UK’s army is ‘too small’ says Tobias Ellwood
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Britain is set to publish an update of a major review on defence, security and foreign policy ahead of next week’s Budget. Three sources told Sky News they expect the refresh to the Government’s Integrated Review to be released on Monday – two days before the Chancellor unveils his spending plans on March 15.
An initial draft had to be reworked as it did not sufficiently reflect the urgent need to boost the army’s warfighting capabilities in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, according to two sources.
But one source said the new version may still only be a “tweak” of the original review in March 2021.
The Integrated Review was drawn up when Boris Johnson was the occupant of 10 Downing Street.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak inherited the refresh from his predecessor Liz Truss.
The refresh was ordered by Ms Truss, whose brief premiership only lasted 49 days, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and with pressure from some in the Tory party to take a tougher line on China.
Ms Truss had pledged a significant bump in defence spending to three percent of GDP – a measure of the size of the nation’s economy – up from two percent.
But her successor Mr Sunak has made no such commitment to the increase in defence funding.
It comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace earlier this week said he is “pretty confident” his department will be given the investment boost it requires in next week’s Budget to carry out army upgrades.
Mr Wallace has called for extra money for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to help deal with inflationary pressures and the costs of backing Ukraine in its battle against Russia.
The Defence Secretary reportedly wanted up to £11billion extra over the next two years, but Jeremy Hunt is said to have agreed a rise of closer to £4-5billion as part of his Budget package.
Asked at Conservative Home’s defence and security conference on Monday whether he was confident he would receive the investment the armed forces required, Mr Wallace said: “I’m pretty confident, yes.”
As well as dealing with inflation, which stands at around 10 percent, the Cabinet minister said Russia’s attack on Ukraine had changed the timetable for when military investment would be required.
He said £24billion of armed forces funding, announced by Mr Sunak in 2020 when he was chancellor, was designed to plug “historical black holes” but also kick-start the process of updating British Army equipment that was “desperately in need of replacement”.
Stating that some army upgrades were 15 years overdue, Mr Wallace continued: “We were prepared to take some risks in the timeframes of bringing in new capability.
“Then, of course, Putin invades Ukraine and that changes some of those middle-of-the-decade timetables that we were prepared to take a risk in.
“The negotiations I’m involved in are about how I can bring some equipment forward in order to mitigate those risks.”
He repeated his assertion that the British Army had been “hollowed out” over a 30-year period by successive Governments.
Mr Wallace also called for the UK to move to a 10-year budget framework for defence to provide long-term stability and avoid waste when it comes to military procurement.
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