Following yesterday’s savaging of Government Defence Policy in the Lords by former Chiefs of the Defence Staff, David Cameron has written to the Prime Minister and asked him to end the fact that Des Browne is both Defence Secretary and Scottish Secretary:
“You will be aware of the comments by former Chiefs of the Defence Staff in relation to the Armed Forces and, in particular, from Admiral Lord Boyce regarding your decision to make the Defence Secretary a part-time post.
I made clear at the time that this decision was wrong. In light of the concerns expressed by these senior former military officers, I urge you once again to reconsider this decision. As you will be aware, it has caused great concern ever since it was announced.
At a time when our Forces are engaged in two highly dangerous missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for the Defence Secretary to be able to concentrate full-time on his role is surely a matter of plain common sense. People do not understand why you have chosen to combine the job of Defence Secretary with Scottish Secretary at such a crucial time. Now Admiral Boyce has made clear this concern extends to those on the front line, I hope you will take this opportunity to reverse your decision and appoint a Defence Secretary who is able to devote his total attention to this vital job, unencumbered by other responsibilities within Government.
I look forward to your early response.”
This is a good and necessary letter. But the real problem is not overstretch at the top but overstretch throughout the armed forces. Our armed forces are quite simply underfunded and the defence budget needs to be increased substantially over the coming years. The Conservatives cannot remain silent on this issue for much longer. Conservative members understand this. They believe that Britain’s military should be at the front of the queue for extra resources from a Conservative Government. Defence of the realm is the first duty of any government. It must be George Osborne’s top expenditure priority.
For background see the website of the new UK National Defence Association.
Related link: Ministry of Defence comes bottom of league table for answering questions promptly according to research by Mark Harper MP