Monday, 14 December 2009

Defence cuts? Not needed!

I'm hearing increasing amounts of news about defence cuts recently, with some suggesting 16% cuts ahead. This will let the Government protect "Front-Line" services, such as the NHS and Education. I might be a little bit old-fashioned (in fact I almost certainly am!) but I'm pretty sure it doesn't get much more "Front-Line" than one of our troops in the mud with a gun.

So, it looks like Defence will be getting hit by ~£6Bn of cuts (more than an aircraft carrier). That's quite a lot of money. If only we had some other areas of spend that we cut first. Lets assume we have to continue to protect schools and hospitals. I'm just going to look at the spend commitments that most people will agree we don't need to be spending cash on.

Gordon has pledged £1.5Bn recently to combat climate change. Actually, what he means is that he wants to give this money to poor countries to help them deal with our post-colonial carbon guilt. OK, that's over 3 years, but we're still looking at £500m each year, or as much as the Banker Tax will raise this year.

We could look at the Department for International Development, who in 2010 has a budget of £7.8Bn, up from £5.3Bn in 2008. From 2013 the government has pledged to increase the budget to 0.7% of Gross National Income, doubling from 2008 (so we're looking at the wrong side of £10Bn / year).

We could actually keep the budget where it was in 2008 (0.36% GNI) and use the £5Bn to help fill the hole in our defence budget.

Gordon has just returned from a trip to Afghanistan and there have been numerous stories recently about how he's finally "getting" Defence. Yet his plan is to cut Defence's budget by much the same amount he's raising our budget for international aid (Yes, the same aid that has sent roughly ~£1Bn to India, a country rich enough to launch their own rockets to the Moon).

Supporting poorer countries is important. But we can only afford to spank Billions around when the country is doing well. Surely the average person in the street would prefer Labour to focus on reducing the Debt (not just the deficit) and cutting the taxes that punish them for working than spending their money on other, increasingly rich countries?

Most of the £6Bn spent on Defence remains in this country, it flows from the government to the contractors then their workers, who spend it, boosting local and national economies and pay tax back to the government again. Can we say the same about International Aid?

How can Gordon justify boosting that budget whilst cutting Defence?

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