Increased defence spending to £50 billion, and a new ‘Veteran’s Administration’.
The Army is tasked with reducing personnel numbers to 82,000 by 2018, down from 102,500 in 2010. Battle tank strength has been cut by 40 per cent and there has been a 35 per cent cut in self-propelled artillery. The Conservatives’ ambition to recruit 30,000 personnel to the Territorial Army is failing.
Together, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy have suffered more than 10,000 job losses. The Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft programme has been cancelled. The aircraft carrier fleet has been decommissioned, despite having no operational replacements available until 2020. These cuts have demoralised our Armed Forces and left the nation unprepared to face emerging threats.
REBUILDING OUR ARMED FORCES
Our current level of military spending and staffing is not fulfilling the terms of our NATO membership – which requires that we spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence – and the government has failed to lay out details of spending plans beyond 2015/16.
On the basis that the current base level of defence spending is maintained after 2015/16 at 1.9 per cent, UKIP will increase the defence budget to meet our obligations to NATO and spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence in 2015/16. We will exceed it substantially for the remaining years of the parliament.
We will phase in increased defence spending over the next five years up to an additional £4 billion by 2020. This will return funding to the pre-SDSR level, and allow for £1 billion yearly expenditure on capital projects deemed to be of the highest strategic priority by the MoD.
We will rebuild our Armed Forces and restore them to their rightful place among the most professional, flexible and effective fighting forces in the world, able to meet the security demands of the modern era and react appropriately to any threat that the UK faces both now and in the future.
RETAIN OUR NUCLEAR DETERRENT
Faced with rogue states such as North Korea and Iran, which have developed advanced nuclear capabilities, UKIP does not believe now is the time to be talking about or proposing nuclear disarmament and we support Trident renewal.
The two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are superb operational platforms. UKIP supports their deployment, while having reservations about the Royal Navy’s ability to man, operate and protect them: it could take nearly every ship in the current fleet to form an effective carrier group. However, we have reservations about the development of the American F-35B Lightning II aircraft that are due to fly from the carriers by 2020, given the massive technical problems involved. This platform may never be mission-capable. We will investigate further whether it would be better to commission an ‘off-the-shelf’ aircraft option and adapt the two Queen Elizabeth class carriers for non-vertical take-off and landings.
INCREASING INTELLIGENCE CAPABILITY
Currently, British intelligence is fragmented between a number of agencies, including MI5, MI6, GCHQ and BBC Monitoring. All have different funding streams and report to different government departments. This generates a significant overlap in work and resources and risks exposing gaps in the system.
UKIP will create a new over-arching role of Director of National Intelligence (subject to confirmation hearing by the relevant Commons Select Committee), who will be charged with reviewing UK intelligence and security, in order to ensure threats are identified, monitored and dealt with by the swiftest, most appropriate and legal means available. He or she will be responsible for bringing all intelligence services together; developing cyber security measures; cutting down on waste and encouraging information and resource sharing. TAX ON ACTIVE SERVICE UKIP will revise the Armed Forces terms of service to ensure personnel on operational duty overseas do not pay income tax.
UKIP wholly opposes the creation of a EU Army. We will not tolerate British troops operating under European command, on British soil or elsewhere.
Wherever we send our brave heroes, whatever the danger, they never let us down. We will not let them down. We will honour the Military Covenant.
UKIP will create a dedicated Minister for Veterans, attached to the Cabinet Office to head up a Veterans Administration (VA). The VA will work with current MoD veteran services and established charities to provide a single point of contact for veterans in a range of fields: health care, housing, counselling, education and training, rehabilitation, hospital care, access to veteran financial services, benefits and memorialisation. Issues such as veteran homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health problems will also come under this remit, as will rolling out the following initiatives by 2020:
A DEDICATED MILITARY HOSPITAL
We believe members of our Armed Forces should have access to expert care services, configured to meet the specific needs of serving forces personnel and veterans. Britain is the only major country in Europe that does not have a dedicated military hospital, so we will build one. It will provide specialist physical and mental health services and provide accommodation for 150 relatives or friends on site.
HOSTELS FOR HOMELESS VETERANS
9,000 homeless people are ex-forces, as are one in ten people sleeping rough on the streets, according to charities Combat Stress and Crisis. That those who have been willing to defend our homeland have ended up without a home themselves is appalling.
By 2020, UKIP will build eight halfway house veterans’ hostels, each with 200 rooms and modelled on similar hostels already in operation. We will also built 500 affordable rent homes every year for ex-forces personnel.
JOBS FOR EX-SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN
We will guarantee the offer of a job in the police service, prison service or border force for anyone who has served in the Armed Forces for a minimum of 12 years. This policy will also help meet our pledge to fund an additional 6,000 full time positions across these three organisations. We will secure our borders, get more police on the streets, have safer prisons and honour the Military Covenant.
BOOTS TO BUSINESS
Skills gained in the forces can be useful when running a small business. We will create a ‘Boots to Business’ scheme to channel loans, grants and access to free professional advice and mentors to veterans who wish to set up and run their own businesses after leaving the forces.
SUPPORTING OUR HEROES AND THEIR FAMILIES
Key roles for the VA will include bereavement support; the issue of a veteran service card to ensure fast-track access to NHS mental health care; and the award of a National Defence Medal to all veterans, irrespective of rank or length of service.
The current anomaly in the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme will be rectified, so no veteran has to use their war pension to pay for social care, whenever they were injured.
These entitlements will be extended to service personnel from overseas. If they have shared the responsibility, stress and danger associated with military service, they should be entitled to exactly the same benefits as the man or woman who stood at their side.