George Osborne to dip below Nato defence spending

Chancellor George Osborne aims to curtail MoD spending. Picture: PA

Chancellor George Osborne aims to curtail MoD spending. Picture: PA

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CHANCELLOR George Osborne has secretly conceded that UK defence spending will fall below the Nato minimum as he prepares to deliver more cuts to the armed forces in the Budget.

According to reports, Ministry of Defence spending is set to be £3 billion below the 2 per cent of GDP spending threshold.

This is despite Prime Minister David Cameron urging partners at the Nato conference in Wales last year to increase their spending to 2 per cent.

The revelations led to Labour MP John Woodcock accusing Mr Cameron of “weakness” on UK defence in the face of threats from Russia.

It is understood Mr Osborne is urging Mr Cameron to abandon the 2 per cent of GDP spending demanded by Nato because it offers a “blank cheque” to the MoD. His calls come despite the growing threat of Islamic State in the Middle East and the UK being forced to deploy troops to the Baltics to help cope with the rising danger of Russian expansionism.

The issue came to a head yesterday at a rowdy Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Woodcock asked: “When the Prime Minister leaves office in 70 days, is he content for his place in history to be the Prime Minister whose weakness left Britain mired in years of conflict?”

But defending his record Mr Cameron replied: “I believe that government members can be proud of the fact that we closed the massive black hole in our defence budget left by Labour. We can be proud of the fact that we see Voyager airplanes flying out of Brize Norton. We can be proud of the fact that we are building two aircraft carriers.

“We can be proud of the fact that we have got the Type 45 destroyers. We can be proud of the fact that submarines are rolling out of the Hon. Gentleman’s constituency and into the seas of the Atlantic to keep our country safe.”

The threat of defence cuts has also raised new questions about the future of bases in Scotland with new ones now being planned in the Baltics and Middle East. Question marks had been raised over the future of bases in Edinburgh, Kinloss in Moray, Leuchars in Fife and Fort George near Inverness.

Defence secretary Michael Fallon earlier this month announced his department would be selling off part of the defence estate but refused to give details.

Angus Robertson MP, SNP Westminster Leader and defence spokesman, said: “The UK government has a shameful record of cuts – including, of course, reneging on building new bases and training facilities in Scotland The MoD have cut to the bone numbers of service personnel and other vital defence capabilities such as maritime patrol – to the point now that we are begging our allies for support to protect our coastline.

“Instead they would rather build new bases in places like the Middle East instead of looking after their own backyard.”

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