The Times splashes this morning on a Whitehall source’s comments, which suggest that the Treasury is preparing to freeze defence spending after the election, and this, the paper reports, is fuelling a growing Tory rebellion over the UK's military budget. It is reported that more than 30 MPs are to stage a Commons “showdown” next week in an attempt to “force” David Cameron to meet a NATO commitment to spend at least 2% of national income on defence.
An MOD spokesperson said: “With the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU, the Government is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence. Decisions on spending after the financial year 2015/16 will be determined in the next spending review. Over the next decade we are committed to spending £163 billion on equipment and equipment support to keep Britain safe. That includes new strike fighters; more surveillance aircraft; hunter killer submarines; two aircraft carriers; and the most advanced armoured vehicles.”
The Times reports on Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s decision to withdraw the salvage permission to let divers start raising artefacts. It is reported that Conservative MP Lord Lingfield's dream of raising the sunken flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Victory, have been dashed. The decision was brought about by a legal challenge from a maritime expert who is worried the Government is failing to prevent some of the objects from being sold.
An MOD spokesperson said: “I can confirm that the Defence Secretary has withdrawn approval for the Maritime Heritage Foundation to recover at risk surface artefacts from the wreck site of HMS Victory 1744.
“No work has been undertaken at the wreck site since the announcement in October 2014 and the issues raised in the Judicial Review application, which has now been withdrawn, are being considered by officials. Withdrawing approval was a pragmatic decision to minimise the cost to the taxpayer from legal proceedings.”
In a leader article today, The Sun has joined the Royal British Legion in urging brave Afghan veterans to parade at a commemoration service next Friday marking the war's end. The paper calls on 400 veterans to join the march, occurring next Friday, which will honour the 453 individuals who lost their lives in the 13-year conflict.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “Those who served in Afghanistan have made our country safer. I’m pleased the Royal British Legion is inviting veterans to join the parade to mark their service and achievements.”