Defence spending continues to decline

16 July 2019

The Defence Committee publishes updates to its analysis of governmental expenditure that appeared in its 2016 Report Shifting the goalposts? Defence expenditure and the 2% pledge.

Core spending on defence continues to decline

The updated graphs and tables, which compare UK expenditure on Defence, Health, Education, Pensions and Benefits and Overseas Development Assistance, show that core Defence spending has continued to decline as a proportion of GDP from more than 7% in 1955-56 to less than 2% in 2017-18.

Since 2010-11, the Ministry of Defence's expenditure as a percentage of GDP has decreased by a larger proportion than the reductions in Health, Education, and Pensions and Benefits expenditure, while spending on Overseas Development Assistance has continued to increase.

Chair's comments

Commenting on the Special Report, the Chairman of the Defence Committee, the Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP said:

"We at the Committee are disappointed that Defence spending continues to bear a disproportionate burden arising from reduced Government spending.

While the UK continues to meet its NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, this is only because in recent years it has included several items of expenditure which it had not counted previously, such as pensions and contributions to UN Peacekeeping Missions.

On a like-for-like basis, in 2017-18 Ministry of Defence spending was equivalent to just 1.8% of GDP, compared with around 6% in the 1960s, 4.5% in the 1980s and 3% even in the mid-1990s — several years after the end of the Cold War."

Further information

Image: MoD

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