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Wallace calls for 20% hike in defence spending – reports

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has reportedly asked Boris Johnson to hike UK defence spending to 2.5% of GDP – an additional 20% a year – by 2028 in the face of Russian aggression.

In his letter, Mr Wallace also urged the Prime Minister to call on Nato leaders at the upcoming Madrid summit to raise the spend per country from the current minimum target of 2% to 2.5% of national income, according to Talk TV’s The News Desk programme.

A defence source did not deny the reports, saying: “We do not comment on alleged leaks.

“The Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister have always said that the Government will respond to any changes in threat which is why in 2020 the Ministry of Defence received a record defence settlement.”

Meanwhile, the Conservative chairman of the Defence Committee called for an even higher defence spending increase.

Tobias Ellwood tweeted: “Increasing NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force from 40k to 300k is the right call.

“But if the UK’s to play it’s part (as Europe’s security declines) we must finally: increase defence spend to 3%, reverse troop number cuts, purchase all 138 F35’s, upgrade our land warfare assets”.

Mr Wallace reportedly highlighted deficiencies in the UK’s military capabilities which have been laid bare by the war in Ukraine in his letter to No 10 and subsequent conversations.

They include shortfalls of deep-strike weapons, artillery stocks and in the UK’s anti-air and anti-drone capabilities, too few pilots to fly new F35 strike jets and too few crew for ships and submarines, The News Desk reported.

Asked at a defence conference in May if he thought more spending on defence was justified as the cost-of-living crisis hit households, Mr Wallace said an extra £24 billion announced for the Ministry of Defence in 2020 had been “very important” to “make sure that we modernise the Army”.

“I mean, the Army’s land fleet is woefully behind its peers”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on board HMS Dauntless in March (Phil Noble/PA)

The Defence Secretary wrote to the Chancellor in March warning that Britain risked missing the Nato commitment to spend 2% of national income on security by 2025.

The letter highlighted the cost of arming Ukraine and rising inflation as the primary reasons Britain was facing a real-terms cut in defence spending.

The former Commander Joint Forces Command General Sir Richard Barrons said he supported Mr Wallace’s latest demands.

“I back him 100%, as will all the service chiefs and every serving officer that understands the current state of defence programme, the defence industry that supports the military and our allies that know we have to raise our game, within the envelope of collective defence, this is a very important moment at a very difficult time,” he told The News Desk.

“We need to understand that for the last 30 years or so since the end of the Cold War, the UK defence forces have not had to deal with existential peril, the sorts of threats that a power like Russia can pose to the UK’s homeland and security abroad.

“We’re now back in an era that will feel like the Cold War, where we need our armed forces to be nearly all ready, nearly all the time.”