Ukraine: Ben Wallace quizzed on whether UK will send fighter jets
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The British Army is at crisis point as a result of a lack of funding, with Tory MPs warning that a potential £10billion increase in funding will not be enough to resolve it. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is said to expecting the boost to its spending power in the March budget. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appears to be confident he can squeeze the cash out of the Treasury, but Chair of the Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood told the Daily Express that the cash injection would barely touch the sides.
The former soldier said that amount will plug the hole caused by inflation but he warned that it is “not enough to strengthen our security and meet new NATO requirements”.
Meanwhile, former Tory Party leader Ian Duncan Smith said that the Army “absolutely needs more money”.
He said the MoD needs support for its ailing tank fleet and limited numbers of aircraft.
Sir Iain explained: “We’ve gone too far with the reduction in our army.
“We have real problems now with the tank fleet, issues with one of the aircraft carriers. We’ve got a tiny number of aircraft – it’s ridiculous now that we’ve got so few aircraft.
“The war in Ukraine has demonstrated just how important it is for us to be ready for war. We’re not ready for war in the way that we’d need to be.”
The MoD oversaw the disastrous £5.5billion Ajax tank programme, which is coming close to being scrapped after safety concerns with the vehicles.
Sir Iain added: “The Prime Minister gets it, he understands it and I hope the Chancellor now understands it too.
“Ukraine has exposed all of the NATO nations to the prospect of war.
“It has exposed the complete fallacy that there will not be a war on the continent in Europe.”
Mr Hunt will unveil his new budget on March 15. He is reluctant to boost departmental spending in an attempt to keep inflation down.
But Mr Wallace told Sky: “Between now and the Budget, I’ve got lots of time and lots of meetings with the Chancellor to make sure that we…come to a deal”.
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However, he admitted that it is an “uphill battle” with the Treasury.
The Defence Secretary said he wanted the extra funding to “insulate defence” from inflationary pressures.
Mr Wallace accepted that the UK has a “long way to go” in tackling inflation, acknowledging that it is important for the UK not to “break our own fiscal discipline”.
But he also said it is the “right thing” for a department to argue for a budget increase to “meet their priorities”.
The UK is under mounting pressure to boost defence spending, as concern grows over the threat posed by both Russia and China.
Britain has also sent significant weapons supplies to Ukraine, prompting calls for the Treasury to replenish its own stockpiles.
Mr Wallace said it was his “duty to the public” to properly fund defence.
Mr Ellwood yesterday warned the UK’s security is looking “increasingly vulnerable” as a result of defence spending having “stagnated”.
When asked if the Government’s reluctance to fund the army properly is putting UK security at risk, Mr Ellwood told the Daily Express: “This is what the defence committee has been stressing for some time.
“Year on year, the threat picture is progressively deteriorating but defence spending has stagnated meaning our security and indeed economy are looking increasingly vulnerable.
“Europe requires leadership. Britain can only play its influential role and protect our interests if we spend more on defence.”
The number of troops in the Army was reduced from 83,000 in 2015 towards a target of 72,500 by 2025.
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