UK must spend 2.5 percent of GDP on defense, says departing armed forces minister

The departing Armed Forces minister said the UK must ‘urgently’ invest more in defense.

James Heappey, who announced he would quit the government, issued the public demand from the Commons despatch box yesterday.

He wrote a resignation letter amid reports he was frustrated over Rishi Sunak’s refusal to give a significant cash boost to the military. He has also said he will not stand at the next General Election.

Before leaving politics, Mr Heappey is expected to become increasingly vocal on the need for defence investment to match threats which are without precedent since the height of the Cold War.

His call for the UK to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence has echoed the Mail’s ‘Don’t Leave Britain Defenceless’ campaign.

Mr Heappey had been former defence secretary Ben Wallace’s choice to succeed him. But this was blocked by the Prime Minister, who installed Grant Shapps instead. A former Army officer and Afghanistan veteran, Mr Heappey, who wore his Rifles regiment tie in the Commons, said: ‘2.5 per cent of GDP should be achieved urgently, the fiscal situation is improving and this party has made that commitment.

‘Both parties should strongly consider a further increase in defence spending in the next parliament.’

Neither the prime minister nor Jeremy Hunt has suggested that the economy has recovered enough to make a rise in defense spending of an estimated £9 billion fiscally viable.

The Treasury has also ignored requests from the Mail to publish the criteria it would use to permit a rise from the current 2.3 per cent of GDP to 2.5 per cent.

Answering questions in the Commons for the last time, Mr Heappey insisted the UK’s Armed Forces remained ‘fearsome’ amid debate on whether Britain can sustain a conflict against a peer adversary.

Labour MP John Spellar claimed that in a recent exercise intended to simulate such a war the British Army had ‘run out of munitions within ten days’. But Mr Heappey said: ‘In exercises I have seen where the UK have operated alongside the US… American senior commanders hold the UK Force elements in the highest regard.’

Yesterday, the Government set out how it will upgrade the country’s nuclear deterrent in a move that will create more than 5,000 apprenticeships over the next four years.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said, ‘The Government has always been unequivocal in its support for the nuclear deterrent, which is a foundation of our national security.’ New Dreadnought-class submarines will be introduced in the early 2030s.

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