We've 'got it right' on defence spending - minister


Britain's new aircraft carriers show the UK has "got it right" on defence spending, a minister has said.

Mark Lancaster, the minister for the armed forces, also told the Press Association he did not expect a review of Britain's defence strategy to result in major changes for its new carrier strike group.

The Ministry of Defence has found itself mired in a row over defence spending.

Britain is one of a handful of Nato members to meet the alliance's defence spending target of 2% of GDP, but critics say this figure is inflated by items such as pensions.

Tory MPs such as Julian Lewis, chairman of the Commons Defence select committee, and Bob Stewart, a former United Nations commander, have led the calls for the Government to invest more cash in the armed forces.

Mr Lancaster pointed to Britain's £6 billion new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, as proof Britain had got its strategy right.

"We're committed to spending 2%, we are consistently spending just over 2% and we will continue to do that," he said.

"Of course you have to budget and it would be irresponsible if you don't budget.

"But the very fact we are delivering two carriers, one of the few nations in the world to deliver this capability, I really think demonstrates that actually we have got it right and we have got a balance between having an appropriate budget to deliver the appropriate effect."

Mr Lancaster made the comments on board American warship USS George HW Bush, where Britain's new carrier strike group is training ahead of the Queen Elizabeth coming into service.

The minister said this strike group would not face big changes from a recently announced review of the latest Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), published in November 2015.

The National Audit Office warned in January that defence chiefs must find nearly £6 billion of additional savings or officials will be forced to cut or delay plans for new tanks and aircraft.

It said the risks to the affordability of the Ministry of Defence's 10-year spending plan were greater than at any point since its introduction in 2012.

Sources told The Times newspaper earlier this year that the new aircraft carriers were "like this beast eating up financial resources and manpower" at the expense of other areas in the military.

Mr Lancaster said: "It's a very limited review. It's not a new SDSR. The world changes.

"The broad outline of the review has been announced, but it's certainly not a new SDSR and I don't see it having a major impact on the carrier strike group."