The 2020 spending review settlement for defence provided a cash increase of more than £24 billion over four years compared with last year’s budget. That represents an above inflation increase in capital and resource spending over the period, and exceeds the Government’s commitment to increase the defence budget by 0.5% above inflation in each year of this Parliament.
In the whole of NATO, only Luxembourg spends less on its personnel than the UK. In 2020, the MOD spent just 34% of its budget on personnel—half the figure that Belgium spends. Does the Secretary of State believe that it is the woeful lack of investment in our personnel that is driving the current recruitment challenges in our armed forces, or is it the chronic accommodation that he expects our service personnel to live in that is to blame? Soon, the size of the Army will be at its lowest since 1714. How does the MOD splashing £200 million on a new royal yacht help with these challenges in our armed forces?
I think the hon. Gentleman does not understand how we spend our money in the defence budget; that is 34% of a very large budget on armed forces that are expeditionary and require lots of capital equipment. Of course, the proportion that we spend on human beings compared with equipment will be less than a country such as Belgium, which potentially has a large personnel budget but very little capital budget. That simply explains the different proportion. It does not mean that we spend less. Our forces’ salaries, and terms and conditions, are comparably better than in most countries—not only in NATO, but across the world. It is just that we choose to buy things to put our people in, such as Boxers or aircraft; that is simply the reality of it.