Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace slams MoD budget 'raids' since 1991

Britain’s military has been ‘hollowed out by successive governments since 1991’: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace demands return to acceptable funding and says claims Nato doesn’t want UK to take over its Responce Force leadership as ‘just b****cks’

  • Ben Wallace accused governments of raiding the defence budget since 1991
  • He said reports Nato asked Berlin stay in charge of rapid reaction force ‘b****cks’

Ben Wallace has called for a return to ‘investing in defence properly’ as he hit out at successive governments for ‘hollowing out’ the military.

The Defence Secretary accused ministers of ‘raiding’ his department’s budget since 1991 and said he faced an uphill struggle to get more cash ahead of next month’s Budget.

But he said he hoped defence spending had ‘turned the corner’ after being given an extra £16billion over four years in 2020.

He also branded reports in the German media about Nato asking Berlin to remain in charge of the alliance’s rapid reaction force next year as ‘just b****cks’.

The UK is scheduled to take leadership of the Nato Response Force (NRF) from Berlin at the end of the year, but German media has claimed Nato asked Berlin to remain in charge due to depleting British resources.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) has called for a return to ‘investing in defence properly’ as he hit out at successive governments for ‘hollowing out’ the military

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Wallace said: ‘The story of Germany, it’s just b****cks, right? I mean, to be honest, the simple reality is Nato leadership did not approach anybody. We are taking over the NRF as scheduled.’

Speaking separately to Sky News he said: ‘What we have seen since 1991, since the end of the Cold War, is a consistent, effectively raiding, of the defence budget over time. The problem is that continued and has continued for far too many decades as the threat has increased… which is why Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak when he was chancellor gave us £16billion extra back in 2020.

‘It was the first real turning of the corner with real money rather than fantasy efficiency savings… and that has allowed us to start modernising our Armed Forces.’

Now Mr Wallace wants between £8billion and £11billion over the next two years, while officials want to boost the budget by as much as a fifth to cover the costs of inflation, foreign exchange fluctuations and funding Nato and efforts in Ukraine.

The UK is scheduled to take leadership of the Nato Response Force (NRF) from Berlin at the end of the year, but German media has claimed Nato asked Berlin to remain in charge due to depleting British resources. Pictured: Ben Wallace (front-centre) attends a NATO defence ministers’ meeting with his counterparts at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday

But Treasury officials are resisting the demands, pointing to MoD projects that have failed to deliver value for money.

But senior Tories are warning that ministers have ‘cut the Army beyond the bone’ and that a world-class military can’t be bought ‘on the cheap’.

Mr Wallace yesterday denied he would quit if he doesn’t get the funding he wants, adding: ‘It is always an uphill battle with the Treasury no matter what department you’re in. Of course between now and the Budget I have lots of time and lots of meetings with the Chancellor to make sure that we try and come to a deal on it.’

In her short stint as PM, Liz Truss promised to raise defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030, but Mr Sunak has distanced himself from the pledge.

Ms Truss could increase pressure over the issue with a speech in Japan tomorrow about foreign threats facing Britain.

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