General Election 2015: What have the parties pledged for defence?
Summary: With the UK General Election on the horizon, the main political parties are getting their election campaigns underway, with major policies and promises being announced almost daily in an attempt to capture floating voters. So what is each party announcing for the UK’s defence industry in particular?
This blog by Defence Contracts International aims to outline the key policies each main UK political party believe will help keep the UK secure and provide and added boost to our crucial defence industry.
As a member of NATO, Britain is currently committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence. However, in recent years as part of the Conservative austerity plan to balance the UK’s economy, cuts to defence have left this 2% in jeopardy, with the Royal United Services Institute think tank predicting the UK defence budget will soon fall to 1.95% of GDP.
In spite of this, a new counter-terrorism strategy to protect “fundamental British values” is among some of the election pledges by the Conservatives, alongside £3.3bn of new investment in naval bases which aims to secure 7500 jobs in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Glasgow.
UK Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has previously attacked the legacy left by the last Labour government, claiming a “£38 billion budget black hole” which led to the publication of the Defence Equipment Plan in attempt to create more transparency in Government defence spending. This is likely to be a key battleground in the General Election campaigns of both parties.
Labour have already pledged that, while maintaining NATO responsibilities is important, it is not worth sacrificing the strength of the UK economy. Ed Balls has said that a Labour Government will not guarantee that defence spending will stay at 2% of GDP, but instead will order an immediate strategic defence review if it wins power at May’s General Election.
Following the Scottish independence referendum last year, the SNP have become the UK’s third largest party in terms of membership, and are recent polls suggest they are poised to take the majority of Scottish seats in Westminster and could hold the balance of power in the event of a hung parliament.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out several ‘red lines’ which would have to be accepted before the SNP would enter into a coalition or partnership with any political party, most importantly a commitment to abandon plans to replace or reinvest in Trident nuclear weapons, which cost approximately £100bn.
With the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party in support of scrapping or rethinking Trident, these parties could end up holding the balance of power in an increasingly likely hung parliament.
In addition to reducing the UK’s reliance on Trident nuclear weapons by creating a part-time deterrent, the Lib Dems have criticised their Coalition partners the Conservatives for the defence cuts which have engulfed the industry recently.
In response, the Lib Dems want to increase the UK reserve forces before committing to further front line cuts. They alosi advocate better access to healthcare for Armed Forces’ personnel, improved education for their children and more emphasis on mental health support for serving members.
The rise of UKIP has played a key role in reshaping the UK’s political landscape in recent years, and the core of their policy revolves around the EU.
By exiting the EU, UKIP argue that the UK would save money from participating in foreign wars. In addition, UKIP want to increase defence spending, invest in new stealth missiles and guarantee jobs in the police, Prison Service or Border Force for ex-service personnel.
Another party reaching new voters in the last year is the Greens. Traditionally the party of the environment, their policies are informed by a green agenda in all areas, including defence.
The party has suffered heavy criticism in recent weeks for its radical approach to defence policy, most notably immediate nuclear disarmament, abolishing the standing army in favour of homeland security, leaving NATO and immediately withdrawing all UK troops from overseas conflict.
The General Election and beyond
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