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Rishi Sunak Tells MPs "Work Needs To Be Done" On Defence Production

Rishi Sunak faced questions by MPs on the Liaison Committee on Tuesday (Alamy)

3 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told MPs that the past year had shown that the UK and its allies needed to do more work on defence industrial production.

Sunak answered questions from MPs on the Liaison Committee on Tuesday afternoon, the last session to scrutinise the Prime Minister before Parliament breaks for Easter recess this week.

Asked about government defence spending by Defence Committee chair and Conservative MP Jeremy Quin, Sunak admitted there was more work to be done on industrial production but said the Chancellor had approved the largest uplift in defence spending since the end of the Cold War.

"The last year or so has made it clear that there is work to be done on defence industrial production, and that's not a UK-only concern, it is shared by all our allies across Europe and NATO," he said.

"Which is why we have put specifically more money into munitions, into long term contracts....

"The last year or so has shown that we need to collectively up our game when it comes to defence industrial production, we're making the investments, we're signing the contracts and I think we can look forward to a very significant increase in the coming months and years."

The Prime Minister also defended the UK's approach to China, arguing that Business and Trade Committee chair Liam Byrne was "completely and utterly wrong" in suggesting that the UK was simply "thinking about" preventing threats presented by China, while allies were "acting".

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden criticised "malign" cyber attacks made by China-state affiliated actors, which he said had targeted UK institutions and politicians in two separate attacks.

However, the US identified that 43 UK parliamentarians were targeted, and the US is going further with sanctions on certain Chinese companies that have been identified as potential security threats. 

Sunak insisted that the UK was not lagging behind its allies, particularly in the EU, where export controls were placed by the UK on sensitive technologies to China last year that were not replicated by the EU.

"Our approach to China is undoubtedly more robust than I'd say most of our allies," Sunak said.

"In fact, actually the language we use is very similar."

He argued that the UK was alone in setting up a National Protective Security Agency, "which means that we can provide specific support to companies to manage the threats from all states when it comes to IP threats and espionage".

Sunak refused to comment on the UK's approach to individual companies such as TikTok, when asked by Byrne whether the UK would follow the US in requiring its parent company Bytedance to divest itself of TikTok UK.

"We engage with TikTok and continue to do and other companies to make sure that we have a good understanding of the security of UK data and that it meets the high data protection and cybersecurity standards that we expect," Sunak said.

"But what I can say is that we continue to monitor any threats to our national security or to UK data from all sources and would not hesitate to take appropriate steps to mitigate these different threats when they arrive."

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