Ukraine: Ben Wallace quizzed on whether UK will send fighter jets
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The Ministry of Defence is expecting a £10billion boost to its spending power at the March budget. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appears to be confident he can squeeze the cash out of the Treasury. Mr Wallace is thought to have asked Chancellor Jeremy Hunt for £10billion to fund the UK’s defence, amid mounting threats from global powers such as Russia and China.
The Chancellor is reluctant to boost departmental spending, in an attempt to keep inflation down.
But Mr Wallace told Sky: “Between now and the Budget, I’ve got lots of time and lots of meetings with the Chancellor to make sure that we…come to a deal”.
However, he admitted that it is an “uphill battle” with the Treasury.
The Defence Secretary said he wanted the extra funding to “insulate defence” from inflationary pressures.
Mr Hunt will unveil his new budget on March 15.
Mr Wallace accepted that the UK has a “long way to go” in tackling inflation, acknowledging that it is important for the UK not to “break our own fiscal discipline”.
But he also said it is the “right thing” for a department to argue for a budget increase to “meet their priorities”.
The UK is under mounting pressure to boost defence spending, as concern grows over the threat posed by both Russia and China.
Britain has also sent significant weapons supplies to Ukraine, prompting calls for the Treasury to replenish its own stockpiles.
Mr Wallace said it was his “duty to the public” to properly fund defence.
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, Chair of the Defence Select Committee, yesterday warned the UK’s security is looking “increasingly vulnerable” as a result of defence spending having “stagnated”.
When asked if the Government’s reluctance to fund the army properly is putting UK security at risk, Mr Ellwood told the Daily Express: “This is what the defence committee has been stressing for some time.
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“Year on year, the threat picture is progressively deteriorating but defence spending has stagnated meaning our security and indeed economy are looking increasingly vulnerable.
“Europe requires leadership. Britain can only play its influential role and protect our interests if we spend more on defence.”
Former Conservative Party Leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith also warned that the British Army has been cut “beyond the bone”.
Sir Iain, who served in Northern Ireland and Zimbabwe in the Scots Guard, continued: “It’s time we stopped this nonsense and pretence that we can get military forces on the cheap.
“It is not in a fit state to fight a Ukrainian-style conflict.
Speaking to the Dialy Mail, he added: “The MoD needs more money, but it must ensure what it spends is spent wisely and sensibly on machines that actually work.”
But former armed forces minister Mark Francois blamed the MoD for the money problems, saying the department is “trapped in a prison of its own making”.
He added: “They undoubtedly need more money… but they also remain in denial that their procurement system is broken.
“If they want the extra cash they have to fess up that their system doesn’t work, and then promise to fix it rapidly.”
The number of troops in the Army was reduced from 83,000 in 2015 towards a target of 72,500 by 2025.
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