Liam Fox lambasts Labour for the inheritance it has bequeathed him at the MoD
By Jonathan Isaby
Defence Secretary Liam Fox has just addressed the Conservative conference and used the opportunity to lambast Labour for the unfunded defence liabilities it has bequeathed the Coalition Government and for the economic legacy which will force him to preside over defence cuts.
"Exacerbating the challenges of the [defence] review is the bleak financial situation left behind by Labour. The country’s finances are wrecked and the world is more dangerous than at any other time in recent memory. Never has a defence review been carried out under such extreme circumstances. We all know about Labour’s toxic economic legacy. There is an unfunded liability in Defence of around £38 billion over the next 10 years – compared to an annual budget of only £37 billion. Under Labour the United Kingdom’s national debt has doubled. The interest we will pay next year on this debt is £46bn. And what do we get for this? Absolutely nothing. Let me tell you what you could buy in defence for £46bn. This would be enough to purchase an extra 4 aircraft carriers, 10 destroyers, 50 C17s cargo planes, 300 Chinooks helicopters, fund13,000 extra soldiers and still have enough left over to revolutionise forces accommodation."
"Now, I didn't come into politics wishing to see a reduction in our Defence budget. Neither did the Prime Minister. But while we can never predict where events will take us or the unavoidable bills we will have to pay as a consequence, we must confront the ghastly truth of Labour's legacy. During their time in office Labour pushed projects ever more desperately into future years to try to make an impossible budget balance in year, only to increase the overall cost of the Defence programme still further. They behaved like out of control online shoppers who kept ordering more and more without once considering how they might pay for them when the goods arrived. And they did all of this during a time of war. New Labour was the most short sighted, self serving, incompetent, useless, and ineffective government that Britain has ever known. Make no mistake, Labour’s economic policies were a national security liability."
He announced that Trident would be replaced:
"As the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, the first duty of Government is defence of the realm. That is why we will maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent and will go ahead with the trident replacement programme."
Dr Fox also made several announcements about the welfare of troops and veterans, saying that two of the recommendations of Andrew Murrison MP's review of mental health care for the armed forces would be implemented immediately:
- A dedicated 24 hour support line for veterans;
- Introducing 30 additional mental health nurses in Mental Health Trusts to ensure the right support is organised for veterans.
He also announced new funding to replace 125 Service Families Accommodation Units on Canadian Estate at Bulford with 260 new units at a cost of £47m.
On Afghanistan, he reiterated that British troops will not have a combat role after 2015, but insisted that they should remain there for now:
"People ask, why not leave now? Just walk away. The answer is that we are part of an international coalition of 47 countries. To leave before we completed our task would be a shot in the arm to violent jihadists everywhere. It would send the signal that we did not have the moral resolve and the political fortitude to see through what we ourselves have described as a national security imperative. And it would be a betrayal of our forces who have already sacrificed so much. Our military presence is necessary."