Express & Star comment: Action not words over defence

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s fine words of reassurance about Britain’s Armed Forces have a hollow ring.

'Action not words over defence'
'Action not words over defence'

Philip Hammond came to the Black Country claiming this country will have the ‘forces we need to deal effectively with our potential adversaries’ under the Tories.

But we need more than words. We need to see effective action.

The Conservative Party, in recent years, has overseen the kind of reduction in our services – Army, Navy and Royal Air Force – that might have brought a unbelieving grin to the face of a Labour Party member in the 1980s.

It is only through some fancy footwork this country can claim to meet the agreed NATO rule of spending two per cent of economic output on defence.

Mr Hammond, as the Government’s financial grand panjandrum, will be among the handful to have a final say over the latest defence spending review, which has come in the wake of concerns over previously-planned cuts.

The Chancellor calls for more of our thinly-stretched military resources to go on cyber defence as ‘unconventional warfare’ in the face of threats such as Russia and increasingly sophisticated terrorists. Calls to increase the size of the Army from the likes of former Chief of Staff General Mike Jackson, are ‘not necessarily the right way’, says Mr Hammond.

Have recent Tory administrations have been a safe pair of hands for our defence?

Seemingly unable to cope with the varying demands of the rival arms of our military, constantly engaged in the age-old business of trying to get the biggest slice of the shrinking defence budget, we have ended up with one huge aircraft carrier undergoing sea trials and a second under construction while we have no aircraft to use them.

The aircraft are all still in America, where RAF aircrews are still undergoing training. This is the still untried F-35 Lightning II, notorious as the most expensive defence contract in history. What our allies make of this mess is anyone’s guess.

We may need to spend more on cyber security, but we also need trained men and women with the equipment they need to defend this country and its friends abroad. Anything else is a betrayal of those serving today and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts past.

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