My Lords, I welcome the integrated review and its ambitious vision to make the UK a stronger, safer and more prosperous country. The UK plays a role on the global stage, and I am glad to see that the Government will make tackling climate change and biodiversity loss their number one international priority. As we prepare to host COP 26 in November, that is very important as the climate crisis is one of the biggest threats to international security and stability.
Greater trade and investment and more openness with other countries will reap many mutual benefits and help to drive prosperity. With that prosperity comes growth that leads to new innovations in technology that will protect people and the planet. Will the Minister tell the House when the Government intend to restore the aid budget to 0.7%, so that we can properly help to drive prosperity across the world?
The UK has unique soft power, which has been incredibly important in building relationships and domestic ties abroad as well as supporting the economy. I have a close connection with, and am a freeman of, the City of London. I know that the City is widely respected and recognised for supporting significant global trade and investment.
We very much appreciate the soft power exercised by the BBC and the British Council. When I travel abroad, I am told that the BBC provides reliable news. In my student days, I stayed for two years in a British Council residence. I am a great supporter of its work, which I have seen in person when I have gone abroad. The British Council helps to promote common values, understanding and knowledge so that different communities can live in harmony with each other.
As well as soft power, the UK has an impressive security and defence framework, which is perhaps one of our greatest strengths. I am very interested in the well-being of our Armed Forces, and I welcome the increase in defence spending to 2.2% of our GDP, which is the biggest increase in defence spending since the end of the Cold War and makes us the second-highest defence spender in NATO.
The Minister of State, Baroness Gouldie, noted that:
My noble friend Lord Sheikh asked about climate change. It will be the UK’s highest international priority for the next decade, including biodiversity loss. This week we committed to set in law the world’s most ambitious climate change target, cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. As I mentioned a moment ago, the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, was interested in the particular position of the overseas territories. We have been working closely with all overseas territories in the lead-up to COP 26. We regularly meet representatives, and our officials engage with them, from the overseas territories to ensure that their unique perspectives are accurately represented.