What Do Political Parties Say On Defence?

Manifesto Comparison

On Thursday 12 December, British citizens living in the UK and abroad, as well as Commonwealth citizens living in the UK, will have the opportunity to vote in the 2019 General Election. It is only two-and-a-half years since the last election, held in June 2017. Political parties are setting out their policies on defence- this is what Forces Network reports they have to say.

Conservative Party

Leader: Boris Johnson

The Conservative Party has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To exceed the NATO defence spending target of 2% of GDP and increase the budget by 0.5% above inflation each year of the new parliament.
  • To modernise military equipment and improve capability.
  • To invest in training.
  • To maintain the Trident nuclear deterrent.
  • To invest more in cybersecurity and establish a UK Space Command.
  • To invest in “ambitious global programmes”, including building Type 31 frigates and new armoured vehicles.
  • To find “better ways” of dealing with legacy issues, including “better outcomes” for victims and survivors and to offer veterans “the protections they deserve”.
  • To introduce legislation to tackle “vexatious” legal claims against personnel and veterans.
  • To acknowledge the contribution of those from “beyond these shores” to the British military.
  • To reduce National Insurance contributions for companies employing former service personnel.
  • To offer “wraparound childcare” for military families.
  • To introduce a veterans’ railcard.
  • To offer guaranteed job interviews for veterans in public sector role

Labour Party

Leader: Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour Party has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To increase funding for United Nations peacekeeping missions to £100 million.
  • To maintain a commitment to NATO and “close relationship” with European partners.
  • To support the renewal of Trident, but to lead efforts to create a “nuclear-free world”.
  • To spend at least 2% of GDP on defence.
  • To scrap the public sector pay gap, which Labour says resulted in a “real-terms pay cut” for personnel.
  • To ensure “decent housing” for members of the military.
  • To guarantee “better access” to “good quality local schools” for forces children.
  • To consult on creating a “representative body” for the British military.
  • To provide veterans with access to “lifelong” training, housing, and mental and physical health services.
  • To seek greater consistency in the implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant.
  • To pay £50,000 to each surviving British nuclear test veteran.
  • To ensure Black and Asian soldiers who fought in British colonial forces receive an apology and compensation for “discriminatory” demob payments.
  • To ensure a “highly-skilled workforce and world-class apprenticeship programme”.
  • To support British defence manufacturing, including keeping all Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxilliary shipbuilding contracts in the UK.
  • To review increasing the use of sustainable energy within defence, through the creation of a Climate Change Sustainability Committee.
  • To create a strategy to secure “safe and sustainable” recycling of old nuclear submarines.
  • To respect international law and avoid “needless military interventions”.
  • To introduce a War Powers Act, to prevent a prime minister from committing to military action without parliament’s consent.
  • To implement “every single recommendation” of the Chilcot Inquiry.
  • To provide targeted bursaries, including for former military personnel.

Liberal Democrats 

Leader: Jo Swinson

The Liberal Democrats have launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To commit to the NATO guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence – which the Lib Dems say will provide an extra £3 billion “as the economy grows after we have stopped Brexit”.
  • To offer science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates up to £10,000 to become military engineers.
  • To promote an “international treaty” on how technology is used in modern warfare.
  • Greater investment in intelligence to tackle cyber warfare.
  • To maintain a “minimum nuclear deterrent”, while “pursuing multilateral nuclear disarmament.
  • They also pledge to continue with the Dreadnought programme to replace the Vanguard-class submarines, while “procuring three boats and moving to a medium-readiness responsive posture” and maintaining a nuclear deterrent through “unpredictable and irregular patrolling patterns”.
  • To support the Armed Forces Covenant and work to support the mental health of veterans. 
  • To improve the quality of housing for service personnel, including giving military tenants the same legal rights regarding repairs and maintenance as private tenants.
  • To require UK-registered non-governmental organisations and organisations, including the Armed Forces and defence contractors, to report all instances of documented abuse overseas to government.
  • To waive application fees for personnel who have been discharged from the military, but wish to apply for indefinite leave to remain in order to remain in the UK.
  • To ensure a parliamentary vote takes place before the UK engages in military action.

Green Party

Leaders: Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley

The Green Party has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To scrap Trident and nuclear-powered submarines, putting the funds saved towards the development of non-carbon-emitting technology.
  • Replacing the Ministry of Defence with a Ministry for Security and Peace.
  • A pledge to “close down” arms sales by the Government and to end all subsidies and support for “the UK arms industry’s exporting of weapons and systems”.
  • To end military training in national parks.
  • To stop the use of live animals in military training.

Brexit Party

Leader: Nigel Farage

The Brexit Party has launched its policy document.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To ensure the UK maintains its commitment to NATO, including continuing to spend 2% of GDP on defence as an “absolute minimum”.
  • To withdraw from the European Defence Union.
  • To invest in “strategic industries”, including defence.

Scottish National Party

Leader: Nicola Sturgeon

What is it pledging on defence?

The SNP is yet to release its 2019 manifesto, but its defence policies include:

  • Supporting a new Strategic Defence and Security Review.
  • To urge the Government to secure a “political resolution” in the fight against so-called Islamic State, which it says “must be pursued by more than military means”.
  • The belief that “an immediate ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia” should be enforced, with a “full and proper independent investigation” to be held.
  • Funding for the Supporting Veterans Into Employment initiative.
  • Continue the work of the recently-established Scottish Veterans Fund to support projects that provide advice and support to veterans across Scotland.
  • To provide practical support for veterans requiring social care.
  • To continue to ensure the War Disablement Pension is exempt from the assessment of income, and to press the Government to adopt their approach.
  • To oppose defence cuts, including the closure of Scottish defence sites and reductions in personnel.
  • Opposing Trident, which the SNP describes as “immoral, ineffective and expensive”.
  • To establish from the Ministry of Defence what safety precautions are taken “while nuclear weapons travel through Scotland”.

Plaid Cymru

Leader: Adam Price

Plaid Cymru has launched its manifesto.

What is it pledging on defence?

  • To scrap Trident and reinvest funds in public services and infrastructure.
  • To resist all attempts to relocate nuclear weapons in Wales or Welsh waters
  • To demand a vote to be held in the Welsh Assembly, before the UK goes to war or becomes involved in military intervention overseas.
  • To work with the Government and other agencies to prevent cyber or technology attacks on Wales and the UK.
  • To provide healthcare to veterans, including mental healthcare.
  • To provide “adequate” housing for former service personnel.