Mr Speaker, I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to Jim Dobbin who died suddenly this weekend.
Jim gave his life to public service.
He worked hard for his constituents. He loved this House of Commons and contributed hugely to all its work.
With his expertise in microbiology, Jim also did outstanding work in this House championing vaccines for children in the developing world.
Though we may not have agreed on everything, we did agree about the important contribution of faith in politics. Although unlike Jim, I have to say I’m not expecting to get a knighthood from the Pope which Jim received, and much deserved it was too.
He will be missed by us all – and our thoughts are with his family at this time.
Mr Speaker, we have also heard this morning that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second baby.
And on behalf of the whole country, I am sure the House will join me in congratulating them on this fantastic news and wishing them well in the months ahead.
Mr Speaker, the NATO Summit in Wales saw the successful coming together of this vital alliance.
Everyone could see its unity, its resolve and its determination in meeting and overcoming the threats to our security.
I want to thank the local council in Newport, the Welsh Assembly, the First Minister, the Secretary of State, our armed services and police and all those who worked so hard to deliver a safe, secure and successful summit.
The biggest gathering of world leaders I think has ever taken place in our country.
And most of all let me thank the Welsh people for their incredibly warm welcome.
They did our United Kingdom proud.
Mr Speaker, the summit reached important conclusions on Ukraine, on defence spending and the reform of NATO, on countering Islamist extremism, on the future of Afghanistan and on supporting our military and their families.
And I want to take each one briefly in turn.
First, on Ukraine, we welcome the ceasefire that has been in place since Friday.
At the NATO summit I chaired a meeting with President Poroshenko and the leaders of France, Italy, Germany and America to agree that what is needed is the actual implementation of a proper peace plan that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
NATO sent a clear message to Russia, that what President Putin is doing is illegal and indefensible.
We stand firmly behind Ukraine’s right to make its own decisions, not to have them dictated by Russian soldiers trampling on Ukraine’s sovereign soil.
And we will continue our efforts to support Ukraine, including by providing financial assistance to improve their command, control and communication capabilities.
Today’s new sanctions from the European Union will further ramp up the economic cost to Russia.
They will make it harder for its banks and its energy and defence companies to borrow money; they will widen the ban on selling so called “dual goods” like machinery and computer equipment which could be used for military as well as civilian purposes; and they will prohibit the provision of services for the exploration and production of shale, deepwater and Arctic oil.
Second, the summit reached an important agreement on defence spending.
One of the problems that NATO has faced is that only a small number of countries have achieved the commitment to spend 2% of their GDP on defence.
As a result the share of spending by the largest country, the United States of America, continues remorselessly upwards and now accounts for around 70% of the total.
This is not sustainable.
This summit addressed this by agreeing the responsibility for those countries who have not achieved 2%.
And the conclusions are very clear about this.
Through the Wales Pledge every NATO member spending less than 2% has now agreed to halt any decline in defence spending and aim to increase it in real terms as GDP grows - and to move towards 2% within a decade.
There was also a second target - that a fifth of all defence budgets should be dedicated to major new equipment, because what matters most is having military assets you can actually deploy.
Now Mr Speaker, here in Britain we have the second largest defence budget in NATO and the biggest in the European Union.
We have taken long-term, often difficult decisions, to put our defence budget on a sustainable footing, and the fruits of this are now coming through.
We are equipping all 3 of our services with the best and most modern military hardware that money can buy.
This includes the announcement I made on Friday of a £3.5 billion contract for Scout armoured vehicles. It’s the largest such order in over 3 decades. It includes new fleets of Joint Strike Fighter and Voyager refuelling aircraft, 22 new A400M transport aircraft, new Astute hunter-killer submarines, Type 45 destroyers and Type 26 Frigates and HMS Queen Elizabeth, our brand new aircraft carrier.
At NATO I announced that our second new carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, will also be brought into service.
And this will ensure that we always have one carrier available, 100% of the time.
Mr Speaker, this investment in our national security, our prosperity, and our place in the world, will transform our ability to project power globally, whether independently or together with allies.
Reform of NATO
Turning to wider reform of NATO.
After the end of the Cold War, NATO stood down its highest readiness force.
At this summit we decided to reverse that decision and scale up our readiness to respond to any threat and, at the same time, we also agreed to do more to build the capacity of other nations outside NATO to help them with their defence capabilities.
A new multinational spearhead force will be deployable anywhere in the world within 2 to 5 days.
This is vital in underlining our Article 5 obligations to collective defence.
And the UK will support this by providing a battle group and a brigade headquarters.
We will also contribute 3,500 personnel to exercises in Eastern Europe between now and the end of 2015, as part of NATO’s efforts to ensure a persistent presence on our Eastern flank.
On capacity building, NATO has a vital role, as I’ve said, in helping other countries with their capacity to defend themselves against all threats, including terrorist threats.
When we consider how many of the threats NATO now faces including here in the UK, are coming from the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, this capacity building is becoming ever more important and it was a key priority for the UK at this summit that we made progress.
So NATO will now undertake capacity building missions, beginning in Georgia and Jordan with the offer of a training mission for Iraq as soon as the new Iraqi government is in place.
Next, the alliance was clear about the scale of the threat from Islamist extremism and we agreed we must use all the instruments at our disposal - humanitarian, diplomatic, and military - to squeeze this barbaric terrorist organisation out of existence.
We should be clear about what needs to happen.
We will continue to support the Kurds – including by providing them with arms and training their troops.
We will work to support a new and representative Iraqi government which we hope to see in place later this week.
The fight against ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) must be led by the Iraqis themselves, but we will continue to encourage countries in the region to support this effort and to engage allies across the world.
We will proceed carefully and methodically, drawing together the partners we need, to implement a comprehensive plan.
Earlier today I spoke to Ban Ki-Moon to seek support at the United Nations for a broad-based international effort to confront ISIL.
And I will be working on building that international support when I attend the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
Turning to Afghanistan, we called on the 2 Presidential candidates to work together to deliver a peaceful election outcome and a new government as swiftly as possible.
They made a statement during the conference that they would make these endeavours and it is absolutely vital that this comes about.
The summit paid tribute to the extraordinary sacrifice made by all our armed forces in driving Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and training the Afghan security forces to take control of their security.
We reaffirmed our long-term commitment to supporting a peaceful, prosperous and stable Afghanistan, including through our development conference in London in November.
Finally, Mr Speaker, as our troops return home from Afghanistan, so it is right that we do all we can to support them and their families.
Mr Speaker, in Britain we have the Military Covenant – a pledge of commitment between the government and our military.
And we are the first British government to write this covenant into the law of our land.
We’ve made it ever more real by taking a series of measures including:
doubling operational allowance
introducing free higher and further education scholarships for bereaved service children
investing £200 million in helping our service personnel to buy homes
increasing the rate of council tax relief
signing up every single local council in our country in support of the military
and also giving unprecedented support to military charities
At this summit, we took our Military Covenant internationally, with every NATO member signing up to a new Armed Forces Declaration, setting out their commitment to support their military and enabling all of us to learn from each other about how we can best do this.
Mr Speaker, we will continue to do everything possible to look after those who serve our country and whose sacrifices keep us safe.
This I believe was a successful NATO conference. It proved that this organisation is as important to our future security as it has been to the past and I commend this statement to the House.