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28 June 2022

Ben Wallace criticises cabinet colleagues as he calls for higher defence spending

The Defence Secretary said fellow ministers need to respond to UK security threats with the same urgency as they do an NHS winter crisis.

By Freddie Hayward

Ben Wallace has effectively called for increased defence spending, saying it is now time to invest in the armed forces. Speaking at the New Statesman’s Politics Live event in London today (28 June), the Defence Secretary criticised his cabinet colleagues for not responding to the rising threats to UK security, saying he “battles” them to increase the defence budget.

“Every time the NHS has a winter crisis… government and chancellors respond to that. [I’m] not sure they respond to threat increases around the world in the same way,” Wallace said. “It just doesn’t get into that political top three or four that motivate chancellors and prime ministers of the day, mainly because it’s a long-term thing and British governments are not particularly good at long-term investment.”

There is intensifying pressure on the government to increase defence spending in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing assertiveness. Wallace said any increase in expenditure must ensure the armed forces are equipped across the board. Contrary to media reports, Ben Wallace said he had not asked the Prime Minister to raise UK defence spending to 2.5 per cent of UK GDP (up from the current 2 per cent target). He said he had not requested a specific number.

However, Wallace did criticise the Treasury for continuing to take the “peace dividend” – referring to the money not spent on defence since the end of the Cold War. “If the threat changes, you need to have that discussion about investing rather than taking [the peace dividend],” Wallace said.

[See also: Keir Starmer: If you don’t change your views you won’t succeed]

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