Cabinet could be set for defence spending spat

Cabinet could be set for defence spending spat

The prime minister will today urge Nato members to increase their defence spending beyond the official target of 2 per cent of GDP.

Boris Johnson is set to tell Nato allies that they must “dig deep” to help their defence in light of rising inflation.

The Telegraph alleges that defence secretary Ben Wallace’s plans to argue for more spending was frustrated by No 10.

The UK is currently spending 0.3 per cent above the 2 per cent target, a boost which factors in £1.3 billion of support for Ukraine.

Wallace reiterated his preference for an increase in defence spending, telling Sky News this morning: “I am just really keen that we recognise that my settlement was done before Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Russia is very, very dangerous now on the world stage, the world is less secure than it was two, three years ago and is not looking likely to change for the rest of the decade. I think that’s an important moment in the middle of the decade to say we should commit to increase funding.”

Wallace said he wanted to see the UK remain a “leader in the pack” ahead of today’s Nato summit.

He claimed that the UK has been “the leader” in regards to defence spending and that he was “determined” to maintain that.

He insisted that the MoD have enough cash for these plans, explaining: “I am the Defence Secretary in a department, all departmental heads will say they want more money, of course.

“In the here and now, absolutely, we have enough money, we have enough money for next year as well. What you discover in government in different departments is despite getting sums you have got to then spend them properly and I have been determined to make sure we are spending our money and getting it out the door.

“I think what you will see across a whole range of government departments is that despite settlements you can’t immediately start building a hospital or immediately start building roads.

“That is no different for defence. So look, for the here and now and for that comprehensive spending review settlement we are absolutely in the right place.”

Wallace also explained that himself, chancellor Rishi Sunak, and the PM, were in talks about the shape of the shape of defence funding should the Conservatives win the 2024 general election.

He argued that if the UK wishes to “maintain its [global] leadership role” then it needed to “ see probably greater investment” and that “the security of this country is vital, the work the men and women of our armed forces do is incredibly important.”

He suggested that “We have all basked in [the UK’s] success in helping with Covid, with Afghanistan Op Pitting, and now leading from the front on Ukraine,” and that this suggested Britain “wants to maintain its leadership role post-2024 we are going to have to see probably greater investment.”

“We have spent 40 years nearly taking a peace dividend out of the end of the Cold War, sometimes it is important to invest,” he went on.

Yet amid the government’s calls for unity, reports have emerged that the UK could cut off gas supplies to the continent should falling supplies cause emergency plans to be triggered over the coming winter.

The UK government told the Financial Times that it is “fully confident” about its energy security and that such an emergency was “extremely unlikely”.