Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 43, December 5, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Government's programme of military spending:

No Enrichment of Private Interests! No Spending for War!

On November 19, the government announced [1] what was claimed as the biggest programme of military spending since the end of the Cold War some 30 years ago. Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed that he had taken this decision "in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first". He added, "Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies."

The Prime Minister's words confirm that there is to be no change in Britain's racist colonial and warmongering foreign policy tied to US imperialism and other NATO powers. To confirm this reactionary stand in defence of a pro-war government and a pro-war economy, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace claimed, "Next year represents a huge opportunity for this country, and Defence will be at the forefront of creating the jobs and business opportunities that will help us build back from the pandemic." The Prime Minister and Defence Secretary are proud to admit that their aim is to continue the militarised direction for Britain's economy and to put war and private interests in command.

The amounts by which the government is planning to increase military spending and paying to the rich are staggering. In the November 25 Spending Review [2] of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, it states that the additional funding in "defence" is to be "over £24 billion in cash terms over four years", including an equally staggering £6.6 billion in Research and Development. This settlement means that the Defence budget will "grow at an average of 1.8 per cent per year in real terms from 2019-20 to 2024-25... The government will also continue with the renewal of the UK's nuclear deterrent." This makes the UK the largest European defence spender in NATO and second only to the US. It is also worth noting that this almost exactly mirrors the level of budget cuts that the previous and present governments said that they required the NHS to deliver in £22 billion of savings by 2020/21.

The government says that this investment in military spending is aimed at "cutting-edge technology, positioning the UK as a global leader in domains such as cyber and space and addressing weaknesses in our defence arsenal that cannot be allowed to continue". The Prime Minister also announced "a new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, the creation of a National Cyber Force to protect our people from harm and a new 'Space Command', capable of launching our first rocket in 2022" [1].

This will be underpinned by a record investment of at least £1.5 billion extra and £5.8 billion total on military research and development and a commitment to invest further in the Future Combat Air System. This, the government claims, will go "beyond military use with a vast number of civilian applications such as autonomous vehicles and aviation" and that all these projects "are expected to create up to 10,000 thousand jobs annually across the UK...harnessing the UK's skills in construction and science and reinvigorating those industries in the coming decades" [1].

It is in this context of further militarising the economy that the ruling elite is "investing" in a privatised "civilian economy". In the Spending Review 2020 [2] it points out that the government has spent over £280 billion this year to "support public services" in the Covid-19 pandemic. It also announces £55 billion of "support to public services" in responding to Covid-19 in 2021-22. What it notably fails to mention is that the lion's share of this funding from the Treasury has gone to all kinds of private individuals and companies through the emergency procurement rules.

The tip of the iceberg of some of the scandals over these contracts of £12.3 billion for PPE when so many front line workers did not get the appropriate protection and the £18 billion of contracts to a failed "test, track and trace" system of companies have already been revealed not least by the National Audit Office [3].

Many of these companies are directly or indirectly now involved in military projects, as well as across the economy. There are of course companies like BAE systems and other military companies that make Britain already the second largest exporter of weapons in the world, notoriously fuelling the bloody conflict on the side of Saudi Arabia in Yemen over the last six years. But also, there are companies like Serco [4] always favoured with contracts by government ministers, which have had many spectacularly failed rip-off contracts in tagging prisoners [5], in health as well as operating with lucrative contracts in the military. The Covid-19 pandemic has seen Serco gain a number of multi-million pound contracts within the NHS through these emergency procurement rules. These include contact tracing and setting up of Nightingale hospitals.

Looking at the whole set of relations that exist in Britain today demonstrates that the government is presiding over a pro-war, pro-austerity, pay-the-rich economy. It cannot be claimed that there is a balance between "defence" and public spending. The government continues to enrich private interests, and all the social wealth that the government lays claim to is then disbursed to this end. The burden is placed on working people as the source of this social wealth. The claims of the people and nations of Britain are not considered other than a "cost" or a "burden" to the ruling elite and on which the ruling elite decide only in their interests. There is no discussion about the people's claim on what they produce and what should go to health, education, a non pro-war defence budget and on the environment in which the peoples and nations of Britain have a real say on these matters. What is spent on social programmes such as health and education only goes so far as it is of benefit to this pro-war, pro-austerity economy, and, as can be seen, the interests of oligarchs and warmongers set the direction. There is no discussion as to whether Britain should have nuclear weapons and so on. Today, people are speaking out for an alternative to pro-war government and a direction for the economy that invests in the well-being of all. The focus at the present time must be for no enrichment of private interests and no spending for war!


1. PM to announce largest military investment in 30 years - Press Release, November 19 2020

2. Spending Review 2020, November 25 2020

3. Investigation into government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic - November 18 2020

4. NHS Support Federation: NHS Not for Sale - NHS Privatisation the Evidence
Serco employs 31,700 people in the UK and delivers services in defence, justice and immigration, transport, health and citizen services

5. The company paid £70million as part of a settlement to the Ministry of Justice in December 2013 after they and fellow outsourcing group G4S faced allegations of charging the Government for electronically monitoring people who were either dead, in jail, or had left the country. The company was also fined further £22.9 million is a case finalised in 2019 by the Serious Fraud Office.


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