More money. Of course. The Defence Secretary is reported to have asked the Prime Minister for an extra £4bn per year. That would be an increase of more than 10%.
Does defence need more money?
Yes, very much so, according to the Commons Public Accounts Committee. It estimates an ‘affordability gap’ (also known as a ‘black hole’) somewhere between £5bn and £20bn for the 10-year equipment plan.
In short, they’re saying a budget increase of £0.5bn to £2bn is needed just to deliver the current plans.
Gavin Williamson is thought to have argued that the plans for the forces need to go further… which is why he has asked for even more money.
What’s defence really expecting to get from this budget?
I honestly don’t know, but it’s almost certainly not expecting to actually get an extra £4bn a year. They know the chancellor is still trying to cut the budget deficit and has other priorities for any extra spending that he can afford.
Theresa May has already promised an extra £20bn a year for the NHS - which tends to be more popular with voters than military hardware - and some expert observers say that’s left Mr Hammond with little other money to spend.
The other thing to remember is there will be a wholesale public spending review next year, so this will probably be more of a ‘steady as she goes’ budget.
Could defence see its budget cut?
In theory, but politically that seems very unlikely. There is a ‘double lock’ on defence that promises to keep meeting the NATO ‘2%’ pledge and also to increase defence spending in real terms at least 0.5% a year.
That double lock was a manifesto pledge, so breaking it would look bad to voters and would cause an uproar among Conservative MPs (and the Democratic Unionists who Theresa May also has to rely on in Parliament).