JEREMY Hunt today pledges a massive £15bn more a year for the military to rebuild Britain’s creaking defences if he becomes PM.
Timed to coincide with Armed Forces Week, celebrated with parades nationwide on Saturday, the signature announcement is intended to delight the Tory faithful and close the gap on Boris Johnson.
It will pay for new submarine-hunting planes, more ships in the Far East and armoured vehicle upgrades for troops, as well as a boost to cyber defences.
Alongside the major cash injection, Mr Hunt also pledges to permanently raise Britain’s annual commitment to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence rather than the minimum NATO target of 2%.
Mr Hunt declared last night that the move would “show the world a self-confident country ready to defend its interests and values as we embark on an exciting post-Brexit future”.
The senior Cabinet minister – the son of a Royal Navy admiral - added: “I was the person who secured a historic funding boost for the NHS and as Prime Minister I’ll do the same for defence.
“Everyone knows Britain is a world leading soft power, but to be credible we need to show that we are determined to remain a first rank military power.”
'BRITAIN'S VOICE WILL BE STRONG'
He added: “My plan for defence will give our brave troops the backing they need and show the world that when it comes to the new threats to Western values, Britain is back and Britain’s voice will be strong.”
The cash injection over the next five years until 2023 will see defence spending return to levels not seen since before the financial crash in the 2000s.
The austerity years saw the MoD’s budget repeatedly slashed and a blackhole open up that threatened a new round of cuts.
Mr Hunt’s aides were less clear last night on exactly where the extra £15bn will come from.
Instead of cuts to other department budgets, they argued it would be paid for from economic growth and the Brexit war chest built up by Chancellor Philip Hammond.
But both are contingent on Britain leaving the EU with a deal, they also argued.
The pledge was given a warm backing by Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, a key support of Mr Hunt’s campaign for No10.
Ms Morduant said: “The British public want us to have clout in the world.
“We must give the men and women of our Armed Forces what they need to do the job we ask of them.
“Jeremy’s clear commitment to do that is one reason why he has my support.”