Jeremy Hunt pressured on defence spending by Portsmouth soldiers from All Call Signs
ARMED forces campaigners battling for more support for Britain’s traumatised troops have lobbied foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt on the issue.
The prime ministrial candidate was grilled by Stephen James and Daniel Arnold – co-founders of Southsea-based charity All Call Signs – over how he would tackle the veteran suicide crisis if he became PM.
And the pair of former soldiers also used the opportunity with Mr Hunt and defence secretary Penny Mordaunt to fight for a change in how small armed forces charities were funded, demanding cash was ‘more evenly spread out’.
Following the meeting in Chelsea, Mr Hunt said he will ‘consider’ the pair’s proposals as part of his £15bn boost on Britain’s defence if he becomes the Tory leader.
Afghanistan veteran Mr Arnold felt the news was promising and said: ‘He seemed genuinely interested, after his role as the health secretary, about mental health within the armed forces, about whether we were getting it right and what more could be done to improve the treatment of armed forces personnel.’
Mr Arnold and Mr James also appealed for an overhaul of the armed forces covenant – a pledge veterans won’t be disadvantaged by their service – and urged the government to give more cash to smaller military charities.
‘There’s a lot of medium to small organisations doing great work but that don’t get a look in because it’s the “old boy’s club” feeding the big names and those most prevalent on social media – that needs to change,’ Mr Arnold said.
Mr Hunt said defence spending would increase over the next five years if he became PM, rising from two per cent of Britain’s GDP to 2.5 by 2023/24.
Speaking after his meeting with All Call Signs, the MP said: ‘My plan for defence will give our brave troops the backing they need and show the world that when it comes to the new threats to Western values, Britain is back and Britain's voice will be strong.’
Portsmouth North MP Ms Mordaunt was delighted by the response and hailed All Call Signs as an ‘amazing organisation’.
She added: ‘They have insightful suggestions which I think will really help how we can wrap services and support around an individual.’