MoD pledge confusion
The Government’s stance on defence spending was thrown into confusion today after Philip Hammond said a pledge to increase funding in real terms after 2015 referred only to equipment.
Downing Street said David Cameron’s view was that spending should rise above the rate of inflation, but that the overall budget depended on the outcome of the next spending review.
And the Defence Secretary clarified that there was no firm commitment to increase year-on-year real terms growth in the overall Ministry of Defence budget.
“I think what the Prime Minister was referring to was the pledge that was made – which Treasury ministers have repeated – that the equipment plan, the part of the defence budget which funds equipment, will rise by 1% a year in real terms after 2015," he said on Sky News.
“My own strong view is that this structure will require year-on-year real-terms growth in the defence budget in the years beyond 2015,” Mr Cameron said in 2010.
A spokeswoman today confirmed that the Prime Minister’s view had not changed, but did not commit the Government to the policy.
“The Prime Minister has stood by what he said in 2010 but clearly we also have a spending review and that process of spending review is in its early stages... the Prime Minister was simply saying he doesn't resile from what he said in 2010.”
The Prime Minister reiterrated his committment to equiptment spending on Sky News this evening, but added that the defence budget needed to modernise.
"Above all we've got to make sure we have defence forces that suit our modern needs," he said.
"That means investing in things like surveillance, special forces, intelligence assets, making sure we've got mobile, well equipped troops. It doesn't mean you have to stick exactly with what you've got at any one time."
Defence Select Committee chair James Arbuthnot urged against cuts to the defence budget, saying the world was now a much more "unstable" place.
"The defence budget has suffered a huge blow over the last couple of years - over the last three or four years actually - it has not been protected in the way that for example the health and social security budgets have gone shooting up," he said.
"I think it is time for us to have recognition that defence does need to go up and I'm glad that we've got a Prime Minister - although not as I can see a leader of the opposition - who says that that needs to happen."