By Jason Groves, Political Editor
Daily Mail – 7 November 2022
Squeezing defence spending will increase the risk of a deadly war with Russia, the head of Parliament's intelligence and security committee warned last night. Julian Lewis told the Mail that the Government could not afford to scrap plans to increase defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP at a time when Vladimir Putin is threatening the West.
Dr Lewis, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which produced a landmark report on the threat posed by Russia, said any downgrading of the defence pledge would be seen by Putin as a sign of 'weakness'. And he urged ministers to 'ramp up' defence spending to 'deter' the Russian tyrant from further acts of aggression.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace are locked in a stand-off over defence spending ahead of the November 17 Budget. Whitehall sources said planned increases over the next two years are likely to be protected. But Mr Hunt is resisting pressure to deliver on a pledge made by Liz Truss to increase spending from 2.2 per cent of GDP to 2.5.
The commitment to increase it to 3 per cent by 2030 may survive as it falls outside the spending period being considered by the Chancellor. But defence experts have warned that the pledge will be worthless unless spending begins to increase in the coming years.
Dr Lewis said:
'We have to decide how much of our national priorities at a time of great danger ought to be put into deterrence and defence. It would send a very weak signal if we were not to be ramping up defence spending. If, God forbid, we got into a live conflict with Russia then all of the resources of the nation would have to be put into the military effort.'
'It would be far better now to invest in deterrence. Now is the worst possible time to be rowing back on defence commitments.'
Mr Wallace has backed away from reports he had threatened to resign if the 3 per cent target is ditched. He said:
'I haven't said I would resign on 2.5, 3.5, 4 per cent. Obviously the media might like that. Putin would see it as a sign of weakness'