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Defence Spending — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:13 am on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 10:13 am, 16th July 2019

I would adhere to and agree with my hon. Friend’s figures.

The obligations on our armed forces are incredible. From war zones to giving aid in peace zones and every area in between, such as simply helping Commonwealth nations to do the right thing on the world stage, as we often do, our men and women are the first on the scene doing the best job, but we stretch our resources in every operation or every time we lend a hand. I put on the record that some of the other NATO countries need to make an effort to meet their obligations. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have met theirs, but where is Germany on its NATO contribution?

All that heaps pressure on the everyday running of the forces, on their recruitment processes, and on the training for the next generation. I am not stuck on a figure for military spending, although I would aim high, and while I understand that a bottomless budget is impossible, an adequate one is not—it is essential.

Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, defence spending is planned to increase by an annual average of 1.4% in real terms. Defence spending in 2019-20 is planned to be £1 billion more in real terms than in 2016-17. That is good news, but if that is the figure we are aiming for, will it do the business? Is it enough to ensure that our armed forces personnel have the right equipment at the right time for the battle, the right training for the situation and the right support for when the fighting is done?

At present, what I am hearing is that we simply are not there. Recruitment officials cannot afford to run high-end campaigns to attract the next generation. We do not have the funding to give new recruits the appropriate training in different situations to ensure that they are as prepared as possible. On the frontline, we are certainly lacking in top of the range and fit for purpose equipment.

On recruitment, the armed forces have always recruited highly in Northern Ireland and I understand that the campaign there is going well. Will the Minister give some idea of the recruitment figures? I commend the gallant Minister for his service and for his commitment and interest. I know that when he responds, we will get a reply that we will be happy with. Are we sourcing as much equipment as possible from our own shores to support local industry? Will the Minister ensure that everyone across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland benefits? We also need funding to address the mental health of veterans of all ages.

Our Navy, Air Force and Army are simply the best. We need to do better by them and that is why I support the calls for an increase in defence spending above and beyond the schedule and the target.