MoD: When Royal Navy, Army and RAF spending will increase as Labour PM Keir Starmer criticised over "clarity"

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New prime minister Sir Kier Starmer has been challenged for not giving a timeline on when the UK’s defence spending will increase.

Labour pledged to increase funding for the Royal Navy, British Army and RAF to 2.5 per cent of GDP. The promise was outlined in the party’s election manifesto, but may take sooner to implement than many expect.

Mr Starmer has travelled to Washington DC, United States, for the annual summit of the Nato defence alliance and told reports that any decision to increase military spending would only happen after a defence capabilities review. He added that a “roadmap” will be created to take the UK to its spending pledge, but he added: “That strategic review needs to come first.”

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He said: “We are committed to the 2.5 per cent, as I have said before the election and I say again after the election. That is obviously subject to our fiscal rules, but the commitment is there.”

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

How long will this review take?

The newly appointed armed forces minister, Luke Pollard, insisted the new administration would work “at pace” to finish the major assessment. Appearing on Wednesday’s morning broadcast round, Mr Pollard said the Labour manifesto set out a timescale of a year and the government wants to deliver the review “faster than that because of the urgency of the situations we’re facing”.

The Prime Minister’s been very clear, he wants this review delivered at pace,” he told Times Radio. The MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said he had been “reassured” by speaking to military officers that “we have the ability to defend Britain” but told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we want to do is to make sure that we’re filling the gaps to deter any future aggression and defeat it if necessary.

The review will be “Nato-first” and focus on “our unshakeable commitment to the North Atlantic, to the Europe area, to make sure that we’re keeping not only the UK safe but keeping our allies safe,” he said. The minister denied Labour had not done “any homework” and determined which areas were most in need of funding before entering power.

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Yui Mok/PA Wire

On being told the party had “not looked at what needed to be spent where” during an appearance on Sky News, he said: “That’s not true … You’ll know that in opposition you don’t get access to the classified briefings, the intelligence that would be required to set out what shape and size our armed forces should be.”

Criticism over pledge

Opposition critics and former military chiefs have weighed in on Mr Starmer over what they see as delaying tactics. The Tories, who said they would increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030 before losing the election, said the approach was “damaging for the armed forces”. Shadow defence secretary James Cartlidge wrote to his opposite number John Healey demanding “clarity” on funding plans.

James Cartlidge, shadow defence secretary, has written a letter expressing his dismay over the a lack of “clarity” around defence spending. Picture: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images.James Cartlidge, shadow defence secretary, has written a letter expressing his dismay over the a lack of “clarity” around defence spending. Picture: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images.
James Cartlidge, shadow defence secretary, has written a letter expressing his dismay over the a lack of “clarity” around defence spending. Picture: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images.
Admiral Lord Alan West of Spithead said the government is delaying spending money. Picture: Sarah Standing (170622-71)Admiral Lord Alan West of Spithead said the government is delaying spending money. Picture: Sarah Standing (170622-71)
Admiral Lord Alan West of Spithead said the government is delaying spending money. Picture: Sarah Standing (170622-71)

In his letter, Mr Cartlidge said: “Our armed forces need the certainty and clarity on their funding in order to plan and prepare for the future. It is necessary to prepare everything from accommodation and benefits for service personnel to ensuring that they are equipped with the latest capabilities, equipment and technology.” A former colonel in UK military intelligence, Philip Ingram, told the Times newspaper the Government was “playing with fire” because the “threat is now and it will take years to fix the Army, our ammunition stocks, get the RAF and Navy ready”.

Admiral Lord West, a former head of the Navy who was a security minister under a previous Labour government, claimed the new administration was “delaying spending money” by not setting out a plan, which meant “there is no money” for the Ministry of Defence. Sir Keir has refused to guarantee that he will meet his flagship commitment on defence spending within his first term in office, despite a “cast iron” promise to get there.

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The Prime Minister, who will meet US President Joe Biden and other Nato leaders on Wednesday at a summit to mark the alliance’s 75th anniversary, is pressing for European nations to increase funding. Currently, member nations are advised to spend at least two per cent of its GDP on its military. Out of the 31 alliance members, 23 are expected to meet that target.

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