Wallace won’t resign over defence cash because he wants NATO job

Ben Wallace responds to claims from Johnny Mercer

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Tory MPs believe that Ben Wallace will be privately disappointed that he did not get £10billion extra spending for tthe Ministry of Defence Budget and three percent of GDP long term. However, even though he could inflict huge political damage on the Prime Minister, MPs believe he will not resign because he wants to fulfil a personal ambition.

Mr Sunak last night made a major announcement on defence spending and reorganisation when he landed in San Diego last night for an Aukus summit with US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Prime Minister said defence spending will be increased by £5billion in the Budget over the next two years to a new record level.

He also set the ambition of getting defence spending to above 2.5 percent of GDP in the longer term with a fresh review in 2025.

However, it is understood that Mr Wallace has been pushing for £10billion extra and defence spending to be at three percent of GDP.

Labour last night claimed that the rise of £5billion would barely cover the money needed to pay for increases caused by inflation.

The press release last night did not include a quote from Mr Wallace with the Prime Minister landing in the US to discuss tripartite cooperation on nuclear weapons with the submarines programme.

But Conservative MPs were divided over how Mr Wallace should react.

One senior former minister said: “Ben has to be very careful. He very much wants to be NATO General Secretary and that is not in the bag yet by any means.

“A decision will be coming soon on that but he will need the Government’s support so I would be very surprised if he resigned.”

Another noted: “Wallace gave a very interesting speech to the ConHome defence conference last week.

“In it he effectively said that the money for the next two years was not as important as the issue of how much the country is willing to spend in the medium and long term to defend itself.”

Another Tory MP added: “Let’s be frank, he may have asked for £10 billion but nobody ever low balls in a negotitation they always high ball.

“Wallace has probably got what he wanted. Would he have liked more? Probably but he would not have expected that.”

However, other Tory MPs thought that the settlement could prove problematic for the Prime Minister.

One Conservative MP said: “Just look at where Ben Wallace ranks on the ConHome league table of Cabinet ministers. He is always one of the highest.

“If he quits it will cause a lot of damage for the Prime Minister.

“A lot of members would like to have him as leader instead.”

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Another MP said: “It’s not just about Ben Wllace and what he wants. Most Conservative MPs would like to see a significant increase in defence spending.

“It’s all very well spending money on woke issues like diversity managers and courses in the public sector but this country needs to defend itself.”

Meanwhile, members of the Defence select Committee in the Commons have been pushing on the parlous state of Britain’s armed forces.

Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood has been highly critical of the lack of funding.

The committee has just launched an inquiry under the chairmanship of former Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois into defence procurement with a number of programmes in trouble including the army’s heavy armoured vehicles being behind schedule.

Mr Francois recently described heavy armoured vehicles as being “clapped out” and questioning whether they could get to the Baltics in 60 days if Russia invaded a NATO ally.

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