‘Hollowed-out’ Army faces financial black hole despite £5bn boost

Ben Wallace grilled by Tobias Ellwood on new defence budget

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s defence spending commitments won’t be enough to save the UK’s “hollowed out” armed forces, a Conservative MP warns. Senior Tory Tobias Ellwood said that because £3billion of the £5billion total will be allocated to defence nuclear enterprises and the new AUKUS submarines pact between the UK, US and Australia, the remaining cash won’t be enough to bolster UK forces.

He told “Crunch the numbers, remove costs for AUKUS, Ukraine and ammo replenishment and there’s just £1billion remaining for defence.

“But this is not enough to cover increased costs of FOREX, inflation and fuel, and energy costs on the current budget.

“Simply put, our hollowed-out army will remain hollowed out as storm clouds gather once again.”

The AUKUS agreement will see the countries share nuclear submarine secrets and boost their defences.

At first, the partnership will focus on helping to build Australia’s submarine fleet.

Australia, the UK and the US are particularly concerned about the threat posed by China.

Mr Sunak said on Sunday that £1.9billion of the extra funding will be used to replenish and bolster munitions stockpiles that had run low after the UK sent weapons to Ukraine.

He also said this would take UK defence spending from 2 percent of GDP to 2.25 percent.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has previously asked for this figure to be raised to 3 percent.

Announcing the new defence spending on Sunday, Mr Sunak said: “It’s clear that the world has become more volatile, the threats to our security have increased.

“And that’s why we’re investing £5billion more in our world-beating armed forces over the next two years and increasing our defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP so we can continue to be a world leader when it comes to defence and keeping our country safe.”

But Labour has accused the Government of failing to secure Britain’s security.

In response to the announcement, Shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “When 25 other NATO nations have already rebooted defence plans and spending since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Conservatives are still dragging their feet on the big decisions.”

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Despite the increased spending on UK defence, head of the military Admiral Sir Tony Radakin did not rule out further cuts to the armed forces this week.

He said: “I think what we’re seeing is additional investment. And… we might decide that we really want to focus on some particular capabilities. And inevitably, you might pare back in some other areas, but this is about continued investment in UK defence.”

The Army is already the smallest it has been since the 1700s, with just 76,000 soldiers set to shrink further to 73,000.

During Wednesday’s budget announcement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled £11billion for Britain’s defence budget over the next five years.

He added: “We were the first large European country to commit to 2 percent of GDP for defence and will raise that to 2.5 percent as soon as fiscal and economic circumstances allow.”

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