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Our defence budget for 2017-18 is £36 billion, and we are committed to increasing it by at least half a per cent above inflation every year of this Parliament. In addition, we are committed to continuing to meet the NATO guideline to spend at least 2% of our GDP on defence until 2022. Those two commitments will ensure that our armed forces can help to keep Britain safe.
The United Kingdom leads the way, with the biggest defence budget in Europe, but what more can be done to encourage other nations to play their part and increase their spending to protect our collective security?
Since the Wales summit in 2014, defence spending by our allies in Europe has been increasing. Three more countries now meet that 2% target and more than 20 are committed to meeting it by a particular date. We continue to press those allies that have not yet met or planned to meet the target to do so.
The Secretary of State will know that his Department recently stated that the trained strength of our armed forces is down below 140,000. If we are to keep people in our armed services satisfied, can we go back to what they were proud of—the tradition of taking in a lot of trainees and being one of the best trainers in the world?
We are one of the best trainers in the world, and our armed forces training is highly respected the world over. Other countries are constantly telling me that they want more places at Cranwell, Sandhurst and Dartmouth; they also want our armed forces to go out and train, as we are doing in Ukraine and Nigeria; and we have the largest apprenticeship programme in the country.