Jeremy Hunt calls for 'decisive' boost in defence spending in thinly-veiled leadership pitch

Posted On: 
14th May 2019

Jeremy Hunt has called for Britain to "decisively increase" its defence spending in comments likely to be seen as a pitch for the Conservative leadership.

The Foreign Secretary's intervention comes just days after Penny Mordaunt took up post at the Ministry of Defence.
Credit: 
PA

The Foreign Secretary - whose remit does not cover the military budget - said it was "not sustainable" for Britain to stick to its current target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

The comments, made in a wide-ranging speech on foreign policy at London's Mansion House on Monday night, will be seen as a signal to the Conservative party membership that Mr Hunt would be willing to boost Britain's armed forces if he succeeds Theresa May.

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He said: "I believe it is time for the next Strategic Defence and Security Review to ask whether, over the coming decade, we should decisively increase the proportion of GDP we devote to defence.

"Any additional funds would of course need to be for new capabilities and not simply plugging gaps in existing plans."

The next SDSR - which sets military spending for the coming five years - is due to take place in 2020, meaning it is likely to be led by a new Prime Minister.

Although he did not specify the amount Britain should allocate to its armed forces, Mr Hunt said "a more aggressive Russia and a more assertive China" meant it was "simply not sustainable to expect one Nato ally to spend nearly 4% of its GDP on defence while the others spend between 1 and 2%".

And the Foreign Secretary echoed US President Donald Trump's argument that other members of Nato do not contribute enough to the defence pact.

Mr Hunt said: "The outcome of such investment should demonstrate beyond doubt that when we say Britain stands for the defence of democratic values, when we promise never to leave our great ally, the United States, to perform this task alone then we are as good as our word and in doing so we encourage other democracies who share our values to follow suit."

The move comes just days after Penny Mordaunt took up post as Britain's new Defence Secretary following the sacking of Gavin Williamson amid a row over leaks from the top secret National Security Council.

A defence source has already pushed back at Mr Hunt's intervention, telling Sky News: "It is not his place [to talk about defence spending]. It is a shot across Penny's bow."