British Army is ‘only big enough to tootle around at home’ so needs proper funding, says Ben Wallace

British Army is ‘only big enough to tootle around at home’ so needs proper funding, says Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

  • Defence Secretary made the remarks during a visit to Oslo in Norway this week
  • He told the Times he was concerned areas of UK defences ‘deeply vulnerable’
  • The UK will soon count 72,500 soldiers, the lowest number in 200-plus years

Britain’s Army is big enough if its only goal is to ‘stay at home and tootle around’, the UK’s Defence Secretary has warned. 

Ben Wallace made the comments during a visit to Oslo, Norway this week, adding that the country’s armed forces needed to be properly funded. 

The government previously pledged to increase military spending to 3 per cent of GDP, but new chancellor Jeremy Hunt has since said the defence budget will not rise before an update on the integrated review of foreign policy. 

It comes as the Army is set to shed around 10,000 troops as part of cost-cutting plans approved by ministers last year. 

The UK will soon count just 72,500 soldiers, the lowest number since the Napoleonic Wars more than 200 years ago. 

And speaking to the Times, Mr Wallace was unable to guarantee that that figure would not fall further. 

He said: ‘I will guarantee I will design an armed forces to fit the threat and to fit the ambition of the prime minister.

‘We get in trouble when governments promise things without backing them up – they want to be everywhere… but they don’t fund it.’

The Cabinet minister expressed concern that some parts of the UK’s defences were ‘deeply vulnerable’, while vowing more investment in anti-air capabilities. 

Britain's Army is big enough if its only goal is to 'stay at home and tootle around', the UK's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) has warned

Britain’s Army is big enough if its only goal is to ‘stay at home and tootle around’, the UK’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) has warned 

The government previously pledged to increase military spending to 3 per cent of GDP, but new chancellor Jeremy Hunt (pictured) has since said the defence budget will not rise before an update on the integrated review of foreign policy

The government previously pledged to increase military spending to 3 per cent of GDP, but new chancellor Jeremy Hunt (pictured) has since said the defence budget will not rise before an update on the integrated review of foreign policy

Mr Wallace said the size of the armed forces depended on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government’s foreign policy goals. 

He added: ‘If we just want to stay at home and do a bit of tootling around, we’ve got an armed forces big enough.’ 

Referring to NATO, he said Britain also has an ‘international alliance of 30 people.’ 

Mr Wallace was in Norway meeting allied defence ministers on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

During the same trip he announced Britain will send helicopters to Ukraine for the first time since Russia invaded in February of this year.

He said it will be the first time piloted aircraft have been sent to the war-torn nation since the war began. 

The UK will send three Sea King helicopters to Ukraine, it was revealed this week. One has already arrived in the country (file photo)

The UK will send three Sea King helicopters to Ukraine, it was revealed this week. One has already arrived in the country (file photo)

Three former Sea King helicopters will be provided, he said, the first of which had already arrived in Ukraine. The UK will also send an additional 10,000 artillery rounds.

During a visit to Norway, Mr Wallace said: ‘Our support for Ukraine is unwavering. 

‘These additional artillery rounds will help Ukraine to secure the land it has reclaimed from Russia in recent weeks.’ 

The Royal Navy provided six weeks’ training on Sea Kings in the UK for Ukraine’s armed forces and engineers, the Ministry of Defence said. 

The fresh support follows a commitment to provide 1,000 surface-to-air missiles and 125 anti-aircraft guns. 

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