The news that the Government is increasing funding to the Armed Forces should be given a cautious welcome but with a huge caveat. With its budget cut year on year, the military are unable to keep pace with what they need to spend, so this feels a little like offering the police 20,000 new police officers to replace the 30,000 that they previously cut.
I have an affinity with the Armed Forces as my husband served in the Royal Navy for over a decade and have a daughter who reached Flight Sergeant in the Royal Air Force Cadets, so for many years expected to see her follow his lead.
I hear the Prime Minister say that the first duty of Government is to keep her people safe, but there is more than one way of doing this; and walking away from the biggest peace project in living memory, at a time when we face a threat to our way of life from a tiny microbe and instability across the world probably isn’t the most sensible thing to be doing.
Investing in modern defence systems and creating high skilled jobs is to be welcomed but before all this, the Government must commit to ensuring that the equipment our armed services use is fit for purpose and the homes in which they and their families live are maintained to at least as high a state as housing managed by local authorities.
Furthermore, we need to see a significant investment in the mental health of serving personnel and veterans, more research into PTSD and investment to ensure that no veteran faces a future of homelessness.
Until these basics have been achieved, we should not be talking about launching rockets in 2022 under ‘Space Command’ or crowing about having the biggest level of funding in Europe. Let’s put the service personnel at the heart of the defence investment rather than kit that will be out of date before the ink is dry on the tender document.
- Vikki Slade, Parliamentary Spokesperson for Mid Dorset & North Poole