Column: Defence Spending

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 19th July: 

This week in Parliament there was a debate regarding the Government’s spending on our armed forces.

It’s an incredibly important issue, and after all it is the first duty of any Government to defend and protect its citizens.

Over the last year I’ve been fortunate enough to see one branch of our forces in action, through my participation in the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.

From the Infantry Battle School and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, to active operations like NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence on the borders of Russia, I’ve seen first-hand the skill, professionalism and importance of our army and the personnel serving in it.

Over the next year, I’m hoping to undertake a similar role with the Royal Air Force.

But in seeing just how crucial our armed forces are, it’s worrying to see the extent of cuts to defence spending made by this Government.

Since 2010, spending has fallen by over £9bn in real terms.

Such staggering cuts are simply bound to have an impact on our operational capacity.

But it’s also not just about how much is being spent, but where.

For instance, responding to a question I asked in Parliament the Government recently admitted it simply doesn’t know how much money is being spent on veteran support services in Barnsley.

Without this, how can we make sure the Government is doing everything it can to give those in Barnsley who have served our country the help they need?

And there’s a huge regional disparity in spending too.

Government spending on defence over the last year was equivalent to just £60 per head in Yorkshire and the Humber, compared to £940 in the South West.

Expenditure on defence also supports jobs, including almost 60,000 across the South East and South West.

But in Yorkshire and the Humber, just 2,100 jobs are maintained by defence spending.

I contributed in the Parliamentary debate to raise this very issue.

The Government has a responsibility to maintain our national defence, but that isn’t all when it comes to defence spending.

They also have the ability to properly support those who have served, and sustain jobs and livelihoods in areas like ours.

I’ll continue to press them to do just that.