Ministry of Defence MOD main building Whitehall
Politics

'If You Gave Us £50bn, We'd Spend £50bn': Defence Minister On Military Spending

James Heappey MP also addressed speculation over personnel cuts, after an extra £16.5bn was pledged for defence.

Ministry of Defence MOD main building Whitehall

A multi-billion pound injection into defence will enable the Armed Forces transformation based on "military logic", rather than on "how much money the Treasury gives us", says Armed Forces Minister James Heappey.

Speaking to BFBS Sitrep, Conservative MP Mr Heappey said an extra £16.5bn "in addition to the manifesto commitments" is a "phenomenal settlement for defence", but that military chiefs are "working through" areas which could see potential cuts.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recently promised a range of new technology programmes and structural changes to the military as battlefields and warfighting domains evolve.

Space, cyber, artificial intelligence and information strategies to join up alliance-wide efforts have been promised in the years to come.

Last week, former Army chief General Lord Richard Dannatt, told BFBS Sitrep he fears the service could shrink if boosted funding still cannot sustain the latest military commitments.

Mr Heappey stood by the concept that the "manning requirement" for future capabilities should guide staff count, rather than efforts "to meet a number on paper".

He went on to say the investment enables the UK to "look at our future force design, how we think the battle will change", and invest on that logic, rather than basing decisions based upon how much money the Treasury allocates.

He added that £16.5bn is "enough to transform, on terms we envisage".

"Of course, if you gave us £50bn, we’d spend £50bn," he said, but added that the current figure fills a "black hole" in Ministry of Defence (MOD) finances and enables more ambitious ventures.

Watch: General Lord Dannatt recently spoke to BFBS Sitrep about the potential of overrunning MOD costs.

A lot of "tough choices" to be made by the department are "around capabilities that we know don't have a place in the future battle," Mr Heappey said.

"There are debates that you will have seen around future of fast air, the future of armoured manoeuvre, the future of maritime battle and ships we need," the defence minister continued.

Senior service staff have been "invited" to give a forecast on which military assets form part of this 'future battle', the minister explained, rather than working from "politically motivated decisions".

Mr Heappey maintained the Government’s stance, that UK foreign aid and defence are not mutually exclusive, amid concerns the recent investment could have been at the expense of the overseas aid budget.

He cited disaster relief and a commitment to peacekeeping, while the Armed Forces are intending to raise a current commitment of 8,000 personnel supporting the UK’s battle against COVID-19.

Shortly after Mr Heappey spoke to the podcast, Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented a one-year Spending Review to the Commons, featuring a pay freeze for personnel earning more than £24,000-a-year.

Pay progression, along with overtime, performance pay, and pay rises from promotions are exempt from the temporary pause in pay rises.

Cover image: Crown Copyright.