Ben Wallace admits Tory manifesto pledge on defence spending WILL be broken and warns ‘greater investment’ is needed amid Russia threat as Boris Johnson kicks off NATO summit urging allies to boost funding
- Boris Johnson will tell fellow Nato leaders to increase their defence spending
- But Tories dropping manifesto vow to hike UK defence budget above inflation
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned there must be ‘greater investment’ later
Ben Wallace today admitted the Tories will break a manifesto pledge on defence spending and called for ‘increased investment’ as Boris Johnson kicks off a NATO summit urging allies to boost funding.
The Defence Secretary acknowledged that the government will not manage to raise budgets by 0.5 percentage points more than inflation, as it soars towards 11 per cent.
But he fuelled a growing Cabinet row by demanding a surge in military spending from the ‘middle of the decade’, saying the threat from Russia means ‘certain vulnerabilities’ must be addressed.
At the NATO gathering in Madrid today, the PM will demand that countries ‘dig deep’ to meet the threat posed by Vladimir Putin, warning of a dangerous decade ahead.
He will call for the alliance to look at raising its target of spending 2 per cent of national income on defence.
Ben Wallace today admitted the Tories will break a manifesto pledge on defence spending and called for ‘increased investment’
At the NATO gathering in Madrid today, the PM (pictured with Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese) will demand that countries ‘dig deep’ to meet the threat posed by Vladimir Putin , warning of a dangerous decade ahead
Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks to journalists on his plane during a flight from Germany where he was attending the G7 Summit to the NATO Summit in Madrid. At a summit, the Prime Minister will ask NATO to raise its target of spending 2 per cent of national income on defence
Mr Wallace, who is attending the Nato summit in Madrid, said no government delivered ‘100 per cent’ of what it promised in manifesto.
He said the election programme spelled out ‘what we are going to try to deliver’, adding it ‘would have been different’ if ministers had known Covid was coming.
Mr Wallace said that while he had enough funding for the ‘here and now’, extra investment was needed in the next Government spending round from the middle of the decade.
‘We were prepared to take certain vulnerabilities on board in the middle of the decade as we got rid of some equipment and re-equipped anew. I think the invasion of Russia into Ukraine has changed that,’ he told Sky News.
‘That is why I think discussions are so important for the middle-of-decade funding. In the here and now we are rightly set. The question is what happens in the middle of the decade.
‘My settlement was done before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is very, very dangerous 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.
‘That is the moment, in the middle of the decade, to say we should commit to increased funding.’
Mr Johnson appears to be on a collision course with Mr Wallace and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss who both want a substantial increase in spending in response to the war in Ukraine.
In an extraordinary intervention yesterday, Mr Wallace warned there was a ‘real risk’ Russia could ‘lash out’ against the UK and its European allies.
The Defence Secretary said the British military had for too long had to survive on ‘a diet of smoke and mirrors, hollowed-out formations and fantasy savings’.
Asked about Mr Wallace’s remarks in the Commons, Ms Truss said: ‘I agree with [his] concerns. The free world did not spend enough on defence post the Cold War and we are now paying the consequences.’
In the 2019 Conservative manifesto, the party pledged to raise defence spending by 0.5 percentage points above the rate of inflation each year.
With inflation set to hit 11 per cent this year and the public finances battered by the impact of the pandemic, government sources admitted the promise would be dropped.
Mr Johnson yesterday insisted the spending would increase by more than inflation over the course of five years to 2024.
Defending his record, he said the UK had consistently met Nato’s 2 per cent target and was about to begin talks with other nations on raising this.
Speaking on the flight to Madrid, he told reporters: ‘We’re delivering record increases in defence spending – £24billion more [over four years] – the biggest increase in defence spending since the end of the Cold War.
‘Last year, 2021, the UK was the third biggest defence spender in the world and we are already comfortably above the 2 per cent. We’re at 2.3 per cent.’
Nato’s own assessment published this week indicated that the UK spent an estimated 2.26 per cent of GDP on defence in 2021 and was on course for 2.12 per cent in 2022.
Mr Johnson said he would ask fellow leaders to begin discussions on raising the 2 per cent target, which has so far only been met by nine members of the 30-strong alliance.
‘I think that we will have to have a conversation at Nato about where we go next,’ he said.’That’s something that we’ll be talking about to friends and colleagues.’
Ahead of the summit, Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that Russia cannot be allowed to win the war in Ukraine.
King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain pose with the participants of the 2022 NATO Summit. The 2 per cent military spending target has so far only been met by nine members of the 30-strong alliance
The French president told a news conference: ‘I really hope that the end [of the conflict] can be achieved by the end of the year, with a certainty and a desire, which is that Russia cannot and must not win.’
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said: ‘There is only one way out: for Putin to accept that his plans in Ukraine will not succeed.’
A senior government source defended the ditching of the Tory manifesto target to increase UK defence spending above inflation.
They said: ‘The manifesto was written before £400billion had to be spent locking people up for their own safety because of the global pandemic.
‘There is a reality check on things that were offered in a different age which is the only reasonable thing that we can expect.’
Mr Johnson will also announce today that Britain will send further troops to Estonia to help reinforce Nato’s eastern flank.
They will form part of a new 300,000-strong force, reacting against any Russian incursion, that leaders will agree on this week.
Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa, and Boris Johnson pose for a family photo with Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia. Johnson yesterday insisted the spending would increase by more than inflation over the course of five years to 2024
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