Defence gets short shrift

Posted on 15 Apr 2010 by The Manufacturer

The three main political parties have failed to give sufficient attention to the defence of the realm in their General Election manifestos, says the UK National Defence Association.

In a total of 308 pages of General Election promises by the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, only nine pages are devoted to the state of Britain’s Armed Forces. The Conservatives cover defence in four pages of their 118-page manifesto, the Liberal Democrats give the subject the equivalent of three pages out of 112, and in Labour’s 78-page manifesto defence warrants only two pages.

“This is an appalling reflection on our politicians and their muddled sense of priorities,” says UKNDA spokesman Andy Smith. “Many of these same politicians still claim that ‘defence is the first priority of government’ – but the reality is exposed by the scant attention given to the subject in their parties’ manifestos.”

The UKNDA believes that the policies set out in the three manifestos are inherently dishonest. “Both Labour and the Tories see Britain continuing to have a strong global role and a proactive foreign policy,” says Andy Smith, “yet neither party indicates how the resources will be made available for our Armed Forces to do this. The fact is that defence has been chronically under-funded since the 1990s, both by Tory and Labour governments, leaving our Forces severely over-stretched and under-equipped. Britain now spends barely 2.2% of GDP on defence, which is woefully inadequate.

“The Liberal Democrats pledge to restore the ‘Military Covenant’ and improve the welfare of Service personnel and their families, but also call for ‘savings’ in the defence budget – despite the fact that military funding has already fallen in real terms over the past decade while other areas of Government spending have grown. Rather than accepting the urgent need to increase defence funding, the LibDems see Britain’s future defence needs being met through increased European cooperation, which in our view is wholly unrealistic.

“If the Labour, Tory and LibDem parties were honest they would spell out the risks to Britain from a continued failure to invest adequately in defence. Instead, each one of these parties has dodged the fundamental question of defence funding. Only by increasing the budget for our Armed Forces can we repair Britain’s fractured military capability and ensure the future security of our country, our worldwide interests, our borders, our trade routes and energy supplies.”

The United Kingdom National Defence Association was formed in 2007 to campaign in support of Britain’s Armed Forces. The Patrons of the UKNDA include three former Chiefs of the Defence Staff – Admiral The Lord Boyce, Marshal of the RAF The Lord Craig, and General The Lord Guthrie. Tri-Service and politically independent, the UKNDA aims to ensure that Britain’s fighting men and women are properly trained, equipped, sustained and cared for.