Harry highlights shrinking MoD budgets during Army aviation visit
There has been speculation about cuts to personnel and equipment due to major pressure on the defence budget.
Prince Harry has highlighted the issue of shrinking Ministry of Defence budgets during a visit to the home of Army aviation to present wings to military flyers.
Harry’s comment may be interpreted by some as support for the military and tacit criticism of rumoured Whitehall plans to make cuts to the military.
In recent months there has been widespread speculation about possible cuts to personnel and equipment owing to major pressure on the defence budget, alongside calls from MPs to increase spending to 3% of GDP.
Speaking at the Middle Wallop military base in Hampshire, Harry told the 12 wings recipients, their families and senior military figures from the site: “You’re now going to end up flying some of the best aircraft that we have to offer.
“In certain areas budgets are being shrunk, but essentially you guys are the assets, the aircraft is the asset and just don’t forget who you’re serving and who you’re supporting.”
Labour peer, and former First Sea Lord, Lord West of Spithead told the Press Association: “Any royal ‘stands into danger’ when he makes comments that directly relate to political issues.
“I am delighted he is saying it because it is true.
“The Modernising Defence Programme instigated by Gavin Williamson will have to come up with more funding for defence.”
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Lord Campbell said: “It may not quite be a Royal command but it’s as close as you can get.
“Servicemen and women at every level in the forces are well aware of the serious under-funding of the defence budget.
“The Defence Secretary is on record as seeking an increase in his budget but the test of his influence over the Chancellor will be just how much he manages to get.
In July last year the Government launched a National Security Capability Review, examining all aspects of national security capabilities, but there were concerns it would prioritise measures to counter cyber attacks and terrorism rather than major defence projects.
There were reports that parts of the military faced cuts including the Royal Marines, regular troop numbers and amphibious assault ships.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has ordered defence to be removed from the review and looked at under a new initiative, the Modernising Defence Programme.
This was widely seen as the rumoured cuts being put on hold while the future defence capability of the nation was looked at in detail.
Harry also alluded to the issue of reduced resources for the military when he gave a speech at a one-day conference on Thursday about the mental health of veterans.
Speaking at King’s College London, Harry told delegates: “In an ever-shrinking defence community where every man and woman counts, we must consider that mental health issues are the second highest cause of absence after muscular-skeletal injury.”