Topical Questions – Isil

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Richard Benyon Conservative, Newbury
As civil nuclear developments expand the market for skilled nuclear engineers, what steps is the Minister taking to ensure that we maintain the skills levels of the hundreds of nuclear engineers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire?

Philip Dunne The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence
The facility in Berkshire is extremely important—part of it is in my hon. Friend’s constituency—and I have led cross-Government talks to consider how we ensure that demands for nuclear engineering skills across defence and civil sectors are successfully managed by recruiting, training and retaining appropriately skilled engineers. Next week, I will host an event in Downing street to raise awareness of degree courses in nuclear engineering.

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Liam Fox Conservative, North Somerset
There are four drivers and constraints on the defence budget: the international security environment, including what is happening in Ukraine; commitments already entered into, including upgrading our nuclear deterrent; the overall fiscal position; and our international obligations and moral authority. Does the direction of travel of any of those four things justify our defence spending falling below 2% of GDP? Is this a case, if ever there was one, for a proper cross-party consensus in Britain?

Michael Fallon The Secretary of State for Defence
Only because we sorted out the budget mess that we inherited have we been able to invest in and modernise our defence equipment. I fully agree with my right hon. Friend: we would be in a stronger place if there was more consensus. We have yet to hear whether Labour would match our £34 billion or cut it. Is it time we had an answer?