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Rishi Sunak plans to axe 70,000 civil servants to pay for hike in defence spend


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Grant Shapps eventually wants defence spending to hit 3% (Image: Getty)

Rishi Sunak is putting Britain on a war footing by axing 70,000 pen pushers to free up billions for the defence of the nation.

The Prime Minister warned the world is at its “most dangerous” point since the end of the Cold War as he vowed to pump in an extra £75 billion by 2030.

During a visit to Poland, he warned European nations they cannot expect the United States to “pay any price” for defending the West unless they step up too.

He said: “We will put the UK’s own defence industry on a war footing.”

Mr Sunak will fund the pledge to spend 2.5% of national income on defence by 2030 without any increases in borrowing or debt.

Around £3 billion will be found by returning the civil service to pre-pandemic staffing levels by the end of the decade.

Extra staff were brought in to deliver Brexit and deal with the covid crisis, but staffing levels will be cut by 70,000.

Senior Tories welcome the plan to spend more cash on the military instead of Whitehall.

Former defence secretary Liam Fox said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that, starting today, he will increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030 – an additional £75bn over the next six years.

“This is a truly Conservative commitment, underpinned by Conservative economic values – with a clear plan for what will be spent, when it will be spent, and how it will be paid for.

“The number of civil servants soared to deal with the pandemic – the PM is right to get that headcount back down to pre-2020 levels so we can channel that money into defence instead.”

Ex-Cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “That seems excellent policy making, redistributing wasted expenditure to the security of the nation.”

Senior Conservative Bob Seely said: “This is very good news and it is important and necessary.

“The civil service is 25% bigger than it was in 2015 and it’s been less productive.

“So slimming down the civil service would be good anyway but especially if it is to fund soldiers, sailors and air force personnel.

“But how you spend it is crucial. It has to be spent right. It needs a creative approach and I hope the MoD is up to it.”

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “In a time of escalating global threats, taxpayers will appreciate the need for a boost to the UK’s military capabilities.

“But the ministry of defence’s recent record doesn’t inspire optimism that extra funding will be used as efficiently and effectively as the public expects.

“Ministers must ensure that extra cash doesn’t simply go towards plugging the black hole in the defence budget, and that there is a genuine focus on using both existing and new money more responsibly.”

Mr Sunak visited Warsaw to announce the UK’s biggest package of military aid to Ukraine as well as the bolstering of Britain’s military on a whistle-stop European visit, with a stop today (WED) in Germany.

The PM promised a further £10 billion over the next 10 years for ammunition and missiles, nearly double current UK spending on munitions production.

There will also be a focus on capabilities including air defence missiles, anti-armour munitions and 155mm artillery shells.

He said: “As our adversaries align, we must do more to defend our country, our interests, and our values.

“That is why today I am announcing the biggest strengthening of our national defence for a generation.

“We will increase defence spending to a new baseline of 2.5% of GDP by 2030 – a plan that delivers an additional £75 billion for defence by the end of the decade and secures our place as by far the largest defence power in Europe.

“Today is a turning point for European security and a landmark moment in the defence of the United Kingdom. It is a generational investment in British security and British prosperity, which makes us safer at home and stronger abroad.”

Mr Sunak was joined by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps.

Delivering a speech alongside Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the Prime Minister urged allies to spend more on defence in the face of growing threats.

Mr Shapps, who wants spending to eventually hit 3%, said: “We are living in a much more dangerous world.

“Between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iran and its proxies seeking to escalate deadly conflict, and China flexing its muscles, there can be no doubt that the era of the peace dividend is clearly over.

“The mounting threats we face mean we must invest in defence if we are to continue to defend our values, freedoms and prosperity.

“Today’s announcement marks the single greatest strengthening of our defence since the Cold War, which will support jobs, boost growth, and strengthen our incredible Armed Forces as a modern fighting force.”

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