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Jeremy Hunt faces fury as he rejects calls to boost funding for the armed forces in his budget despite growing global threats and warnings from military top brass

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Jeremy Hunt faced fury last night after it emerged he had no plans to increase defence spending in next week’s Budget.

Despite wars raging in Europe and the Middle East, the Chancellor is set to defy calls to give the Ministry of Defence more money. Former military chiefs and defence ministers lined up to urge Mr Hunt to reconsider – with one saying the decision was ‘absolute lunacy’.

Ex-defence secretary Ben Wallace said Britain’s ‘hollowed-out’ military will not be “match-fit” for the conflicts to come without a committed rise in defence spending. Mr Hunt is planning to prioritise tax cuts to grow the economy, with sources pointing to the extra £11 billion – spread over five years – that he gave to the MoD last year.

But much of that money is already allocated to long-term projects such as upgrading the nuclear deterrent and replacing equipment sent to Ukraine.

A report by MPs this month found that – despite £50 billion a year being spent on defence – ‘sustained ongoing investment’ is needed for the UK to be able to fight a ‘high-intensity war’.

Despite wars raging in Europe and the Middle East, the Chancellor (pictured in October 2023) is set to defy calls to give the Ministry of Defence more money 

'This is absolute lunacy. Tragically, no political party in this country sees defence spending as a vote winner; alas, Vladimir Putin does,' said retired colonel Hamish de Breton-Gordon

‘This is absolute lunacy. Tragically, no political party in this country sees defence spending as a vote winner; alas, Vladimir Putin does,’ said retired colonel Hamish de Breton-Gordon

Mr Wallace said: ‘We are already tumbling down the tables on defence spending and aid to Ukraine. Reversing 30 years of hollowing-out can’t be done in four years. We need a sustainable and committed Budget uplift for defence or we will not be ‘match-fit’ for the conflicts to come.’

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Former Army commander Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said: ‘This is absolute lunacy. Tragically, no political party in this country sees defence spending as a vote winner; alas, Vladimir Putin does.

Now the RAF is taking aim at the word ‘marksman’

The RAF Air Cadets have been accused of being ‘over-sensitive’ after members were ordered to stop using the term ‘marksman’ in a bid to be ‘gender-neutral’.

Instructors and teenage cadets were told not to say ‘marksmanship’ when referring to new shooting badges in a bid to be more inclusive.

Criticism of the internal document, which was issued this month, marks the latest row within the Ministry of Defence over new diversity and inclusion policies which forced Defence Secretary Grant Shapps to order a review.

RAFAC, which is sponsored by the MoD, teaches children aged 12 to 19 to shoot with air rifles and a cadet-specific version of the SA80 rifle.

Last year, it emerged that the organisation was allowing transgender cadets to wear ‘chest binders’.

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The Cambridge Dictionary definition of a marksman is ‘someone skilled at shooting accurately’.

‘The threats to the UK have never been greater. When I fought in the Gulf War 34 years ago the Army was three times the size it is now – we had 500 tanks. With the Russians charging west, we would struggle to raise 50. It is bonkers that we cannot spend more on defence.’

Fears that the MoD will be denied any extra funding in the Budget is a major blow to the service chiefs. According to defence sources, the Treasury and Downing Street no longer trust the MoD to manage its finances after top brass wasted billions on faulty equipment.

The UK’s failure to step-up defence spending comes as Nato allies increase their investment in defence due to fears that Russia is becoming more dangerous. Yesterday, Moscow warned of an ‘inevitable’ war with Nato after French president Emmanuel Macron speculated that western troops could be deployed in Ukraine.

It came as the head of the Armed Forces criticised the Army chief over his call to reintroduce conscription.

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Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), was speaking at a military think-tank when he took aim at General Sir Patrick Sanders.

His attack came after General Sir Patrick, the Chief of General staff (CGS), recently suggested that Britain required a ‘national mobilisation’ programme to prepare for war against Russia. The Army chief caused further alarm when he warned that chronic underfunding threatens to reduce Britain’s military to a mere domestic defence force, making it incapable of conducting major operations overseas.

Speaking at Chatham House in London, Admiral Sir Tony dismissed the warning and reminded General Sir Patrick of his responsibilities.

He said: ‘I want to scotch some sensationalist headlines. We are not on the cusp of war with Russia and we are not about to be invaded.

‘No one in the Ministry of Defence is talking about conscription in any traditional sense of the term. I worry the public debate that has played out over recent weeks risks becoming confused and some remarks are alarmist.’

British Royal marines from the 45 Commando Zulu Company board a Chinnook helicopter May 17, 2002 at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan

British Royal marines from the 45 Commando Zulu Company board a Chinnook helicopter May 17, 2002 at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan

British soldiers conduct a patrol outside Kandahar Air Field, November 4 2006

British soldiers conduct a patrol outside Kandahar Air Field, November 4 2006

In 2022, Mr Hunt – then campaigning to be Tory leader – pledged to increase defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2028 if he were elected. He said: ‘Whatever other pressures we face, tumbling down the Nato defence spending league table simply cannot be an option for Global Britain.’

The UK spends just over 2 per cent of GDP on defence, and the Government has an ‘ambition’ to increase it to 2.5 per cent in the longer term.

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But former Royal Navy commander Tom Sharpe said defence was not on the ‘top table for this Government’. ‘The services can’t magically get better at spending money, which is seemingly what the Treasury expects. So they will have to cut stuff – we’ve been doing it for decades really.’

Former Tory defence secretary Sir Gavin Williamson said that without additional money for the Forces, Britain risked being ‘ill-equipped to face the challenges that our enemies’.

‘The threats that we face need and require Britain and its allies to step up what is done in terms of building both capability and mass within our Armed Forces,’ he told The Daily Telegraph. ‘That is going to require additional money to grow the size of our Army, Navy and Air Force.’

Wives force a U-turn on allocation of officer homes

By Mark Nicol 

Service wives have forced ministers into an embarrassing U-turn over plans to downsize their accommodation.

Under Ministry of Defence plans, officers’ families would have lost their automatic entitlement to larger houses. Instead of allocating properties according to seniority of rank, the number of children would have become the primary consideration.

So an officer of the rank of major could have been downgraded from a four-bedroom property, and a house of that size would instead have been offered to a junior soldier with a larger number of dependants.

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But in a surprising climbdown, the MoD conceded yesterday it was halting the new scheme. Officials claimed they had ‘listened to feedback’ – which had been almost entirely negative.

The about-turn followed a campaign by officers’ wives and threats by officers to resign their commissions.

James Cartlidge, the minister for defence procurement at the MoD, said: ‘We do not want to be in a position where we are losing personnel over this.’

Mr Cartlidge added: ‘The first thing to do was to put our hands up and say we have had this fierce reaction from an important cohort of people in our Armed Forces. We have acted on that, we have listened.’

Source: Daily Mail

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