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In early 2020 the Government formally began work on what it described would be the largest review of the UK’s foreign, defence, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War. Much has changed since the last major review of the UK’s national security and defence strategy in 2015.

From the outset, the Government indicated the integrated review would be published alongside a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), expected in autumn 2020. However, in late October the Chancellor announced plans to hold a one-year, rather than multi-year, Spending Review on 25 November. This led the Government to “consider the implications for the completion of the review“.

On 19 November 2020 the Prime Minister gave a statement to the House announcing the review will conclude early next year (2021).

MPs have repeatedly asked the Government for a publication date for the review.

On 12 January 2021, the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, told Stewart Malcolm McDonald that the “current target date for the IR [Integrated Review] is the first two weeks of February”. The following day, the Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee that “it will not be as soon as that”. The latter comment prompted Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the Defence Committee, to write to the Prime Minister asking for a publication date. In evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on 4 February Sir Stephen Lovegrove, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, said the Government is still aiming for spring, adding “I would hope it would be sooner rather than later”.

Much, though by no means all, of the interest and focus on the review concerns the defence aspects. This is not wholly suprising, given that the integrated review has evolved from a long history of defence reviews which have made significant changes to the armed forces.

In his statement on 19 November, the Prime Minister outlined the Government’s intention to increase defence spending by £24.1 billion over the next four years. This, he said, is “£16.5 billion more than our manifesto commitment”.

The Ministry of Defence published its Defence Equipment Plan 2020 – 2030 on 12 January 2021, However, this does not reflect the additional spending announced by the Prime Minister, nor does it reflect any of the conclusions in the as yet unpublished Integrated Review. The MOD had previously indicated it was deferring a full equipment plan report until after the integrated review had concluded. Nonetheless, the National Audit Office reported that “for the fourth successive year, the Equipment Plan remains unaffordable”. Sir Stephen Lovegrove told the PAC that the integrated review “will contain substantially different programme and capability choices” to the ones laid out in the 2020-2030 equipment plan. He also suggested the equipment plan “will look significantly different” when the committee discusses the next equipment plan with his successor.

Library briefing paper The Integrated Review: A look ahead to the Government’s review explains the evolution of defence reviews and the main conclusions of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), before examining a number of key developments since then which are expected to influence the outcome of the review.

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