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The Johnson government announced plans in the 2019 Queen’s Speech to conduct an ‘Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review’ that will cover “all aspects of international policy from defence to diplomacy and development.”

The Prime Minister later described it as the “biggest review of our foreign, defence, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War”.[1] Tobias Ellwood, prior to his election to chair of the Defence Committee, suggested the review is “the most critical since World War II”.[2]

There has been at least one defence review in every decade since the 1950s, albeit at irregular intervals. The current practice of undertaking a strategic defence and security review (SDSR) every five years dates back to 2010. The most recent SDSR was published a few months after the 2015 election.

The Government laid out its approach in a written statement on 26 February 2020, suggesting the review will define the UK’s role in the world and set out the UK’s strategic aims, its capabilities and the role of allies. It will also consider the systems and structures of government.[3]

The review was expected to be completed in 2020, closely aligned with the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review. However, in mid-April 2020 the Cabinet Office said work on the Integrated review has been formally paused across Whitehall because of the coronavirus pandemic. The review formally recommenced in June 2020 and in August the Government invited submissions of evidence.

The Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees are both holding inquiries into the Integrated Review.

In its first report, published in August 2020, the Defence Committee examined the process of the review. The Committee urged the Government to include a thorough assessment of the economic, diplomatic and military activities and the internal political dynamics of hostile foreign states, such as Russia and China. The Committee will explore the future of UK defence in a second report: The Integrated Security Defence and Foreign Policy Review.

The Foreign Affairs Committee will examine the FCO’s contribution to the Review process and ask what role and resources the Review should give to the FCO for UK foreign-policy strategy in its inquiry: The FCO and the Integrated Review.

Commons Library briefing paper A brief guide to previous British defence reviews explains the evolution of defence reviews and provides a short guide to the main recommendations of the defence reviews that have taken place since the end of the Second World War.

 This paper will be updated periodically.

[1]    HCWS126, 26 February 2020

[2]    Tobias Ellwood, “The UK must prepare for a dangerous decade and seek a more influential role”, House magazine, 27 January 2020

[3]    HCWS126, 26 February 2020


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