Penny Mordaunt accuses Philip Hammond of failing to appreciate value of defence spending

Posted On: 
21st June 2019

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt has accused Philip Hammond of failing to appreciate the value of military spending to the nation.

Penny Mordaunt has been Defence Secretary since last month.
Credit: 
PA Images

In an outspoken attack, she called on the Treasury to loosen the purse strings in the upcoming Whitehal spending review and give her department a major funding boost.

Ms Mordaunt said she had also urged the Department for Exiting the EU to give the Ministry of Defence more freedom to award shipbuilding contracts to UK firms.

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And she revealed that the Queen had appointed her a commander with an honorary commission in the Royal Navy.

Speaking to The House magazine, Ms Mordaunt said the Treasury "has not really understood the full value of defence to the nation".

"The methodology that it uses is flawed," she said. "So, in advance of the spending review I will be setting out why I think it should change its methodology towards its assessment of the return to the UK of investing in defence.

"I think that we need to make a compelling case and I think we can make a compelling case. It’s not just the fact that it’s the duty of any government to make sure we have the capabilities, but it’s also looking at what else we bring. The research and development that’s going on in defence has tremendous potential for other sectors.

“We should not just be a drain on resource, we should be a contributor to resource, and if the Treasury see the opportunities they are not capitalising on at the moment, we will be able to do that and make a compelling argument why we are a very good investment."

Meanwhile, the Defence Secretary said being able to award Navy shipbuilding contracts to UK firms must be a "red line" in any future negotiations with Brussels.

At the moment, the UK must ensure that firms from across the EU are able to bid for any Ministry of Defence contracts.

That has led to an angry backlash from Tory MPs, who say the rule puts thousands of shipbuilding jobs in the UK at risk.

Ms Mordaunt - who only became Defence Secretary last month after Gavin Williamson was sacked - said: "I have communicated to DExEU that I will be looking for some red lines in our future negotiations with the EU which previously haven’t been brought forward. I want to be able to have the choice about reserving our ability to build ships and other capabilities.

"Currently it is argued that we don’t have the choice and I have expressed that view very strongly to DExEU and have been backed up with support from an array of experts in this field.

"That is one thing I have done very swiftly. We may not choose to do it in all circumstances, we’re going to have much more work in our yards in the coming years, but I think we should reserve the right to do that.”

COMMANDER

Ms Mordaunt, a Naval reservist since 2009, also revealed that she had been promoted to the rank of commander by the Queen.

She said: "You’re still part of the fleet but you help the service with a much more strategic role.

"I look forward to serving the fleet in my new role and it’s great that I still have a connection with the uniform."