Monday, 11 February 2019 15:08

DEFENCE SECRETARY ‘FINGER WAG’ ON DEFENCE SPENDING BEGGARS BELIEF

TORY MINISTER USING MoD AS VESSEL TO PARTY LEADERSHIP BID

The SNP has accused the UK Defence Secretary of hypocrisy after “finger wagging at other countries” on defence spending, whilst presiding over huge black holes in the MoD budget.

In a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, a defence and security think tank, Tory Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said that the United Kingdom must be ready to act alone to take military action in order to protect UK interests abroad.

His intervention comes only a week after a recent report from the National Audit Office outlined the precarious state of the MoD’s finances, including that the Department “lost billions on military housing” after it sold off 55,000 housing units to Annington Property Ltd for £1.66 billion in 1996, which it now rents out.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published a report today outlining that the UK Chancellor must find an extra £5bn per year by 2023, anticipating further strain on all Whitehall departments and speculating cuts to some services to balance the books.

Commenting, SNP Defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald MP said:

“This was an extraordinary speech from Gavin Williamson – almost impressive in its ability to ignore the mounting funding challenges - well into the billions - that his department faces. We know from the reports of both the National Audit Office and also parliament’s Public Accounts Committee that the MoD has one of the most dire financial outlooks in Whitehall and it is only getting worse.

“It is therefore incumbent on Gavin Williamson to halt the proxy Conservative leadership challenge that he is so perversely using the MoD for, and instead commit to a serious and thoughtful approach to sorting out the challenges facing defence and security.  

“Failure to do so is a dereliction of duty to citizens across the UK, members of the armed forces and the UK’s allies in NATO. How Mr Williamson considers that he is in any position to wag the finger at other countries on their defence spending when he himself is presiding over the greatest funding challenges that the MoD has ever faced simply beggars belief.

“In trying to channel his inner Churchill he has instead presented his inner Trump, and the armed forces as well as the UK’s allies deserve better.

“The SNP has continued to offer a constructive opposition to the Conservatives on defence. We have engaged constructively on the Modernising Defence Programme in a bid to improve the UK’s defence posture in the High North, improve working conditions for members of the armed forces and suggested a more sustainable funding model – switching to multi-year defence agreements – in order to achieve this.

“When Gavin Williamson eventually gives up on his ambition to replace Theresa May, as surely he will, I hope he will engage with us in that meaningful discussion”.



IFS Report: ‘The outlook for the 2019 Spending Review’ - https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/13854

‘Austerity to continue unless Hammond spends, says IFS’ - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47190525

‘UK armed forces 'face £7bn equipment funding black hole'’ - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47082922

‘UK defence ministry slammed over potential £21bn procurement black hole’ - https://www.ft.com/content/a54a89e0-06ab-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5

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