British troops

Manifesto Comparison: What Do Political Parties Say On Defence?

British troops

On Thursday 12 December, British citizens living in the UK and abroad, as well as Commonwealth citizens living in the UK, will have the opportunity to vote in the 2019 General Election.

It is only two-and-a-half years since the last election, held in June 2017.

Political parties are setting out their policies - here is what they have to say on defence matters.

Boris Johnson at Conservative manifesto launch
Tory leader Boris Johnson at his party's manifesto launch at the weekend.

Conservative Party

Leader: Boris Johnson

The Conservative Party has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To exceed the NATO defence spending target of 2% of GDP and increase the budget by 0.5% above inflation each year of the new parliament.
  • To modernise military equipment and improve capability.
  • To invest in training.
  • To maintain the Trident nuclear deterrent.
  • To invest more in cybersecurity and establish a UK Space Command.
  • To invest in "ambitious global programmes", including building Type 31 frigates and new armoured vehicles.
  • To find "better ways" of dealing with legacy issues, including "better outcomes" for victims and survivors and to offer veterans "the protections they deserve".
  • To introduce legislation to tackle "vexatious" legal claims against personnel and veterans.
  • To acknowledge the contribution of those from "beyond these shores" to the British military.
  • To reduce National Insurance contributions for companies employing former service personnel.
  • To offer "wraparound childcare" for military families.
  • To introduce a veterans' railcard.
  • To offer guaranteed job interviews for veterans in public sector roles.
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn launched the Labour Party's manifesto last week (Picture: PA).

Labour Party

Leader: Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour Party has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To increase funding for United Nations peacekeeping missions to £100 million.
  • To maintain a commitment to NATO and "close relationship" with European partners.
  • To support the renewal of Trident, but to lead efforts to create a "nuclear-free world".
  • To spend at least 2% of GDP on defence.
  • To scrap the public sector pay gap, which Labour says resulted in a "real-terms pay cut" for personnel.
  • To ensure "decent housing" for members of the military.
  • To guarantee "better access" to "good quality local schools" for forces children.
  • To consult on creating a "representative body" for the British military.
  • To provide veterans with access to "lifelong" training, housing, and mental and physical health services.
  • To seek greater consistency in the implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant.
  • To pay £50,000 to each surviving British nuclear test veteran.
  • To ensure Black and Asian soldiers who fought in British colonial forces receive an apology and compensation for "discriminatory" demob payments.
  • To ensure a "highly-skilled workforce and world-class apprenticeship programme".
  • To support British defence manufacturing, including keeping all Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxilliary shipbuilding contracts in the UK.
  • To review increasing the use of sustainable energy within defence, through the creation of a Climate Change Sustainability Committee.
  • To create a strategy to secure "safe and sustainable" recycling of old nuclear submarines.
  • To respect international law and avoid "needless military interventions".
  • To introduce a War Powers Act, to prevent a prime minister from committing to military action without parliament's consent.
  • To implement "every single recommendation" of the Chilcot Inquiry.
  • To provide targeted bursaries, including for former military personnel.
Jo Swinson at Lib Dem manifesto launch
Jo Swinson during the Liberal Democrats manifesto launch.

Liberal Democrats 

Leader: Jo Swinson

The Liberal Democrats has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To commit to the NATO guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence - which the Lib Dems say will provide an extra £3 billion "as the economy grows after we have stopped Brexit".
  • To offer science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates up to £10,000 to become military engineers.
  • To promote an "international treaty" on how technology is used in modern warfare.
  • Greater investment in intelligence to tackle cyber warfare.
  • To maintain a "minimum nuclear deterrent", while "pursuing multilateral nuclear disarmament.
  • They also pledge to continue with the Dreadnought programme to replace the Vanguard-class submarines, while "procuring three boats and moving to a medium-readiness responsive posture" and maintaining a nuclear deterrent through "unpredictable and irregular patrolling patterns".
  • To support the Armed Forces Covenant and work to support the mental health of veterans. 
  • To improve the quality of housing for service personnel, including giving military tenants the same legal rights regarding repairs and maintenance as private tenants.
  • To require UK-registered non-governmental organisations and organisations, including the Armed Forces and defence contractors, to report all instances of documented abuse overseas to government.
  • To waive application fees for personnel who have been discharged from the military, but wish to apply for indefinite leave to remain in order to remain in the UK.
  • To ensure a parliamentary vote takes place before the UK engages in military action.
Green Party members Amelia Womack, Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry at 2019 manifesto launch
The Green Party's Amelia Womack, Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry at their manifesto launch.

Green Party

Leaders: Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley

The Green Party has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To scrap Trident and nuclear-powered submarines, putting the funds saved towards the development of non-carbon-emitting technology.
  • Replacing the Ministry of Defence with a Ministry for Security and Peace.
  • A pledge to "close down" arms sales by the Government and to end all subsidies and support for "the UK arms industry's exporting of weapons and systems".
  • To end military training in national parks.
  • To stop the use of live animals in military training.
Nigel Farage at Brexit Party policy launch in London
Nigel Farage at Brexit Party policy launch in London last week (Picture: PA).

Brexit Party

Leader: Nigel Farage

The Brexit Party has launched its policy document.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To ensure the UK maintains its commitment to NATO, including continuing to spend 2% of GDP on defence as an "absolute minimum".
  • To withdraw from the European Defence Union.
  • To invest in "strategic industries", including defence.
Nicola Sturgeon
The Scottish National Party is yet to launch its manifesto (Picture: PA).

Scottish National Party

Leader: Nicola Sturgeon

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To scrap Trident which it describes as a "colossal waste of money".
  • To use vacant Ministry of Defence homes to house homeless military veterans.
  • To carry out a new Strategic Defence and Security Review.
  • To retain existing Scottish bases and regiments. 
  • To restrict the building of the Royal Fleet Auxilary's Fleet Solid Support Ships to UK shipyards. 
  • To provide the Armed Forces with a "representative staff body" to speak up for the interests of personnel.
  • To support Commonwealth military personnel and their families receiving an "indefinite right" to remain the UK during and after service in the Armed Forces. 
  • To provide "practical support" for veterans requiring social care.
  • To continue to ensure the War Disablement Pension is exempt from the assessment of income, and to press the Government to adopt their approach.
  • To cease all military support and arms sales to "regimes guilty of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law".
  • To never accept the use of "lethal autonomous weapons" which it says is "immoral and must be banned" under international law. 
  • To make the Ministry of Defence take responsibility for the environmental impact of military munitions as a polluter. 
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price speaks during the launch of his party's manifesto
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price at the launch of his party's manifesto (Picture: PA).

Plaid Cymru

Leader: Adam Price

Plaid Cymru has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To scrap Trident and reinvest funds in public services and infrastructure.
  • To resist all attempts to relocate nuclear weapons in Wales or Welsh waters
  • To demand a vote to be held in the Welsh Assembly, before the UK goes to war or becomes involved in military intervention overseas.
  • To work with the Government and other agencies to prevent cyber or technology attacks on Wales and the UK.
  • To provide healthcare to veterans, including mental healthcare.
  • To provide "adequate" housing for former service personnel.
Arlene Foster at DUP manifesto launch
The DUP launched their manifesto in Belfast (Picture: PA).

Democratic Unionist Party

Leader: Arlene Foster

The Democratic Unionist Party has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To deliver a "medium-term strategy" to restore the size of the military so it "more accurately reflects" the threats facing the UK. 
  • To spend at least 2% GDP on defence, with a view "to plan for systematic defence spending increases".
  • To support the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent programme. 
  • To provide soldiers with "better protections" from legal investigations.
  • To prevent "one-sided" investigations into the Troubles.
  • To scrap "remain fees" for ex-service personnel and their families, born outside the UK, who are choosing to settle in the country.
  • To review and update the Military Covenant. 
  • To launch an independent review into national strategic defence and security.
  • To remove the Ministry of Defence's Crown Protection regarding deaths in training.
  • To invest £15 million in upgrading reserve training facilities at Ballykinler, Enniskillen, Ballymena, Coleraine, Londonderry and Belfast.
  • To support a "long-term plan" for Army housing.
  • To support Northern Ireland hosting a national Armed Forces Day event.
Pat Mountain at UKIP manifesto launch
UKIP launched its manifesto in Westminster (Picture: UKIP).

UK Independence Party

Interim leader: Pat Mountain

The UK Independence Party has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To increase the military's budget by £7 billion per year.
  • To withdraw the UK from European Union "attempts to create its own armed forces", stating "the UK must leave all of the EU defence architecture".
  • To "adequately fund" the British military.
  • To initiate a defence review into future requirements, with UK manufacturers being given priority on providing equipment.
  • To maintain Trident.
  • To end arms sales to nations with "low standards in human rights" or which "export Islamist or Marxist ideology around the world".
  • To establish a Veterans’ Administration Department to promote and protect veterans' interests. which would be led by a government minister, separate from the Ministry of Defence.
  • To bring forward legislation to prevent veterans from being pursued by police and prosecutors many years after the event, for actions undertaken in "good faith" while serving.
  • To seek to guarantee a job offer with the emergency services, prison service or UK border force for anyone who has served for at least 12 years.
  • To create a 'Boots to Business' scheme to benefit veterans who wish to set up their own businesses, offering loans, grants and free professional advice.
  • To honour the military covenant.
Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Fein manifesto launch
Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Fein's manifesto launch (Picture: PA).

Sinn Fein

Leader: Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Fein has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To prevent amnesties being given to British military personnel accused of unlawful killings.
UUP leader Steve Aiken
UUP leader Steve Aiken (Picture: PA).

Ulster Unionist Party

Leader: Steve Aiken

The UUP has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To back calls to meet the NATO defence spending target of 2% of GDP.
  • To recognise the need to maintain the UK's nuclear deterrent.
  • To support measures ensuring the Armed Forces Covenant is "fully compliant" in Northern Ireland.

Cover image: Library photo of British personnel (Picture: PA).

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