Tories defend £16bn military boost – weeks after failing to pay £20m for kids’ food

Boris Johnson will confirm the military spending later in the Commons (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

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A top Tory today defended the decision to commit £16.5bn to the military, weeks after failing to pay £20m for kids’ food over half term.

The defence spending boost will be paid over four years and fill a £14bn black hole that was facing the military over several years.

It will also fund new technologies including a ‘Space Command’ capable of launching rockets by 2022 after China “put weapons into space”.

Defence will receive a special ‘Integrated Review’ mapping out four years of funding, while most departments will only get one year of funds confirmed in next week’s spending review.

No10 claims it is “the biggest programme of investment in British defence since the end of the Cold War” and will allow troops to plan for the future.

But some on Twitter criticised the announcement, coming weeks after a row over free school meals in the holidays.

No10 claims it is “the biggest programme of investment in British defence since the end of the Cold War” (stock photo)

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Boris Johnson refused to provide £15 vouchers for poor children for the October half term in a move that would have cost around £20m.

He did later announce £400m to solve deprivation in the holidays – £170m for this winter and £220m for a longer-term scheme in 2021.

However, that announcement was too late for the half term, in which businesses and councils stepped in to help children out.

It is not just school meals that are the concern – the Prime Minister has also refused to rule out cutting the foreign aid budget by £4bn.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace insisted it was too simple to claim money had been raided from one budget to fund another.

He did later announce £400m to solve deprivation in the holidays – £170m for this winter and £220m for a longer-term scheme in 2021
(Image: Getty Images)

He pointed out defence spending will be a capital budget. Other issues like school meals come from a revenue budget.

But he also refused to rule out cuts to aid. He said: “Do I support more money for defence? Yes I do, that's why I put in for a bid.

“Where it comes from is a matter for the Chancellor."

Mr Wallace was asked by BBC Breakfast how the government could find £16.5bn for the military, but fought over money for school meals.

Defending the government, he said: “You’ve got to add to that the benefit bill.

“The biggest spender in government is the Department for Work and Pensions on benefits. It dwarfs most people’s budgets.

Mr Wallace was asked how the government could find £16.5bn for the military, but fought over money for school meals
(Image: ITV)

“We fund people quite rightly to help them through life, or a pension or indeed when times are tough.

“And so let’s remember that in dealing with some of the free school meals issue, we’ve uprated Universal Credit by £20, we put in more funding through the local authorities.

“So it wasn’t just a standalone £167m, it’s on top of the benefit bill. And I think that’s important.

“If you’re a family on minimum wage, and there’s two people with two children in my constituency, you’ll probably be getting £14, £15,000 in benefit on top of your £14,000 minimum wage basic take-home pay.

“It’s not like the government just said ‘that’s all you’ve got’ for school meals. We’ve got the benefit bill which is the biggest part of government spending.”

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