex/Shutterstock

Keir Starmer and the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, being shown a hydrogen fuel cell stack by CEO Phil Caldwell and production manager Steve Brown (left) during their tour of production facilities of the fuel cell manufacturer, Ceres Power, in Surrey this morning.
Keir Starmer and the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, being shown a hydrogen fuel cell stack by CEO Phil Caldwell and production manager Steve Brown (left) during their tour of production facilities of the fuel cell manufacturer, Ceres Power, in Surrey this morning.
Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Sturgeon hits back at Rachel Reeves after shadow chancellor criticises SNP’s income tax policies

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has rejected a claim by Labour that taxes are higher in Scotland for higher earners because the SNP has mismanaged the economy.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, made that claim on a visit to Scotland. As the Times reports, Reeves said:

The way I see it is the last Labour government was able to keep taxes low and invest in public services and we were able to do it because we grew the economy.

When Labour was last in power — and we were in for 13 years —the average growth rate per year was 2.1%. The average growth rate the last 13 years under the Tories has been 1.4%. And taxes are at the highest level of being in the UK for 70 years.

The Conservatives have become a high-tax party and the SNP too because they become low-growth parties … We’ve got to grow the economy.

In response, Sturgeon said taxes were higher for higher earners in Scotland because the Scottish government was more committed to redistribution than the UK government. She said the fact that Labour did not support the SNP on this showed it was “Tory-lite”.

In reality, it is because @theSNP believes in a fair element of redistribution – asking those who earn most to pay a bit extra to support, eg, record NHS investment & the unique Scottish Child Payment lifting families out of poverty. Labour, now Tory-lite, once backed that too https://t.co/fLxLlxg1Td

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) March 13, 2023

Increasingly the Scottish government has been using its powers under devolution to set income tax rates that are different from those applying in the rest of the UK. In a recent report, the Institute for Fiscal Studies explained the difference. It said:

The Scottish income tax system has more bands and different rates compared with the rest of the UK. The effect is that income tax liabilities are a very small amount lower in Scotland for those on less than £28,000 per year, but greater for those on higher incomes – sometimes by quite large margins. For example, someone on £50,000 will pay £1,550 more tax in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, and someone on £150,000 will pay £3,900 more, in the coming tax year.

The IFS report also backed up Sturgeon’s analysis. It said the Scottish government had used its powers “to make the system more progressive, as well as to raise more revenue to fund public services”.

Starmer says Richard Sharp’s position as BBC chair ‘increasingly untenable’

Keir Starmer has said Richard Sharp should resign as chair of the BBC. As ITV reports, this morning Starmer said:

I think Richard Sharp’s position is increasingly untenable.

I think most people watching the complete mess of the last few days would say how on earth is he still in position and Gary Lineker has been taken off air?

This is a mess of the BBC’s own making, they need to sort it out and sort it out fast.

As Jessica Elgot reports, Starmer is echoing what Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, said yesterday. Powell also described Sharp’s position at “increasingly untenable”.

Even before the Gary Lineker row erupted, Sharp was already facing calls for his resignation because, when applying for the job of BBC chair, he did not disclose his role in helping Boris Johnson get access to a loan facility, reportedly worth around £800,000.

Here is the No 10 readout of the meeting between Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, his Australian counterpart, in San Diego last night. They agreed Aukus was “an unprecedented endeavour which will protect our people and support our defence industrial bases for generations to come”, No 10 says.

Rishi Sunak with Anthony Albanese at the Lionfish seafood restaurant in San Diego last night.
Rishi Sunak with Anthony Albanese at the Lionfish seafood restaurant in San Diego last night. Photograph: Leon Neal/AP

Richard Dannatt, a peer and a former head of the army, has told the Sun he does not think the extra £5bn for defence announced today (see 9.24am) goes far enough. He told the paper:

This government is beginning to look like an ostrich over defence spending.

The parallels to the 1930s grow stronger – a threat from a dictator in Europe and a refusal to reinvest or rearm.

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