Fresh row erupts between Labour and Conservatives over who's to blame for multi-billion pound black hole in military budgets
LABOUR has accused a Tory MP of a ‘desperate’ attempt to try and cover up the government’s multi-billion pound ‘black hole’ in the UK’s military budget in a fresh row over defence spending.
Stephen Morgan has lashed out at Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage after she took a swipe at Labour for a ‘catalogue of wasteful decisions’ – such as the selling off of the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar in 2009 for £3m when it had reportedly been valued at £52m – during a speech in parliament this week.
The Conservative MP’s comments came while she was demanding assurances from defence minister Jeremy Quin that similar monetary foul-ups wouldn’t be repeated during the planned disposal of Fort Blockhouse, in 2023.
However, Portsmouth South MP Mr Morgan was outraged by the political potshot at Labour.
Speaking to The News, the former shadow armed forces minister, said: ‘This is desperate stuff to distract from the £13bn of taxpayers’ money in 67 officially confirmed cases of Ministry of Defence (MoD) waste since 2010, with £4bn wasted while the current defence secretary has been in post.
‘The government has been in power for over a decade, so shirking responsibilities for its own failings is beyond absurd and taxpayers in Portsmouth and across the country deserve far better than to see their money so flagrantly wasted.’
Mr Morgan’s comments came little more than a week after Labour chiefs launched a political broadside against the Tories over their defence spending record.
A report by the party, released last week, examined all MoD spending since 2010, covering the years of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition and then the Cameron, May and Johnson-led governments.
It said that the ‘wasted’ £13bn included £4.8bn was from cancelled contracts and £5.6bn of overspending on existing projects.
Many of the examples over the years have already been highlighted by the National Audit Office and the Commons public accounts committee.
The Tory party has previously accused Labour of creating a £40bn ‘black hole’ in Ministry of Defence budgets, which led to brutal cuts in 2010.However, Mr Morgan insisted if Labour was in government, it would make the MoD the first department subject to the new Office for Value of Money’s ‘tough spending regime’ and that it would ‘commission’ the NAO to conduct a ‘comprehensive audit’ of MoD wastage.
He added: ‘The National Audit Office has declared the defence equipment plan “unaffordable” for the last four years in a row and has warned of a funding black hole in the defence budget of up to £17bn.
‘Labour’s audit is the first step in fixing the failing system to clean up ministers’ mess.’