Published On: Wed, Feb 28th, 2024

Penny Mordaunt fires warning at Jeremy Hunt over reports of no new cash for army | Politics | News

Penny Mordaunt has made an extraordinary intervention ahead of next week’s Budget, with an implicit warning to Jeremy Hunt.

The former Defence Secretary revealed she had met with the Chancellor to relay to him her constituents’ priorities.

However as an MP for an area with a strong military presence, she fired a warning shot that the Budget must deliver for the Ministry of Defence.

She said: “I discussed the work I’m doing with UK Civil Reserve and others to deliver a greater return for our defence and contingency budgets and increase capability.

“Our first duty is to protect our nation and its interests.”

The warning proved a remarkable intervention for a serving member of the Cabinet so close to a major fiscal announcement, and comes after reports Mr Hunt is set to provide no new money for the military.

Two days ago the Telegraph reported that the MoD is set to get no extra funding in the Budget, despite rising global threats.

Treasury figures, it claims, are set to argue that the state of the public finances means that new spending announcements have to be limited, especially if Mr Hunt is to announce eye-catching tax cuts.

The reports “blindsided” some military figures, given Defence Secretary Grant Shapps previously said he was asking for more cash.

Ms Mordaunt is the third former Defence Secretary to voice concerns about this week’s spending reports.

Sir Gavin Williamson told the Telegraph: “What is becoming increasingly clear is that the threats that we face need and require Britain and its allies to step up what it does in terms of building both capability and mass within our Armed Forces.

“That is going to require additional money to grow the size of our Army, Navy and Air Force. Without doing that, we will be ill-equipped to face the challenges that our enemies are increasingly presenting us with.”

Last night, Ben Wallace warned that Britain’s “hollowed-out” military is not “match-fit” for the wars coming down the road.

He told the Mail: “We are already tumbling down the tables on defence spending and aid to Ukraine.

“Reversing 30 years of hollowing-out can’t be done in four years. We need a sustainable and committed Budget uplift for defence or we will not be ‘match-fit’ for the conflicts to come.”

A recent report by MPs argued that the military needs “sustained ongoing investment” in order to be able to fight a “high-intensity war”.

Jeremy Hunt is reported to have around £13 billion to play with at the budget, but it’s thought most of that will be used on election-winning tax cuts rather than spending on services or investment.

The Chancellor will deliver his budget next Wednesday at 12.30pm.

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