Tories urged to boost defence budget so forces are ‘fit for purpose’

Ben Wallace grilled by Tobias Ellwood on new defence budget

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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in his Spring Budget last week that an additional £11billion would be added to the UK’s defence budget over the next five years. However, the investment is not enough according to a new poll, which found more than nine in 10 readers are dissatisfied.

The funding will increase Britain’s defence spending to almost 2.25 percent of GDP by 2025. However, much of this funding has already been allocated to contribute towards long-term projects including replacing equipment stock sent to Ukraine and upgrading nuclear deterrents.

Speaking of the investment, Tory MP Colonel James Sunderland said: “It’s a step in the right direction but still may not be enough to future-proof our HM Forces, particularly the Army, against the totality of threats we continue to face in an increasingly unstable world. I welcome the commitment to 2.5 percent of GDP – the imperative now is to translate this quickly into operational capability.”

Chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood has also criticised the defence budget, telling “All smoke and mirrors I’m afraid. I welcome the investment in the nuclear deterrent and the replenishment of weapons stocks but when you take that money out it leaves the MoD with about £1billion a year which is in effect a real terms cut.”

He continued: “There will be even less when you account for taxes and expenses. It means our conventional forces remain hollowed out as the threats come over the hill.”

In a poll that ran from 8.30am on Thursday, March 16, to 1.30pm on Monday, March 20, asked readers: “Is the UK spending enough on defence?”

A total of 1,646 votes were cast with the vast majority, 94 percent (1,553 people) answering “no” the UK is not spending enough on defence.

While five percent (80 people) said “yes” the defence budget is sufficient, and one percent (13 people) said they did not know either way.

Dozens of comments were left below the accompanying article as readers discussed the UK’s defence budget.

Many readers commented that the UK needed to spend more on defence, with username raytrace writing: “The armed forces have been treated appallingly by the Government. There needs to be a serious rethink about what our armed forces are for and what they should be capable of.”

Username Bunnykins said: “While we’ve been cutting back on our defence spending, those who pose a threat have been heavily invested. It’s time to up defence spending and ramp up UK arms production.”

Another, username MJ22322 remarked: “How about we invest in our forces so they are fit for purpose.”

Username happyeaster said: “We need [to spend] more and we need to support Ukraine more.”

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In 2021 the UK spent £45.9billion on defence, equivalent to 2.2 percent of GDP. This figure has remained around the two percent mark since the millennium. But this figure has halved since the 1980s when it was 4.1 percent, and in 1956 defence spending was just under eight percent of GDP.

As a NATO member the UK is required to spend at least two percent of GDP on defence each year. In addition, at least 20 percent of this budget must be spent on equipment.

Username Angry Engineer said: “We have an international agreement and obligation to spend at least two percent GDP…I think at this particular time, doubling that level of spending is justified.”

And username davew555 wrote: “We are just about underspending on everything, our defence, national health, railways, roads, policing etc are all a disgrace.

However, other readers argued the UK’s spending needed to be more efficient. Username servative2 said: “We should spend more. We should also spend more effectively.”

Username tooold2care commented: “We probably don’t spend enough on defence but the other side of the coin is – how much of what we do spend is wasted? Cut out the rot and there’s probably enough money there to fund realistic advances in our defences.”

Some thought that it should not be increased until it was used effectively. Username JohnJBrown said: “We’re spending enough on our own defence; the problem is that our spending seems to be grossly inefficient, and we buy far too much from others instead of producing it ourselves.”

And username WHAT? adeed: “Yes, we spend enough, we just spend it badly.”

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