Ben Wallace has suggested the ministry of defence (MoD) is facing an “uphill battle” with Jeremy Hunt as he tries to secure more defence spending at the upcoming budget.
The defence secretary has said he will have “lots of meetings with the Chancellor” between now and March 15 as he works to “insulate” the ministry of defence from soaring inflation.
He also pointed out that since the end of the Cold War, there had been a “consistent raiding” of the defence budget while the threat has “increased”.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, he said he has not “hidden the fact that we suffer from inflation pressures” at a time of rising global threat.
“But we’ll see. I am not going to conduct the negotiations in public but obviously we are going to try and make our way through this so that between now and the next spending review which is in two years’ time we can insulate defence from many of those pressures”, Mr Wallace added.
Asked how much money the ministry of defence needs to “stand still”, Mr Wallace told Sky News: “I have been in this game long enough, I think I have been a minister for god knows how many years, but it is always an uphill battle with the treasury no matter what department you’re in”.
Asked whether he would resign if he does not get the money he wants, as he has previously pledged, Mr Wallace said: “No, let’s just get to the budget.”
Pushed on the topic, Mr Wallace said he did not know where reports saying he would resign if his desired funding did not materialise originated.
Mr Wallace is in Brussels today for a meeting with his NATO counterparts amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, with expectations growing of a Russian spring offensive. It follows Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s whistle-stop tour of Western Europe last week, which saw him deliver a speech to MPs in Westminster Hall.
Other matters, such as fresh tensions with China over “spy balloons”, are also expected to feature.
Meanwhile, it was revealed earlier this morning that UK inflation has eased slightly to 10.1% from 10.5%. The decrease comes from January to December and will fuel speculation that the UK might have seen the worst of inflation after a 41-year high of 11.1% was recorded in October.
The reduction had been expected by economists but is still greater than the 10.1% forecast by the Bank of England’s money policy committee earlier this month.
Commenting on the newly announced fall, which follows yesterday’s news that UK unemployment has remained unchanged, chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “While any fall in inflation is welcome, the fight is far from over.
“High inflation strangles growth and causes pain for families and businesses – that’s why we must stick to the plan to halve inflation this year, reduce debt and grow the economy”.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “With inflation still close to a 40-year high, people will be asking if 13 years of Tory government has left them and their family feeling better off? The answer will be no.
“Despite Britain’s enormous potential, in April households will be hit by another economic blow when energy prices go up. Labour would be bringing in a proper windfall tax on oil and gas giants now to stop energy bills going up in April. Our long-term plan to sprint to clean power and insulate 19 million homes will keep bills low for the future too, and get our economy growing”.