Thursday, 11 May 2017

Parties agree to meet NATO 2% defence budget target




The Conservative and Labour parties have reaffirmed their commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence if they win the General Election and criticised each other's policies towards the armed forces.
 
Theresa May said Jeremy Corbyn's approach to defence was "nonsensical", while the shadow defence secretary described the Tories as "hypocrites".


"Their cuts have left our forces more under-resourced and underpaid than at any time in the modern era," said Nia Griffith.


"Labour is committed to spending at least 2% of GDP on defence and ensuring that our armed forces have the necessary capabilities to fulfil the full range of our NATO obligations, and we will continue to press other members of the Alliance to do the same."


Although the Conservatives have repeatedly boasted about their achievement of spending 2% of GDP on defence, the Government's very own newly released calculations show they have fallen short of that.


The 2017 Public Spending Statistics, compiled by the Office for National Statistics with Treasury figures, show that 1.9% of GDP was spent on defence in 2015/16.


The figures, released a few days ago, are the most up-to-date analysis of Government spending.


The Ministry of Defence argues that the NATO figure includes spending outside of the main MOD budget such as war pensions and elements of intelligence spending, but the confusion supports those who accuse the Government of creative accounting and shows the UK is close to the line, whoever has their calculations right.

On Wednesday a group of former senior military personnel wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister to express concerns that the British armed forces are understaffed and under-equipped.


It read: "The armed services are having to seek further very damaging savings in manpower, support and training at a time when the likelihood of combat operations is increasing. These realities of the security situation must be faced."


Earlier this year the respected security think-tank the IISS also said it thought Britain fell short of its 2% commitment, although that was vehemently rejected by Downing Street and NATO has said it believes the UK does meet the target.


Later this month Theresa May will travel to Brussels for a NATO summit. The UK has repeatedly called on other NATO countries to increase their defence spending.


"As Prime Minister I always have and always will put Britain's national security first," Mrs May said.


"That is why if elected on 8 June I will ensure that the UK continues to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence and that the budget rises every year."





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