British military has been 'hollowed out' for over a decade, former army chief Sir Peter Wall tells LBC

13 March 2023, 00:00 | Updated: 14 March 2023, 06:31

General Sir Peter Wall has said that the army has been hollowed out
General Sir Peter Wall has said that the army has been hollowed out. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The British armed forces have been "hollowed out" and underfunded since 2010, the former chief of the general staff has said.

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General Sir Peter Wall told LBC's Nick Ferrari that the army, navy and air force have all suffered from spending cuts over the past decade.

Sir Peter, who was the professional head of the British army from 2010-2014, was speaking before the Budget on Wednesday, with defence secretary Ben Wallace pushing for an extra £11 billion for the armed forces. Some reports have suggested that the military will get less than half of that figure.

Asked by Nick if he agreed with Mr Wallace's assessment that the military had been "hollowed out", Sir Peter said: "Since the 2010 Defence Review, there have been very significant reductions in resources for all three armed services.

Read more: War in Ukraine 'will still be going in a year's time but Putin has already failed', says defence secretary Ben Wallace

Read more: Ex-Armed Forces Minister tells LBC spending on defence needs to come before spending on benefits

Retired general Sir Peter Wall
Retired general Sir Peter Wall. Picture: Alamy

"And you know, when you talk about hollowing out, you're talking about reduction in first line capability, but you're also talking about the reductions in logistics, support, resilience, the maintainability of your equipment."

He added that the war in Ukraine was highlighting that "contrary to 21st century expectations you do need vast stocks of ammunition - you cannot rely solely on the most sophisticated weapons.

"And against that backdrop our military at the moment certainly is hollowed out, yes."

Sir Peter suggested that the UK needed "a sustained effort over time to uplift not only our forces, but the whole industrial capability that goes behind it".

General Sir Peter Wall
General Sir Peter Wall. Picture: Alamy

He praised Mr Wallace's "successful tenure as our defence secretary," adding that "he's made a lot of good decisions and right moves in the context of the British role in Ukraine, and I think he has a lot of credibility."

And Sir Peter urged Mr Wallace not to resign even if he did not get the money he wanted in the Budget.

"If we get... maybe halfway towards what Mr. Wallace has asked for, that will be a start. But that will imply there'll be a need for sustaining that uplift for quite a long period.

"And I would hope that Mr. Wallace would stay in the fight, to be honest, because we realise that we've got competition with all sorts of other demands on taxpayers' money and government expenditure. And you've got to stay in the fight to keep that flame of aspiration alive."

Chair of the Defence Select Committee tells Andrew Marr the UK's army is 'completely' too small.

It comes after Rishi Sunak flew to the United States on Sunday to meet President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and discuss a major defence deal.

The PM arrived in San Diego on Sunday night to discuss Australia's procurement of nuclear-powered submarines under the Aukus pact.

Mr Sunak is also set to unveil the new integrated review of defence and foreign policy, which has been updated in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The refreshed review will set out the UK's approach to threats from Moscow and China.

Asked by Nick which country he would consider the greatest threat, Sir Peter listed Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

He said: "I think that. if we're talking in single terms, I would say Russia is up there [although] there is a sense that that the Russians are now almost a busted flush."

Army retention rate at the moment is 'awful', junior soldier tells LBC

Sir Peter added: "China would, would be longest term potentially the biggest threat, but they're very, very difficult to read at the moment...

"So... it's a competition between those two, but they're not the only actors. We still have fundamentalist terrorist activity going on, which can be a threat to our cities and built up areas.

"And we've got other rogue states like North Korea and Iran who will do all they can to make a nuisance... whether it's directly or through supporting the Russians and the Chinese in their activities."

Sir Peter said that he expected NATO to supply jets to Ukraine "at some point", but not soon. "I think it'll happen. I don't think it'll happen on a huge scale, and I don't think it'll happen necessarily anytime soon," he told Nick.

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