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Christian Barltrop28 November 2017 at 16:12
The following sent to the PM on 17 November. I encourage the Committee to keep up the pressure for a sustainable defence settlement after years of Government negligence. Trident and a 3% GDP target would be a start. As a one-time aspirant naval officer who was unable to serve through disability I wish to register my profound dissatisfaction with the mendacity and maladministration of the nation’s defence policy in the last two decades, but particularly since 2010. Your recent appointment of Mr. Williamson offers an opportunity for positive change after years in which HM Forces have borne an unsustainable share of cuts. Sir Michael Fallon hid from public debate the extent to which our military capability was being degraded and relied upon dishonest canards such as the purported ‘growth’ of the Royal Navy; when under Conservative Governments seven more vessels have been stricken from the register than have been commissioned. Such an erosion of trust must end. There’s no shame in cutting military capability according to the national cloth, if it’s done honestly and transparently. But successive governments have now asked more and given less. Compounding this failure brings disaster that cannot now long be put off. Yet Ministers are still too ashamed to make an honest case to the public, while the Marxist opposition offers them no real scrutiny. Budget principles are even more important than quantum. The expectation that the Service Chiefs should be mandated to deliver capability at a fixed budget and yet remain responsible for the choice of where the axe should fall is both cowardly and unconstitutional. Accountability sits with Ministers and with Parliament, not the Service Chiefs. Your Government must now articulate capabilities it needs and then resource them adequately for the Chiefs to deliver. Recently, in Jane’s and elsewhere, there are reports of the planned loss of the UK’s amphibious assault capability (including the refitted vessel which was to have been the flagship of the Fleet). To lose one Flagship to cuts may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. And to lose so important a Bulwark in our defence will indeed show ourselves to be ‘Perfidious Albion’. Meanwhile the Flag Officer responsible for the combatant command in which these capabilities operated has resigned upon professional grounds and in protest. This must be very nearly unprecedented, yet it goes unremarked by your Government. The Fleet has insufficient frigates for escort duty and independent operations. The SSN force is insufficient to cover carrier escort, independent operations, SSBN delousing, FOST obligations, and refit downtime at a time of resurgent Russian activity in the North Atlantic. The Marines are threatened despite being the very leading edge of UK military capability. Nor, appropriately enough, are all the paper tigers found at sea. Equipment gaps range from almost all of the Army’s vehicle sets, including equipment for Strike Brigades and an embarrassing paucity of heavy armour, to a replacement for the RAF Tornado, and so on. The 3rd (UK) Division marches only on paper and the UK is behind both France and Italy in not having two deployable divisions. The SSBN capability is now funded from the Navy Budget due to the dishonesty of the former Chancellor. The NATO defence expenditure target is met only through a dishonourable sleight of hand. Procurement budgets, recruitment and morale are in disarray. We see, meanwhile, the Navy doing sterling work in the Caribbean while unable to draw on the DfID Sterling budget intended for that purpose. If the UK were facing a peace dividend as after the Cold War the current defence posture may be legitimate. But at a time when the Fleet is as likely to be needed in the Caribbean, Baltic, Northern Atlantic, Eastern Mediterranean, Straits of Hormuz, Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, it is scarcely credible. When the Army may need to deploy for armoured warfare on NATO’s Eastern flank, for a peacekeeping role in Africa, or to undertake an opposed landing and manoeuvre war in Northeast Asia, it is contemptible. When HM Forces have been continually deployed for 20 years, without break or significant refit and while being continuously downsized, it is indefensible. For the Government to maintain the pretence of growth is rank cowardice and demands personal political accountability. A sustainable solution for our global presence To meet these pressures, I urge you to abolish DiFID and roll its diminished function and residual budget into the Department for international Trade, since Trade and Aid were ever supposed to be bedfellows. Abandon the liberal fallacy of a GDP target for International Aid. It isn’t conservative to allocate arbitrary expenditure without justifying need or demonstrating results. Reallocate at least 50% of the budget to Defence to support HM Forces’ role in disaster relief, de-confliction and protection of civilians.
Hazel Wass28 November 2017 at 16:00
The amphibious capability provided by the Royal Marines is absolutely VITAL to this country. WE NEED THEM. Morale will be at rock bottom if there are any reductions, both in the Service and the communities where they are based. And, i suspect, in the country as a whole. These Service men and women are an inspiration to us all.
Alan Johnson28 November 2017 at 15:50
I have never been a member of the armed forces, but I fully recognise their importance to a free democratic society. Our Royal Marines have been and major part of our military capability for centuries, and are prepared to go where others fear to tread. Also an amphibious capability is as relevant today as ever it was. The threats to our Nation are real, we need our forces expanding, not cut.
James28 November 2017 at 15:10
With the withdrawal of the UK from the EU we will need our military capabilities more than ever - the ability to project power and dictate a sea borne landing at a time and place of the UKs choosing should never be underestimated - the impact this will have in the UKs standing with allies will no doubt be damaged should these cuts be allowed to happen. It is time that GDP spent on the military increased - for far too long the military has 'made do' whilst being subject to damaging cuts. Enough is enough