Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Grant Shapps says he will ‘fight’ for higher defence budget ‘in my own way’

Grant Shapps has insisted said he will “fight” for a higher budget for the Ministry of Defence “in my own way”.

The defence secretary, who was appointed to the role last Thursday, was asked on Sky News if he will be continue his predecessor Ben Wallace’s legacy of lobbying for more defence funding.

As defence secretary, Wallace called his lobbying campaign the “battle for defence”. 

He demanded £11 billion for his department in the Spring budget earlier this year, according to reports; although Chancellor Jeremy Hunt eventually only set aside £5 billion for defence in his budget. 

Wallace appeared to suggest at the time that fighting for funding for the defence department was “an uphill battle”. 

On this point, Shapps told Sky News: “I am now in charge of the Ministry of Defence and as the secretary of state of course I will always fight my corner.

“In fact it is quite helpful from my point of view coming here, the amount that we are spending, the proportion of our gross domestic product that we are spending on defence, is on the rise and we have already said that we want to see that over the longer term, as conditions allow, to go up to 2.5 per cent. It is over £50billion already.

“I fully support that. I think it is very important that we are protected as a nation but also that we are doing our part around the world to help the world be better protected.”

Asked if replicate the often outspoken campaigning of his predecessor Wallace, Shapps said: “I will do it in my own way but as I say I have spoken before about my desire to see a higher defence budget, well before being in this role.”

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has said his ambition is to have hit defence spending hit 2.5 per cent of GDP in the long term.

Shapps was also questioned on his suitability for the role of defence secretary. Pressed by Kay Burley was unable to say how many ranks there are in the army.

But he defended his appointment, saying: “What the Ministry of Defence needs is the highly experienced cabinet ministers who can run a complex infrastructure orientated department.

“I’ve had a lot of experience of running very large budgets and complex departments.”

He also pointed out that only two of the past 15 defence secretaries had a military background.

On the matter of whether Raac concrete has been detected at any buildings under the Ministry of Defence’s remit, Shapps said: ”We are going through and having a look at the estate”

“It doesn’t look to us that the accommodation was built in that way and certainly when it comes to service family accommodation it is highly unlikely any of that has been affected which is obviously important.

“We’re looking at the rest of the estate but it looks like the kind of thing we’ll be dealing with in the normal course of business rather than needing to close everything down.”