Wallace ‘determined’ to increase defence spending despite budget pressures

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Ben Wallace has said he is determined to increase defence spending despite pressure on domestic budgets.

The Defence Secretary said progress towards a target for defence spending to be 3% of GDP will happen “budget by budget”.

The war in Ukraine has exposed that ammunition stocks had fallen to levels they “should not have been”, he said.

Mr Wallace was speaking after a meeting of ministers from the Joint Expeditionary Force nations in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Ben Wallace visits visits Salisbury Plain
Ben Wallace said modernising the armed forces is important (Ben Birchall/PA)

At a press conference following the meeting, Mr Wallace was asked whether pressure on UK Government budgets means a target for reaching defence spending at 3% of GDP by 2030 would need to be shelved.

He said: “That target’s for eight years’ time.

“As we can see from the economic situation, I’m basically taking it budget by budget at the moment.

“I am determined and keen to increase defence spending on the trajectory it’s been on and make sure that we continue to have a real terms investment in our defence.”

The UK has pledged a further £2.3 billion for Ukraine next year, he said, and modernising British armed forces is also “incredibly important”.

Contributions from Joint Expeditionary Force countries to Ukraine has now passed 500 million euro (£436 million), Mr Wallace said.

Saying Russian President Vladimir Putin is using fuel as a weapon to intimidate Europe, he continued: “The pressure on our pocket is slightly driven because a man not very far away from here is trying to use that energy as a weapon to bully and intimidate us.

Russian invasio of Ukraine
European nations have been aiding Ukraine (MoD/PA)

Meanwhile, Mr Wallace said the delays to HMS Glasgow – the first of new Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde – will not affect the “mass and posture” of the Royal Navy.

Part of the delays are due to the shipyard where the vessel is being constructed, he said, something the Ministry of Defence is looking to invest in and improve.

The Defence Secretary also said Norway’s oil and gas infrastructure has become “particularly vulnerable” due to the fact it is now Europe’s main supplier.

He said: “We will play a role in helping Norway both be aware of its maritime situation, but also in protecting its infrastructure, and our own infrastructure in the oil rigs and elsewhere.”

Protecting undersea internet cables in the Baltic and Atlantic is also important, he added.

Mr Wallace said Russia has specific types of submarines which could attack this type of infrastructure.

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