Britain should ‘do better’ in defence funding – Sir Michael Fallon
The Defence Secretary said funding should increase beyond the 2% of GDP Nato target.
Sir Michael Fallon has called for an increase in defence funding as his ministry announced a £1 billion support package for the Royal Navy fleet.
The Defence Secretary said Britain should aim to “do better” than simply meeting its 2% of GDP Nato target, in a move which will put pressure on Chancellor Philip Hammond ahead of his financial statement on November 22.
In a speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Sir Michael said the Armed Forces must “modernise” the way it worked “as we grow our defence budget”.
He said that as threats “intensify”, his department was “now looking right across government to make sure we are doing enough, spending enough, to properly protect our country against all of those threats – cyber, hybrid warfare, rogue states, terrorist attacks”.
“Spending 2% of GDP on defence is the minimum Nato commitment,” he said.
“We meet it but we should always aim to do better still.”
During a visit to the Albion Academy in Salford earlier on Tuesday, Sir Michael told the Press Association “we are going to grow the defence budget”.
His comments came as the MoD announced a Common Support Model to maintain Royal Navy warships and new aircraft carriers.
The £1 billion support package – of which almost £800 million has been signed off – “will produce faster turnaround and improve the availability of our world class warships”, Sir Michael told delegates.
It brings together contracts from within the existing defence budget, aimed at ensuring the fleet can spend more time at sea.
But senior naval figures have said the service simply does not have enough ships.
Former first sea lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas told the Sunday Times last month the UK would have the capabilities of a “third-world nation” unless funding was increased, warning the Royal Navy was “hollowed out”.
But Sir Michael hit back, saying the Admiral had welcomed the measures contained in the 2015 defence review.
He told the Press Association: “We have got the fifth biggest defence budget in the world, the biggest navy in Europe, two enormous flagships – the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales.
“There’s nothing hollowed out about the Queen Elizabeth.”
Sir Michael said 400 extra sailors were being recruited and the service would have new frigates and patrol vessels.
“As first sea lord, he welcomed this new investment,” Sir Michael said. “We are going to grow the Navy and we are going to grow the defence budget.”
Sir Michael also used the speech to announce the creation of 30 more cadet units in state schools, and said he wanted to “attract into our Armed Forces more ethnic minority and female recruits”.
The latest units are part of the Tory drive to increase the number of cadet units in state schools to 500 by 2020.