Minister Roasted Over Government's 'Misleading' Defence Spending Pledge

Stig Abell asked: "Was your government trying to con us yesterday?"
Stig Abell pressured minister James Cartlidge over the government's new spending pledges
Stig Abell pressured minister James Cartlidge over the government's new spending pledges
Times Radio

Presenter Stig Abell clashed with a minister on Thursday morning over the government’s recent pledge to increase defence spending.

Tory MP James Cartlidge went on Times Radio to discuss Rishi Sunak’s new pledge that the UK will spend 2.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence by the end of the decade.

The government has repeatedly said this would equate to an extra £75 billion for the ministry of defence over the next six years – but this figure has caused significant confusion.

Abell asked the defence minister: “Was your government trying to con us yesterday?

“Were you trying to con the British people when you said you were going to spend £75 billion extra on defence? It’s not 75 billion extra.”

He pointed out that chancellor Jeremy Hunt had explained it was only £20 billion more when compared with the current spending of 2.3% of GDP.

The presenter added: “That number was, it was an untruth, was it not, yesterday?”

The minister said, “not at all”, and said the cash amount the government is spending in six years’ time will be £75 billion more than today’s spend.

“It’s not new money, is it?” Abell replied, adding: “It’s a manipulation of numbers, a very clear and very obvious manipulation of numbers, actually.”

The minister said: “Not at all, because you’re making a whole load of assumptions there.

“The fact is, the cash we will spend when we reach 2.5% will be £75 billion more than we are spending today in cash terms. That’s an absolute statement.”

Abell said: “It might suggest you can’t be trusted with numbers because it’s a misleading number that you’re pushing here. Where does the money....”

The minister cut in: “It’s not misleading. Just allow me a second. You’ve asked me on to your show. So if you could give me just one chance.”

The presenter said: “I’ve just given you several chances. The point I’m making is that it’s still a misleading number. And please go ahead.”

Cartlidge deflected by saying the Tories inherited a “very difficult situation” from Labour in 2010.

He added the government had made it clear it would only increase spending to 2.5% of GDP when the economy had improved.

He noted inflation has finally fallen, so the government “has taken the decision” – amid the Ukraine war and the instability in the Middle East – to committed to 2.5%.

The two also clashed over the impact reducing civil servants would have on this spending boost, too.

Sounding slightly frustrated, Abell said: “If you’re saying the £75 billion is real and is being paid for predominantly, or to a large extent, by civil service reduction, there needs to be that number for people to believe the 75 billion.

“Don’t you see?”

The minister just replied: “The crucial point is you said that we are not increasing spending by £75 billion. The cash amount today versus the cash amount that we will reach when we get to two and a half percent, the difference is £75 billion pounds, a huge amount of extra investment.”


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