UK Armed Forces Debate

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Department: Ministry of Defence
Tuesday 12th March 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl of Minto Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (The Earl of Minto) (Con)
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My Lords, I will say something about the Armed Forces to start off with. Our Armed Forces are, at all times, ready to protect and defend the UK. We continue to meet all operational commitments, including supporting Ukraine in the face of Putin’s illegal and unjust invasion and tackling Houthi aggression in the Red Sea. The Royal Navy contributes 25% of NATO’s maritime strength, which has four times as many ships and three times as many submarines as Russia. The RAF has greater lift capacity than at any time since the Second World War. The Army was globally deployed in 67 countries last year, with 14,000 troops deployed on exercises and operations across Europe. We are rightly proud of all their efforts.

On the money side, I have gone into this in quite some detail, and it is the difference between budget and outturn. Budget is a figure struck at the beginning of the financial year, and outturn is what actually gets spent by the end of the financial year. In 2023-24, the budget was £51.4 billion and the outturn was £54.2 billion. This year, the budget is £51.7 billion and the outturn is £55.6 billion—a 1.8% increase of £1.4 billion.

Lord Stirrup Portrait Lord Stirrup (CB)
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My Lords, yesterday in another place a Conservative Member suggested to the Minister for Defence Procurement that the timing of the 2.5% target should be determined by the level of threat rather than as economic conditions allow. In response to this entirely rational and pretty obvious proposition, the Minister replied:

“I do not think that we can commit to levels of public expenditure … without being confident that the economy can support them in a prudent fashion”.—[Official Report, Commons, 11/3/24; col. 25.]

Does the Minister really think that giving fiscal considerations priority over the scale and immediacy of the threat to this nation’s security can be characterised as any kind of prudence?

Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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My Lords, as I have said before, and I can do no more than say again, we are faced with a lot of conflicting needs and requirements from all the different departments of Government. Looking at the level of defence spending, we are spending more in financial terms than we have ever spent before—the highest level in history—and it is increasing in real terms. It is not where we would like it to be, and I think the Prime Minister has made clear the direction of travel in which he wishes it to go.