Today the Prime Minister has set out the biggest programme of investment in the military since the end of the Cold War.
In a speech to the House of Commons the PM has announced an extra £16.5 billion investment in our defence. This extra investment over the next four years is the over and above the manifesto commitments including a pledge to increase defence spending by 0.5% above inflation for every year of this parliament. On existing forecasts, this is an overall cash increase of £24.1 billion over four years compared to last year’s budget, which willwork to protect our citizens, create thousands of new jobs and demonstrate to allies they can always count on the UK as a valuable partner.
It will also cement the UK’s position as the largest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in NATO.
The commitment will allow the Government to invest in cutting-edge technology, positioning the UK as a global leader in domains such as cyber and space and addressing weaknesses in our defence arsenal that cannot be allowed to continue. To support these advancements the Prime Minister will also announce a new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, the creation of a National Cyber Force to protect our people from harm and a new ‘Space Command’, capable of launching our first rocket in 2022.
Our defence forces are operating in a rapidly changing world, and this spending increase recognises the urgent need to undertake a generational modernisation programme in order to defend the UK, our allies and the world’s most vulnerable people.
Since the Cold War the threat from our adversaries has been evolving. Our traditional defence and deterrence capabilities remain vital, and our Armed Forces work every day to prevent terror reaching the UK’s shores. But our enemies are also operating in increasingly sophisticated ways, including in cyberspace, to further their own interests.
Rather than being confined to some distant battlefield, those that seek to do harm to our people can reach them through the mobile phones in their pockets or the computers in their homes. To protect our citizens, UK Defence therefore needs to operate at all times with leading, cutting-edge technology.
This will be underpinned by a record investment of at least £1.5 billion extra and £5.8 billion total on military research and development and a commitment to invest further in the Future Combat Air System. This reverses the systematic decline in this crucial area in the last thirty years, creating new advances which surmount the old limits of logistics and go beyond military use with a vast number of civilian applications such as autonomous vehicles and aviation.
These projects are expected to create up to 10,000 thousand jobs annually across the UK. These will reflect the expertise and ingenuity of British people both inside and outside our Armed Forces, harnessing the UK’s skills in construction and science and reinvigorating those industries in the coming decades.
Our Armed Forces are also working on a broader range of issues than ever before to protect the most vulnerable people at home and abroad. During the recent pandemic over 20,000 personnel helped to deliver PPE, run testing sites and ensure that those in the most remote areas receive the medical care they need.
Defence has also been on the front line responding to every major international humanitarian disaster of the last decade. In the last year alone HMS Enterprise has come to the aid of Lebanon following the explosion in the Port of Beirut, RFA Argus and Army personnel have delivered disaster relief to Central American countries ravaged by Hurricane Eta, and the RAF has transported vital medical supplies to communities struggling against coronavirus in West Africa and the UK’s Overseas Territories.
Today’s announcements mark the first outcomes from the Integrated Review of the UK’s foreign, defence, development and security policy. The full conclusions of the Integrated Review will be announced in the new year.