Ellwood denounces Hunt’s £11bn defence pledge as ‘smoke and mirrors’
Chancellor leaves Downing Street ahead of Budget
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Jeremy Hunt announcement of a further £5 billion for the Ministry of Defence across the next two years, with £11 billion being allocated over the course of 5 years has been branded “smoke and mirrors”. The investment will take Britain up to spending almost 2.25 percent of GDP on defence but the chairman of the Commons Defence select Committee Tobias Ellwood warned that it could lead to cuts to Britain’s conventional armed forces.
Mr Ellwood told Express.co.uk: “All smoke and mirrors I’m afraid. I welcome the investment in the nuclear deterrent and the replenishment of weapons stocks but when you take that money out it leaves the MoD with about £1 billion a year which is in effect a real terms cut.
“There will be even less when you account for taxes and expenses.
“It means our conventional forces remain hollowed out as the threats come over the hill.”
His concerns were echoed by other defence committee members and a briefing note gave a damning indictment of the real impact of Mr Hunt’s announcement.
Labour committee member Kevan Jones said: “This will actually lead to cuts in the armed forces not expansion.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had campaigned for an increase of £8 to 11 billion over two years but instead got £5 billion for two years and £11 billion total for five years.
The briefing note for the defence committee pointed out that according to the government’s press release: “£3 billion will be invested across the defence nuclear enterprise” and “The remaining £1.9 billion will replenish and bolster our munitions stockpiles to replace items donated to Ukraine and invest in the resilience of the UK’s munitions infrastructure.”
The note concluded: “Day-to-day spending (RDEL) is expected to be cut by £2.6bn or 8% between 21/22 and 24/25.”
The Government’s plan is to lift it to 2.5 percent over the longer term although this is still short of the 3 percent Mr Wallace had pushed for.
Mr Hunt also announced £33 million in additional funding for veteran support.
The Chancellor said he is “proud we’re giving Ukraine more military support than anyone else in Europe.”
He added: “On Monday we were able to go even further, with Ben Wallace announcing a £5bn package of funding for the MoD; an additional £2bn next year and £3bn the year after.
“Today following representations from Wallace I confirm we will add a total of £11bn to our defence budget over the next five years.
“It will be nearly 2.25 percent of GDP by 2025.
“We were the first large European funding to commit to 2 percent of GDP. We will now raise that to 2.5 percent as soon as fiscal circumstances allow.”
The Chancellor continued: “We will provide a package of over £30m to support veterans with injuries returning from service and increase the availability of veterans’ houses.”
Responding to the announcement on veteran funding, minister Johnny Mercer told the Daily Express it’s “the biggest financial commitment from the Treasury to veterans affairs in UK history.”
Over the weekend the Government announced an extra £5 billion in defence spending, ahead of Rishi Sunak visiting the US to announce a new defence pact with the United States and Australia.
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