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York MP Asks Prime Minister for More Defence Spending


6:51pm 12th June 2014

In the House of Commons on Wednesday 11th  June 2014 Hugh Bayley, the Labour MP for York Central, asked the Prime Minister, David Cameron, whether it is now time to reconsider the cuts the Government is making to defence spending in the light of Russia’s increase in defence spending by more than 10% a year in the past five years.  NATO’s European countries have cut spending by 10% on average over the same period, whilst the UK has cut defence spending by 18%.  The full exchange between Mr. Bayley and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in the House of Commons on 11th June is below:

Hugh Bayley:  Like the Prime Minister, I had the great privilege to be invited to attend the D-day celebrations in Normandy. It made me reflect on the dangers of sitting on our hands when another country is re-arming and acting aggressively. In the past five years, Russia has increased its defence spending by more than 10% a year in real terms, while defence expenditure has been reduced in Europe by an average of 10% over the same period. The UK has cut its defence spending by 18% in real terms. Does the Prime Minister think that now is the time to reconsider those cuts, stop them and start rebuilding our defence forces?

Prime Minister, David Cameron:  On the figures, this Government effectively froze defence spending in cash terms, which was an 8% real-terms cut. We are, of course, still meeting the 2% that NATO countries are meant to meet, and we are virtually the only country in Europe that is doing so, so I think we are in a strong position to say to others that they should do more.

Where I would perhaps part company with the hon. Gentleman is on the fact that our changes are about making sure that we have effective and deployable armed forces. Some countries might maintain spending or current patterns, but they do not actually have deployable armed forces for the things that are needed. That is what we need to get countries to focus on as they come to the NATO summit.

Russia has increased its military budget by more than 50% in the past five years.  It is re-arming, and using its better trained and armed forces to annex territory and threaten neighbouring countries with Russian speaking minorities.   Mr Bayley believes that cuts in defence spending by NATO countries have sent a wrong signal to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and contributed to Russia’s decision to invade Crimea and whip up protests in other parts of Ukraine. 

Mr. Bayley has called on the Prime Minister to reverse the cuts in defence spending and instead to rebuild our armed forces so that we are better able to deter Russian aggression against our NATO allies, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, all of which have Russian speaking minorities. 

In his opening speech to the spring meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Friday 30 May in Vilnius, Lithuania, Mr. Bayley, as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, called for NATO countries to resist further cuts in defence budgets, and to increase expenditure on defence and security as growth returns to western economies.

Hugh Bayley MP says:

“It was a great honour for me to be invited to attend the D-Day celebrations in Normandy and to remember the courage and sacrifices made by Allied servicemen seventy years ago which secured the freedoms which people of my generation have enjoyed all our lives.  It also made me reflect on the dangers of doing nothing in the face of another country re-arming and acting aggressively towards its neighbours.  I hope the Prime Minister will consider what I said and reverse the cuts in defence spending.  We cannot just sit on our hands and do nothing.  It is better to deter aggression with strong defence than to have to fight against a well armed aggressor, as the second world war generation did with such enormous loss and sacrifice.” 

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