If you needed more evidence of Labour spin and their continuing influence on the media I invite you to consider the lop sided discussions of public spending cuts. There is just one relatively small departmental budget that is crawled over endlessly for spending cuts – that of defence. It just happens to be the only budget where this government has made some cuts, whilst all the others have soared.
In 1996-7 the UK spent £21.3 billion on defence and £85 billion on social security. This year the spending on defence will be around £35 billion whilst the spending on social security and tax credits will be £180 billion. So over the Labour years social security spending has risen by more than 110%, defence spending has gone up by 75%. Social security is now five times defence, whereas it was four times in 1996-7.
Anyone seriously wanting to control our deficit – or for that matter wanting UK people to have better lives with more jobs and higher incomes – would start with plans to get the costs of social security down. Labour in Opposition called it the cost of “economic failure”. Now in government, with the budget surging, they present such spending as evidence of caring and sharing. The truth is too much of the budget is offering people a substitute income for employment. We should do better.We have talked about this before and will do so again. We need to put the enterprise back into Great Britain, which means lower tax rates and less regulation. Then we could get more back to work and off social security.
Meanwhile over at defence the rows escalate. We are told we cannot do everything. The army wants more troops so it can fight future Afghan wars with more boots on the ground. The navy wants new carriers and support vessels. The airforce claims more heavy lift to support the army and more fighters with modern capability.The truth is we need all three. The second truth is no area of government spending can be exempt from pressure to do more for less, from the search for better ways to spend. The cuts I would like to see in the military budget are these. I would like fewer armchair Generals and shore based Admirals, and more officers leading active units. I would like to see better value for money procurement, and an efficiency drive in the large civilian administrative tail. I have set out before ways that we could use private finance to improve service housing and release cash.
I woudl also like us to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible,. If any capability has to be cut, it should be the capability to invade Middle eastern countries where we have not been invited.