‘Time for debate’ on future of Britain’s forces

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UK defence is at a crossroads and decisions must be taken about what Britain’s forces can and should do around the world, the Shadow Defence Secretary will warn today.

Vernon Coaker will urge a more practical focus at the forthcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) rather than allowing the Treasury to run a rule over all the measures.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Germany opens the possibility of far-reaching debate, the Labour spokesman said.

He will also tell the Royal United Services Institute a “cyber-security charter” should be drawn up for all companies working with the Ministry of Defence (MoD.

Speaking ahead of his speech, Mr Coaker said: “With UK defence at a crossroad, the time is now right to consider what role we want our forces to play in the world.

“We cannot afford for the next SDSR to be solely Treasury-led. Instead, we must ensure that the review provides the long-term direction that UK defence and security requires – one that is fiscally realistic and strategically ambitious. We are ambitious about the positive role that the UK Armed Forces and defence strategy can play in the world.

“And we are realistic in that we know we must strengthen and deepen our partnerships with existing allies, and seek to cultivate new ones, if we are to achieve our strategic objectives.”

Mr Coaker will highlight participation with UN peacekeeping operations and he will emphasise the need for increased specialisation amongst the troops, including engineers, logistics specialists, communication experts and medical personnel.

Labour wants to create a legal obligation on firms to report cyber attacks which threaten national infrastructure. Every company working with the MoDwould sign a charter aimed at ensuring their systems cannot be exploited for access to other suppliers or the MoD itself.