UK’s army is ‘too small’ says Tobias Ellwood
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The British Army is too small, a Conservative MP warned tonight. Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons Defence Committee, also highlighted cuts to the numbers of tanks, warships and aircraft in recent decades.
Mr Ellwood said the UK and other members of the Nato military alliance became “complacent” after the end of the Cold War in 1991.
The Tory MP, a former soldier, called for more defence spending arguing “our security and economy are now one and the same thing”.
Asked if the Army is too small during an appearance on Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC, the Tory MP said: “Completely. It’s not about numbers, it’s about capabilities.
“But yes, when you cut back our tanks to just about 150, we had 900 of them during the last Cold War.
“When you cut back our frigates and destroyers to just 18, we had 60 at the end of the last Cold War. And of course the size of the army as well.
“On the aircraft we now have only eight fast jet squadrons, we had 36 at the end of the last Gulf War.
“You can see, the fact we’ve reduced the size, we’ve become complacent as indeed many nations have right across NATO because of 30 years of complacency since the end of the Cold War.
“I stress, we’re now entering a new era of security so we need to upgrade our defence posture.
“And if I can just make the point, many will say we need money for schools, hospitals and all those sorts of things, I argue that our security and economy are now one and the same thing.
“If you don’t defend our security, it affects our economy so there will be less money in the pot for all those other government departments unless we invest more now in defence.”
Mr Ellwood’s comments come as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today said he is “pretty confident” his department will be given the investment boost it requires in next week’s Budget to carry out Army upgrades.
The Cabinet minister has lobbied Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in public for extra cash for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to help deal with inflationary pressures and the costs of backing Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s invasion.
Mr Wallace reportedly wanted up to £11 billion extra over the next two years but, according to The Times, Mr Hunt has agreed a rise of closer to £4-5 billion as part of his Budget package.
The former Scots Guard, asked at Conservative Home’s defence and security conference on Monday whether he was confident he would receive the investment the armed forces required, said: “I’m pretty confident, yes.”
As well as dealing with inflation, which stands at around 10 percent, Mr Wallace said Vladimir Putin’s brutal attack on Ukraine had changed the timetable for when military investment would be required.
He said £24 billion of armed forces funding, announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in 2020 when he was chancellor, was designed to plug “historical black holes” but also kick-start the process of updating British Army equipment that was “desperately in need of replacement”.
Stating that some Army upgrades were 15 years overdue, Mr Wallace continued: “We were prepared to take some risks in the timeframes of bringing in new capability.
“Then, of course, Putin invades Ukraine and that changes some of those middle-of-the-decade timetables that we were prepared to take a risk in.
“The negotiations I’m involved in are about how I can bring some equipment forward in order to mitigate those risks.”
He repeated his assertion that the British Army had been “hollowed out” over a 30-year period by successive governments.
Mr Wallace also called for the UK to move to a 10-year budget framework for defence to provide long-term stability and avoid waste when it comes to military procurement.
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