James Heappey discusses defence budget
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Ben Wallace has been warned that the UK is taking on an “unacceptable risk” through its failure to invest in the armed forces. This comes ahead of a major announcement on defence spending and army cuts on Monday. The Government will publish its Integrated Review on Monday – a major defence and security review ahead of Wednesday’s budget.
Mr Wallace is believed to be reviewing plans to slash troop numbers from 82,000 to just 73,000, an announcement on which is likely to be included in the review.
The Ministry of Defence is also expected to be handed a modest budget increase of up to £5billion, which is just half of what the Defence Secretary was reportedly asking for.
But Defence expert Hamish de Bretton Gordon warned that this is unlikely to be enough, calling instead for a three percent increase in defence spending to “get the British military up to a viable state”.
The £10billon figure requested by Mr Wallace is understood to be enough to plug the hole caused by inflation.
But Mr De Bretton-Gordon – a chemical weapons expert – warned that even an inflationary increase in spending would “barely ruffle the surface” of what is required.
The former soldier told the Daily Express: “The Ukraine war has shown us that we’ve taken unacceptable risks on our military capabilities – since the of the Cold War, and a very much focus on counterinsurgency operations and hates equipment.
“The type of warfare that we’re seeing in Ukraine, we’d sort of dismissed at the end of the Cold War is. That was probably an error.
“We are configured for the last war at the moment, not the next war.
“The sort of equipment particularly the army will need will be heavy metal armour, artillery and drones.
“This is going to require quite a significant investment in hardware in order to get the British military up to a viable state so that it can pay its pass along with the US and allies in NATO. An inflationary increase will barely ruffle the surface.”
The Chancellor is reluctant to boost departmental spending, in an attempt to keep inflation down.
But former Tory Party leader Ian Duncan Smith said that the Army “absolutely needs more money”. He said the MoD needs support for its ailing tank fleet and limited numbers of aircraft.
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Sir Iain explained: “We’ve gone too far with the reduction in our army. We have real problems now with the tank fleet and issues with one of the aircraft carriers. We’ve got a tiny number of aircraft – it’s ridiculous now that we’ve got so few aircraft.
Mr Wallace previously said he wanted the extra funding to “insulate defence” from inflationary pressures.
“The war in Ukraine has demonstrated just how important it is for us to be ready for war. We’re not ready for war in the way that we’d need to be.”
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, Chair of the Defence Select Committee, warned the UK’s security is looking “increasingly vulnerable” as a result of defence spending having “stagnated”.
When asked previously if the Government’s reluctance to fund the army properly is putting UK security at risk, Mr Ellwood told the Daily Express: “This is what the defence committee has been stressing for some time.
“Year on year, the threat picture is progressively deteriorating but defence spending has stagnated meaning our security and indeed economy are looking increasingly vulnerable.
“Europe requires leadership. Britain can only play its influential role and protect our interests if we spend more on defence.”
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