Defence Secretary Warns “The Threat Is Changing” And Calls For More Defence Spending
The Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has repeated his call for further defence spending from the Treasury (Alamy)
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is not backing down on his call for increased government spending on the armed forces. He said he “wouldn’t be doing his job” if he did.
The UK currently allocates around 2 per cent of its GDP to defence, in line with the target set for Nato members. Boris Johnson has said the UK is the third biggest defence spender in the world.
But the Prime Minister admitted yesterday he was going to break a Conservative manifesto commitment to spend 0.5 per cent above inflation on defence – a number that would exceed 10 per cent currently.
Wallace has reportedly written to Johnson asking to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent by 2028, and although he denied the figure at a conference on Tuesday, he said investment needs to continue to grow before it "becomes too late”.
He said if Britain wants to retain its leadership role among Nato members after 2024 then it will require much more investment in defence to tackle threats from hostile nations, such as from Russia.
Wallace warned that the “world is less secure than it was” when the Treasury allocated the budget for his department for the next three years last autumn.
"I would not be doing my job if I didn't say the threat is changing and come 2024 we should look at increasing our spending on defence to keep us all safe,” the Defence Secretary told LBC.
"You'll see some people briefing there's a need for a reality check with inflation. Totally agree with that.
"But there's also a reality check that Russia is very dangerous now.”
Wallace, who is attending the Nato summit in Madrid alongside Johnson, said that while he had enough funding for the "here and now", that won’t cut it as the decade goes on.
"We were prepared to take certain vulnerabilities on board in the middle of the decade as we got rid of some equipment and re-equipped anew," he told Sky News.
“I think the invasion of Russia into Ukraine has changed that.
"That is why I think discussions are so important for the middle-of-decade funding. In the here and now we are rightly set. The question is what happens in the middle of the decade.”
Wallace said the Ministry of Defence’s funding settlement in the comprehensive spending review was done before Russia invaded Ukraine, and that Moscow is now “very, very dangerous on the world stage”.
“The world is less secure than it was two, three years ago and is not looking likely to change for the rest of the decade," he explained.
"That is the moment, in the middle of the decade, to say we should commit to increased funding."
But he denied claims he was ordered by Downing Street to rewrite a keynote speech he delivered yesterday in relation to defence spending.
The Daily Telegraph reported Wallace had wanted to argue in his address to the Royal United Services Institute that the existing Nato target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence was outdated and should be raised.
Wallace appeared to appease Number 10, explaining that he simply wanted to ensure he did not pre-empt something which Johnson was due to say at the Nato summit today.
"There were some words in my speech that were taken out because the Prime Minister is going to say them today," he said.
"I think the centre just wanted to make sure that he said it before the Defence Secretary said it. It is perfectly legitimate. It was his words. There is nothing conspiracy in it, I'm afraid.”
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