Figures released today show that the Armed Forces are nearly 7,000 personnel under-strength. The Army alone is under-manned by 3,600. Shadow Defence Minister, Dr Andrew Murrison said: "With troops engaged in two major conflicts these figures are extremely worrying. Labour has broken the military covenant, so more of our trained personnel are leaving, resulting in under-manning and overstretch particularly in key specialist units."Brown and Browne must admit that the Army is too small for the commitments they have entered into."We need a full Defence Review and a full-time Defence Secretary."
As I understand it, the defence budget for 2005/6 was about 2.5 per cent of the GDP (around £32 billion), this compares to 4.4 per cent in 1987/88. That puts the UK's spending on its overstretched armed forces behind that of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.
A Government spokesman claimed that the defence budget had increased in real terms since 2000. "Real Terms" - what exactly does that mean? well the same spokesman said: "Although the defence budget has declined as a proportion of GDP since the height of the Cold War, the defence budget has actually been increasing in real terms and it is simply that GDP has risen more quickly." What this means to me is that the government has failed to invest in our Armed Forces when the GDP was high. How have we failed to strengthen our forces during a time of plenty (according to Gordon Brown), when they are fighting at a level not seen since the Korean war?
We have less soldiers now than we did back in 1997, the Royal Air Force offensive squadrons have been cut from 16 to 11, and the Navy has lost eight destroyers and six frigates. I was in the Navy and I would not rejoin if they offered to treble my pay. The Armed Forces have become a dangerous place to be right now - not because of the enemies they face, but because of the way they are being treated by their own government. We may still have the best trained troops in the world, but you can't charge tanks on horseback.