Government expenditure in the frame

News editor

The Defence Review heralds an increase in spending, with new aircraft announced, although a cut in planned number of new ships, but the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement later this week is likely to unveil cuts elsewhere; STEM-related businesses and other concerns are worried about protecting the UK’s position and competitiveness.

Britain has been the fastest growing major advanced economy in the world for the last two years and as such can spend more on national security.

This is the view of PM David Cameron who used his forward to today’s National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security review to highlight his claims that Conservative economic governance has led to today’s £12bn rise in defence spending.

But does the funding go far enough and will there be enough suitably qualified service personnel to fulfil roles brought about through military procurement?

A total of £178bn is being invested in defence equipment and support over the next decade, notably in the following programmes:

  • 9 new Boeing P8 maritime patrol aircraft
  • 2 New 5000 strong Strike Brigades by 2025 for rapid deployment missions with a lower logistical footprint
  • 138 F-35 aircraft will be bought, with the first 24 deployed on the UK’s new aircraft carriers by 2023
  • Eight Type 26 Global Combat Ships will be purchased to replace Type 23 Frigates
  • RAF Typhoons will operate until 2040 and their ground attack capabilities will be enhanced with new Active Electronically Scanned Array radar for sorties hostile environments.

In his forward, Cameron said: “This is vital at a time when the threats to our country are growing. From the rise of ISIL and greater instability in the Middle East, to the crisis in Ukraine, the threat of cyber attacks and the risk of pandemics, the world is more dangerous and uncertain today than five years ago.

“So while every government must choose how to spend the money it has available, every penny of which is hard-earned by taxpayers, this government has taken a clear decision to invest in our security and safeguard our prosperity.

“As a result, the United Kingdom is the only major country in the world today which is simultaneously going to meet the NATO target of spending 2% of our GDP on defence and the UN target of spending 0.7% of our GNI on development, while also increasing investment in our security and intelligence agencies and in counter-terrorism.”

Over at Number 11 Downing Street, Cameron’s colleague in HM Treasury is set to deliver a combined Spending Review and Autumn Statement this Wednesday.

A number of commentators are predicting a gloomy speech from George Osborne with the Sunday Times reporting a cut in direct support for industry, with funding for science and technology likely to switch from grants to different forms of funding, including loans.

Further measures are likely to include the budget of £3.2bn for 7 research councils diverted into one body, and halving relief for entrepreneurs, which currently offers a lower rate of capital gains tax on profits up to £10m.

According to the Sunday Times, Whitehall has agreed to cuts of more than £20bn across unprotected ministries, and the civil service is braced for 50,000 more job losses.

The Engineer sought pre-Review/Statement hopes and wishes from industry, prompting  Rowan Crozier, CEO of precision pressing specialist Brandauer, to say: “I think the whole country is expecting deep cuts, but these must not hit manufacturing or anything that could have an impact on STEM subjects and future innovation.

“In an ideal world, we’d welcome capital investment support for new technology to ensure we remain competitive when supplying customers in the Eurozone and further afield. There should also be more productivity-biased support for SMEs, tax relief for low earners in engineering and manufacturing disciplines and greater encouragement for young learners and engineers to complete higher apprenticeships.

“The government should look at turning on the tap for more financial support when it comes to helping UK firms exhibit overseas. We¹ve just been to Productronica in Germany and received over 60 good enquiries in just four days.”