The British Army has ‘fallen behind its peers and needs investment’, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted
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The British Army has ‘fallen behind its peers and needs investment’, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted after a US general ‘said the UK’s military is no longer regarded as a top-level force’.

Mr Wallace agreed on the need for ‘urgent recapitalisation’, but said the government was already investing £34bn into the army’s equipment plan between now and 2033 and that changes like this cannot happen overnight.

‘There’s no magic wand, there’s no factories whirring away like car factories where you just press buttons and they come,’  he told Sky News.

He said only two countries could sustain almost constant production lines: China and the United States.

The UK could opt to buy from abroad, but this would eradicate the UK defence and aerospace industry and the UK wouldn’t be able to give its troups the exact equipment they want, he added.

Mr Wallace continued by saying that other countries across Europe were also facing problems with their supply chains; by investing more money into the industry, the UK is sending a signal – and ‘will continue to do so’.

Decades of cuts are said to have led to a decline in war-fighting capability, which needs to be reversed faster than planned in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Bottom line… it’s an entire service unable to protect the UK and our allies for a decade,’ one defence source said according to Sky News.

Rishi Sunak is also running the risk of failing in his role as ‘wartime Prime Minister’ unless the situation is radically improved, the source said.

James Heappey, the Defence Minister, spoke in the Commens and said that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister ‘get’ that the British Army is in ‘urgent need of recapitalisation’.

Speaking during defence questions in the Commons, Tobias Ellwood asked: ‘Could I invite the minister to respond to comments from the United States, our closest security ally, which tally with the defence committee’s own findings that this conflict in Ukraine has exposed serious shortfalls in the war-fighting capability of the British Army?’

Mr Heappey replied: ‘I think everybody is clear.

‘The Secretary of State has said many times, as have I and other ministerial colleagues, that serial under-investments in the Army over decades has led to the point where the Army is in urgent need of recapitalisation.

‘The Chancellor and the Prime Minister get that and there is a budget coming.’

Shortly afterwards, Mr Wallace suggested the armed forces have been ‘hollowed out and underfunded’, but called on Labour to accept some responsibility for the situation.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey noted that when Labour left government in 2010, the British Army ‘stood at over 100,000 full-time troops and we were spending 2.5% of GDP on defence’.

‘The serious hollowing out has happened since. Who does he think has been in charge over the last 13 years?’ he asked.

Mr Wallace responded: ‘You only have to listen to the veterans on this side to understand their experience under a Labour government.

‘Snatch Land Rovers – let’s remember that and all that awful mess as a result of the Labour government’s investment.

‘If (Mr Healey) wants to be the next secretary of defence, he should come here and get off his chest the shortcomings that his former government did.

‘I’m happy to say that we have hollowed out and underfunded. Will he do the same? Or will he hide behind petty party politics?’

Downing Street acknowledged there had been ‘underfunding’ of the military but insisted that billions of pounds had been committed to equipment.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We certainly agree there has been underfunding and it’s right that we are putting billions more into our armed forces.’

In response to Mr Heappey’s comments, the spokesman said: ‘We recognise that the armed forces have not received the money needed in successive years.

‘That’s why we put into place the £242 billion 10-year equipment plan and it’s why we raised the defence budget so we continue to be the largest defence budget in Europe.

‘That investment is the biggest in the UK defence industry since the Cold War.’

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