Defence spending continues to decline

The Defence Select Committee has published a report which reveals the decline in defence spending.

The committee of GPs reveals that core defence spending has continued to decline as a proportion of GDP from more than seven per cent in 1955-56 to less than 2 per cent in 2017-18.

Since 2010-11, the Ministry of Defence's expenditure as a percentage of GDP has decreased by a larger proportion than the reductions in health (7.1 per cent), education (4.2 per cent), and pensions and benefits expenditure (11.1 per cent), while spending on Overseas Development Assistance has continued to increase.

Despite the numbers, the UK is still one of a small number of countries that meets the NATO target of spending two per cent of GDP on Defence.

Julian Lewis, chairman of the Defence Committee, said: "We at the Committee are disappointed that Defence spending continues to bear a disproportionate burden arising from reduced Government spending. While the UK continues to meet its NATO commitment to spend two per cent of GDP on defence, this is only because in recent years it has included several items of expenditure which it had not counted previously, such as pensions and contributions to UN Peacekeeping Missions.

“On a like-for-like basis, in 2017-18 Ministry of Defence spending was equivalent to just 1.8 per cent of GDP, compared with around six per cent in the 1960s, 4.5 per cent in the 1980s and three per cent even in the mid-1990s — several years after the end of the Cold War."

Nia Griffith, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said: “It is hypocrisy of the highest order for both candidates for the Conservative leadership to talk of boosting defence spending when they have consistently voted for budgets, which have slashed the MoD’s funds to what they are today.

“This report highlights the severe and unprecedented cuts that the Conservatives have made to defence since 2010. Instead of considering what is necessary for our defence and security needs, Conservative Ministers have delivered crippling austerity which has put unprecedented strain on the men and women of our Armed Forces.

“You cannot do security on the cheap. The next Labour government will ensure that our armed forces are properly equipped and resourced to respond to wide-ranging security challenges.”

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