Delays in Britain's '˜mini defence review' could harm Portsmouth's military industry, MP claims

DEFENCE secretary Gavin Williamson has said he hasn't taken his eye of the ball of a key military revamp project amid the fallout over Theresa May's Brexit plan.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 4:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 8:20 am
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson. Photo: PA

The Tory chief vowed the modernising defence programme '“ seen as a mini defence review '“ would be brought before the House of Commons before MPs break for Christmas.

His comments come after he was lambasted by Labour's shadow defence secretary, Nia Griffith, over delays in the project which she said were harming both the nation's defence industry and military hubs in Portsmouth.

The programme sets out the direction of Britain's future military focus, identifying the future defence priorities and what cash is needed to achieve them.

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However, Ms Griffith feared the defence secretary's ambitious plan had been overshadowed by the drama at Westminster, with Brexit and the no-confidence vote in Theresa May taking priority.

Speaking to The News, the Labour MP feared the programme was at risk of becoming '˜another exercise in crisis management' or an '˜excuse' for '˜short-sighted cuts'.

'˜It is concerning that this review has been beset by delays,' she said.'We urgently need a credible vision for the defence of this country, which recognises the threats that we face and includes a realistic plan to deliver this.

'˜This must include dealing with the funding gap at the heart of the MoD, because you simply cannot do security on the cheap.

The situation comes amid a funding shortfall of '˜up to £15bn' in the MoD's equipment plan, she said.

Ms Griffith claimed the fallout from delays to the plan could hit Portsmouth's defence industry, adding: '˜Any further delay to the modernising defence programme would let down all those in our armed forces and defence sector in Portsmouth who badly need answers about the future of the UK's defence and security.'

However, today the defence secretary vowed the programme would be brought before the House of Commons before MPs break for Christmas.

Mr Williamson said the atmosphere within the MoD had changed since he became defence secretary, moving on from austerity towards one of increased spending and investment

'˜We're really seeing Britain invest in our defence,' he told Forces Network. '˜We need to because the world that we see today is a much more challenging and dangerous than it was just a few years ago.'

The Tory chief also stood up for the defence budget, batting back criticism by those who claimed the chancellor's last budget didn't have enough focus on boosting military coffers.

He said: '˜I think going from £36bn to £39bn ain't a bad start.'

Stephen Morgan MP, Portsmouth South MP was still worried despite the defence secretary's assurances.

'˜Sadly for months we've been waiting to hear details of the latest review of the MoD's finances, staffing and resources,' the Labour politician said.

'˜Money announced in the autumn budget is only a sticking plaster and not a long-term solution to the huge challenges the MoD and serving personnel are facing on the frontline.

'˜The modernising defence programme must now give our services and dedicated personnel certainty so that decisions can be made on the future of our armed forces capabilities.'

The strategy was announced almost a year ago and has yet to be finalised.