We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Defence Spending — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:56 am on 16th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 9:56 am, 16th July 2019

No, I will let others make their speeches.

Ministers kept repeating that claim. I kept asking them about it, but never got an explanation. I think it came from a National Audit Office report from 2009 that said that if the equipment budget was flat over the next 10 years, that might get us to £36 billion; if it rose with inflation, it would be about £6 billion in the defence capital budget. Jamie Stone was talking about the two budgets conflated.

We then saw slash and burn, with stupid decisions such as the scrapping of Nimrod and the Harriers, vicious cuts made to people’s pay, and redundancies. That led us to a situation where we have an Army that, at 82,000 personnel, is the smallest it has ever been. No one has yet explained to me how that figure was set.

We are told that the defence budget is rising, but the foundations are shaky. If we look at the 2015 SDSR, we see a huge amount of it is based on billions of pounds of efficiencies that have not yet been and cannot be met. To return to the claim that Labour somehow left a £38 billion black hole, if the situation was so terrible, it is strange that two years in, Mr Hammond eliminated it overnight.

In defence, we need honesty. There is a degree of consensus across the House on the support needed for members of our armed forces and for defence. What we need now is an honest stocktake, looking at our commitments and what we want to do in the world, and ensuring that, as Anne-Marie Trevelyan said, we fund not just the capital side—equipment is important—but the people. I hear all the time that we can do more with more sophisticated equipment, but as any military technician will say, mass and people are still important. We must invest in them over the long term.