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Departmental Funding

Volume 650: debated on Monday 26 November 2018

9. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the adequacy of funding for his Department. (907806)

16. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the adequacy of funding for his Department. (907813)

19. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the adequacy of funding for his Department. (907817)

I hold regular discussions with the Chancellor. The additional £1.8 billion being invested in the defence budget reaffirms our commitment to protecting national security.

There is an additional £200 million for the Ministry of Defence this year, and £800 million the following year, but there is still a massive black hole to fill in the MOD budget. When will the Secretary of State stop asking for an inadequate bail-out and secure the finances that the MOD requires?

Last year we saw £36 billion spent on defence, and next year we will see £39 billion, and we are investing £186 billion in defence procurement. We recognise that we have to look at how we make savings, which is why we have made £9.5 billion of efficiencies within our programme, to ensure that all three services get the equipment they need to safeguard the security of this nation.

The latest statistics show that Capita has managed to recruit only 10% of the officers and 7% of all other ranks that the Ministry requires for 2018-19. Is the Secretary of State satisfied with the adequacy of funding for recruiting the officers that the Ministry needs and with the performance of this failing provider?

My understanding is that we are fully recruited for the officers. However, if the hon. Lady will allow me, I will write to her and confirm that that is the case.

The £1 billion from the Chancellor does not nearly make up for the £10 billion of real-terms cuts to the defence budget between 2010 and 2017. What more does the Secretary of State plan to do to ensure that his Department, and by extension our armed forces, are adequately resourced to tackle the emerging and changing threats facing our country?

If we look at the choice between where Labour would take our defence policy and where we would take it, I know which would give Britain the greatest security. I think that all Government Members recognise the important role that our armed forces play, which is why we will keep investing in them.

The Government’s calamitous failure to manage the defence budget means that the MOD’s equipment plan is now completely unaffordable. The funding gap is somewhere between £7 billion and £15 billion. We all welcome the £1 billion that was earmarked for defence in the Budget, but the Secretary of State must realise that the sums just do not add up—unless, of course, he has been taking numeracy lessons from the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg). Can he tell the House what urgent plans he has to deal with this particular funding shortfall?

We recognise that we must always drive efficiency within our departmental budget, but we have the benefit of a rising budget and we are continuing to strive to make efficiencies within that, which is why we have made efficiencies of £9.5 billion.

I really do not think that the efficiencies argument washes anymore—it is just not good enough. We have known for years that the plan is unaffordable. Ministers must accept their responsibility for failing to balance the books. The National Audit Office has said that the Government must decide which programmes to defer, de-scope or delete as soon as possible, in order to bring the plan back into the black. One of the programmes that could be at risk is the Warrior capability sustainment programme, which is now 13 months behind schedule and £62 million over budget. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that this programme will not be cut in the modernising defence programme?

What we actually see is the National Audit Office painting a worst-case scenario in terms of our equipment plan. What we continue to do, though, is to focus on driving efficiency. We are looking at investing in Warrior to make sure we can extend it out to 2040.