The Sun has reported on this morning’s front page that the Defence Secretary will tell MPs that he is ordering a significant increase to the South Atlantic islands’ garrison, pre-empting his statement to the House. The Sun speculates that an unstable Argentina is re-arming 33 years after the Falklands War with the help of Vladimir Putin. The Russian President is said to be working on a deal to lease 12 long-range bombers to Argentina - boosting fears of a new Falklands invasion. This story has also been picked up by The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail which all combine this with coverage of a defence select committee report that spending should be kept at 2% of GDP to counter an unstable world.
Further detail on the Falkland Islands Defence Review will follow in the Defence Secretary’s statement to the House later today. Our position is that: “As you would expect, the UK reviews the defence support for all of its overseas territories on a regular basis. This review is part of that ongoing process.”
Following the publication of the Defence Select Committee report titled ‘Re-thinking Defence to meet new threats’, The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain must maintain spending at 2% of national income to stop ‘chaos spreading from the Western Mediterranean to the Black sea’. The article states that the rise of ISIL and the increase in Russian aggression mean Britain’s 2010 defence plans ‘no longer reflect the new threats to peace around the world’. Committee chairman Rory Stewart has said that UK personnel might be needed in a dozen different theatres concurrently and it is vital to rethink defence planning. The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s response is carried, arguing that the need to rebuild forces is ‘nonsense’. There is further coverage of this topic in the Financial Times, while the Daily Star focuses on Ukip becoming the first party to commit to the NATO level of funding.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, said:
“The suggestion that we need to rebuild our defence capabilities is nonsense. Under this government we have gone from the £38 billion black hole in the defence budget that we inherited to a properly funded £34 billion annual budget. That means we have been able to commit to spending over £160 billion on equipment over the next decade to keep Britain safe - including new joint strike fighters, hunter killer submarines, two aircraft carriers and the most advanced armoured vehicles.
“The UK has the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU. We are the US’s largest partner in the coalition air effort against ISIL - bearing more of the load in terms of strikes in Iraq than we played in either of the Gulf Wars. As US Defence Secretary Carter told me earlier this month, ‘the UK military has the ability to act independently, to be a force of its own in the world’. Our rapid reaction to events in the Middle East, Sierra Leone and Ukraine recently highlight that the flexible strategy adopted under the 2010 SDSR and Future Force 2020 is working.”
Off payroll fines
The front page of The Independent this morning has trailed the story that fines from the MOD for off-payroll payments have been given to military charities including the paper’s Homeless Veterans campaign, which has received £250,000. Separately the Government is donating £750,000 to help veterans from across the country travel to London to mark VE commemorations in May.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson, said:
“We acknowledge the errors made in tax compliance checks and are strengthening our procedures to prevent this happening again. The fine will be donated to military charities and will make a valuable contribution to the great work they do.”