Boris Johnson hints defence budget boost to give Royal Navy more ships

BORIS Johnson has hinted he could boost Britain’s defence budget and increase the Royal Navy’s number of ships.

Saturday, 27th July 2019, 3:12 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th July 2019, 8:22 pm
Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving a speech on domestic priorities at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

The new PM revealed the commitment after the government was slammed for the fleet’s diminished size during the Iran crisis.

Mr Johnson’s comments came after he was grilled by Commons defence committee chairman, Dr Julian Lewis on how the military’s budgets had repeatedly been slashed over the past two decades.

Responding, Mr Johnson said: ‘I share with him a strong desire to increase defence spending, particularly on shipbuilding.’

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HMS Duncan on operation Sea Garden. The £1bn destroyer is heading to the Gulf to provide security for British ships amid rising tensions with Iran.

However, the PM stopped short of giving more details about how much cash might be pumped into the Ministry of Defence – which itself is facing a multi-billion pound black hole in its budget.

Labour’s Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, said Mr Johnson could not be trusted and accused the Tories of putting Britain’s security ‘at risk’ by ‘mismanaging’ defence budgets for ‘eight years’.

He added: ‘There’s been a lack of decisions and short-sighted cost-cutting exercises which have led to the delayed delivery of crucial equipment and holes in our operational capabilities.

‘With Philip Hammond saying the new prime minister needs to "be honest" as his policies "greatly exceed" the Treasury's reserves, it is clear you can’t trust Mr Johnson on defence or standing up for Britain around the world.

‘And Britain doesn’t need bluster, it needs deeds.’

Britain has just 19 escort ships – 13 frigates and six destroyers.

Nine of them are currently at sea to cover the whole globe, with the remaining 10 stuck in refits, The Sun reported

Last week Whitehall was blasted after the navy failed to protect two British-owned tankers from being captured by Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.

It came after Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar.

Earlier naval top brass warned the escalation was ‘putting lives on the line’.

Retired Vice Admiral Bob Cooling told The News: ‘Iran is playing a dangerous game. They will overreact and get in a position where they leave their opponent no choice but to interdict.’

Frigate HMS Montrose is currently based in the Gulf. She will be joined by Portsmouth-based frigate HMS Kent in September, which will relieve Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan.