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Defence Spending (Commitments)

Volume 508: debated on Monday 29 March 2010

12. What recent assessment he has made of the balance between UK defence spending and UK defence commitments. (324457)

For some reason that I do not fully understand, the hon. Gentleman has asked exactly the same question as the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and I refer him to the answer to that question.

It is an important question. The Secretary of State will know that in 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2007 the defence budget fell in real terms. As for the following years, in Kosovo, our boys had to go out and buy mobile phones because the radios did not work; in Iraq, the boots melted and their equipment and clothing were not right for those conditions, so they had to go and buy their own clothing; and in Afghanistan, there have not been enough helicopters, there have not been the right personnel vehicles and there have not been enough spares, so they have had to cannibalise equipment all over the world, causing chaos. Does not the Secretary of State accept that it is time, first, to admit that this system of logistics and procurement has been hopeless and secondly, to apologise for putting lives at risk?

It is a travesty that the hon. Gentleman should so describe the situation that is faced by this country’s very capable armed forces—one of the most capable armed forces in the world. I would say to him that we spend above average on defence, that there has been a substantial continuing increase in spending on defence and that we, in marked contrast to the party that he supports, guarantee that there will be an increase next year. I do not know what he intends to do about that, if he holds the views that he does.