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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Defence Minister Says He Would Quit Government If Department Spending Is Cut

James Heappey is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Alamy)

3 min read

Armed forces minister James Heappey has said he would quit government if plans to increase defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030 are scrapped under the new Chancellor.

Jeremy Hunt, who was appointed as Chancellor on Friday, suggested over the weekend that this pledge could be scrapped as the Treasury looks for savings across all departments in an attempt to plug a financial gap of tens of billions in the wake of the Prime Minister's catastrophic "mini-Budget". 

“We do need to increase defence spending, but I can’t make a promise to you here and now about the timings of that,” he told BBC Radio 4.

“The long-term ability to fund an increase in defence spending will depend on stability in the economic situation and a healthily growing economy.”

Asked directly by LBC’s Nick Ferrari on Tuesday morning whether he would resign his position if this pledge was scrapped, Heappey responded simply: “Yes.”

He continued: “We need to be spending 3 per cent of our GDP on the defence of our nation by 2030, because there is no prosperity without security. And, I don’t think that’s an argument that needs to be made or won around government. 

“I think everybody understands that we are living in a world that is more unstable, more insecure. And, if we want our nation to prosper, we have to invest in the tools to keep our nation safe.”

Speaking on Sky News, Heappey added that he felt that the current administration understood the importance of defence spending.

He said: “I am confident that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary and frankly everyone else around government understands the importance of investing in our nation’s armed forces and our defences at a time when the UK interest at home and abroad is under such threat.

There have been reports that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace would also consider his position if the pledge was scrapped.

Heappey noted the Prime Minister’s difficult position, claiming that Truss cannot afford to make "any more mistakes" if she hopes to stay in post.

Asked how many further mistakes Truss could make, he told Sky News: “Well, I suspect given how skittish our politics are at the moment, not very many."

"I don’t think that there is the opportunity to make any more mistakes because the nation needs a government that is governing well and is making good decisions.”

In an interview with the BBC on Monday evening, Truss apologised for the turmoil of her first month in office and admitted she "hasn't been perfect".

Her comments came hours after Hunt had scrapped the majority of the tax-cutting measures in her mini-Budget announced only weeks ago.

“I do want to accept responsibility and say sorry for the mistakes that have been made. I wanted to act, to help people with their energy bills, to deal with the issue of high taxes, but we went too far and too fast,” she said.

“I have acknowledged that. I have put in place a new Chancellor with a new strategy to restore economic stability. Now what I am focused on is delivering for the public.”

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