#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 2nd September 2020

Some of the most important dates in Crawley’s Civic Calendar are focused on the military. From Armed Forces Day to Remembrance Sunday, Crawley residents come out to thank those who have served or are currently serving in the military. On such days, I often find myself remembering the words of famed socialist George Orwell: ‘people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.’ While we must constantly work for peace, so long as some in the world would seek to resolve national differences through warfare, it is vital that the UK maintains the ability to defend itself, and others, from the risk of harm.

Which is why after years of cuts, many have greeted the proposal that the Ministry of Defence to scrap all of Britain’s tanks with concern, with former Army Chief of Staff General Lord Dannatt describing the proposal as ‘misguided’. Similar proposals to halve the number of fighter jet purchases, appear set to leave the UK far weaker at responding to new and growing national defence threats over coming years.

At the same time, the Government faces significant questioning over its defence procurement. It has been five years since the UK announced it would build three new military support ships, yet they have yet to place the order. Now concerns are growing due to the Government’s refusal to rule out using foreign ship yards to build the new support ships, something no major military nation has ever done before due to the obvious security issues. Putting aside the military implications, the loss of the £1.5bn contract would be a major blow to the UK’s shipyards at a time when the UK’s economy is trying to emerge from its deepest recession on record.

Yet, without firm plans for growing the economy out of the current recession and the Government appearing to rule out tax increases for very high income earners, all parts of the public sector–including the military–will be set for yet another round of spending cuts after a decade of them. Britain deserves better.

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