Ben Wallace has denied claims he would resign if not given a vastly larger defence budget as he appeared to row back on Liz Truss’ previous target.
The defence secretary told a Westminster committee that Truss’ promise to spend 3 per cent of UK GDP on defence by 2030 was only “an aspiration”.
The Ministry of Defence has a £48bn budget, 2.1 per cent of GDP, which would need to roughly double in eight years to reach the ex-Prime Minister’s target.
Wallace told the Defence Select Committee he would “fight every bit of the way to see what I can get” when he meets chancellor Jeremy Hunt to speak about funding today.
“I have, I think tomorrow, my meeting with the chancellor and I have got the next few weeks until the Budget and I will be fighting for as much money as I can get,” he said.
Hunt is preparing to announce a mix of spending cuts and tax rises later this month in a bid to get government borrowing under control.
It has been widely reported that Wallace privately threatened to quit if Rishi Sunak and Hunt did not fulfil Truss’ defence spending pledge – something the defence secretary yesterday denied.
“I haven’t said I would resign on 2.5, 3.5, 4 per cent. Obviously the media might like that,” he said.
“I have always said as threat changes so should our commitment and our planning and our funding. Defence is moving back up the priority list back towards Cold War levels of where it should be.”
It comes as the Russian foreign ministry yesterday said the world was “on the brink” of nuclear war in a further escalation of rhetoric.