» Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Defence Spending

Asked for a reaction to today’s Times story suggesting that the Defence Secretary had written to the Prime Minister to complain about proposed Treasury cuts to the defence budget, the PMOS said that the next spending review would be in the summer, as was well known. This was not the first time that stories about departmental budgets had appeared in advance of a spending review. It seemed to be a fact of political life. However, in relation to the MoD’s budget, it was important to remember that, far from there being cuts as had been suggested last night, the 2002 spending review was delivering the biggest increases in defence spending for twenty years. For example, we had met the costs of Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and the war on terror. We would continue to ensure that our armed forces were equipped to do the difficult job that the Government asked of them. Asked to clarify apparently differing views regarding the MoD’s spending limit, the PMOS said that he had no intention of engaging in a public debate about departmental spending negotiations, as he did not think it was appropriate to do so. It was right for those discussions to take place and for announcements to be made in the usual way. Simply because stories appeared in newspapers did not mean that we should change our practices.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. Blair and his government do not understand defence or the armed forces. Once again we have a "smokescreen" he can spin into and out of. Our forces have arguably never been properly equipped becasue we continue to try to develop the wheel again and again rather than taking somebody else’s proven product and making it under license – where necassary. This is not the first government to starve the military of the kit they need and allow UK firms to deliver late, over budget and inefficient equipment to our armed forces who then have to do the best job they can with what they are given.

    Comment by Hipster — 12 Mar 2004 on 9:27 am | Link
  2. It strikes me that successive Governments have seen the Armed Forces as a convenient piggy-bank when they need a few shekels for some other dodgy project. And it doesn’t help that so much is wasted as a direct result of cronyism and jobs for the boys. As an example, the Eurofighter. How much will have been wasted if the decision to bin our involvement is taken? And you can bet that whichever Air Force General or whoever was involved in the procurement of the original contract is sitting on the Eurofighter board right now.

    It happens all the time; I could give countless verifiable examples of the wastage that goes on in the forces, and also the abuses of the people who volunteer. I’m not talking about physical abuses (although those happened too); the lives put at risk on a daily basis because of inadequate and old equipment – or shortages of basics including clothing.

    And once again it ultimately comes down to Ministerial responsibility, or complete lack thereof as is more the case. The fact that so few of our politicians have served their country in the military does not help – they only see the fancy-smancy parades and stunts and barracks smartly prepared weeks in advance of visits, and stuff like Soldier Soldier on TV. They somehow imagine that soldiers ENJOY being sent off to war; the crusty old upper-class indifference brought forward into the corporate world. Prime Ministers would not be so keen to throw our troops into needless conflicts if they had experienced first hand some of the human cost involved. But unfortunately they haven’t and they do. It’s almost a sport.

    And it is a huge testament to our Armed Forces that, smaller and smaller though they be squeezed and busier and more under pressure maybe than ever before, they continue to do a fantastic job to the extent that they are rightly seen by most as the best in the world at most of what they do. And the government should take as little credit for that as possible; though they commit a larger and larger proportion of our forces to active operations they waste no time in cutting numbers and funding, therefore forcing constant reorganization and the associated retraining and bedding in. No, it’s a testament to the ordinary people who volunteer to serve selflessly – for they get little thanks afterwards, little or no financial remuneration, the bare minimum of qualifications despite intensive study and on-the-job training, no special consideration for employment afterwards (in fact often the opposite), and often nursing mental, physical and emotional scars which are scorned by the very people who effectively inflicted them. The country would be a much much better place to live if the government served a fraction as selflessly.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 12 Mar 2004 on 10:11 am | Link
  3. no comments

    Comment by prakash — 4 Oct 2005 on 9:05 am | Link
  4. In other words the PMOS dismisses all of this as ‘the usual pre-review political manoeuvring’. Well maybe, but the huge gap between real soldiers and bureaucrats continues to widen.

    Sadly, real soldiers (and sailors and airmen/women) are on the decrease whereas the numbers of desk posts, civil servants and ‘consultants’ increase exponentially.

    It’s not the regular military who place and oversee contracts for kit. It is these others who, as has been mentioned above, are unhealthily close to the arms business – and not close enough to the end users.

    And one has to question the relationship between Cabinet Ministers’ decisions and the industries in their various constituencies. Time for a little intellectual rigour and just a touch of honesty, perhaps.

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 4 Oct 2005 on 9:46 am | Link

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