Union calls for a big conversation on defence

Union calls for a big conversation on defence

'Punching above the budget' is the title of a national debate on UK defence spending being launched tomorrow (Wednesday) by Prospect.

At a conference at TUC Congress House in London, leading figures from politics, the UK defence industry, defence analysts, and commentators will discuss the future for defence procurement and the wider defence sector, and the continuing role of Ministry of Defence civilians in providing support to the armed forces.

Prospect has long argued that a combination of job cuts and privatisation, plus a 2007 budget allocation that amounts to a funding cut, has left Britain’s defence capability at risk and threatens its skills base.

At the event, called ‘Punching above the budget,’ Prospect will call for adequate funding for the Ministry of Defence to meet the nation’s future defence needs.

Prospect Deputy General Secretary, Mike Clancy said: “Prospect is ready to work with MPs of all political colours and the defence industry in order to put the right level of funding in place. We cannot allow MOD to choose only the things it can afford, not what the country needs.

“We believe defence ministers share our frustration. Together with industry we must convince the Treasury that UK defence is a special case that needs help,” said Clancy.

Clancy said funding for the defence equipment programme, concern over the retention of in-house MOD expertise and the future direction of the UK’s defence industrial policy were top of the list of issues to be discussed.

Prospect has repeatedly warned MOD that it is failing to adequately fund its equipment programme, or its own research and development.

The union is worried at the effect that urgent operational requirements and on-going support and maintenance has on the defence budget and the day-to-day work of the department.

In February the Defence Select Committee strongly criticised the department for its failure to publish an update of its defence industrial strategy – vital if the UK defence industry is to have a stable environment in which to operate.

Speakers at the seminar include:

From politics: Quentin Davies MP, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support; Adam Ingram MP, former armed forces minister; Robert Key MP, House of Commons Defence Select Committee.

From industry: Chris Cundy, Commercial Director VT Group; Andrew Sleigh, Chief Technology Officer, QinetiQ.

Analysts and trade unions: Tony Edwards, Defence College of Science and Technology; Frances O’Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary; Mike Clancy, Paul Noon, respectively Deputy General Secretary and General Secretary of Prospect.