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Defence Equipment: My Letter to Harriett Baldwin MP

As a former Labour frontbencher I’m used to Tory Ministers playing fast and loose with truth. But imagine my dismay when the newly appointed junior Defence Minister, Harriett Baldwin MP, declared from the despatch box on Monday that “We [the Government] are in the process of providing our armed forces with more ships, more aircraft and more equipment than ever before.” I could hardly believe my ears.

By any measure, her statement is one of pure fiction. A fiction based on the old tory narrative of cutting spending on vital services while publicly declaring that “we’ve never had it so good.” There’s no doubt the public deserve better. But more importantly our Armed Forces Personnel deserve better.Toby-in-PCH

Please read my letter to Harriett Baldwin MP, below:


Dear Harriet,

I am writing to you with regard to an answer you gave in yesterday’s Defence Questions in which you claimed: “We are in the process of providing our armed forces with more ships, more aircraft and more equipment than ever before.”

When I offered you the opportunity to correct this statement in the house, you simply repeated this misinformation and suggested I read the SDSR 2015! I can assure you I already have done.

To put your outlandish claim in a historical context, during World War 2 the British Army lost more tanks in a single month than we currently possess, the Naval task Force sent to the Falkland Islands in 1982 had 17 destroyers and 38 frigates (the SDSR 2015 shows we now have just 19 of these two class of vessels combined). In 1990 we had 33 fighter squadrons, the SDSR confirms we now have 8.

Even after the reduced order of Type 26 frigates and F35 fighter jets arrive we will have nothing like the number of ships or aircraft we have had in the past.

Whilst it was ludicrous to claim that our Armed Forces are provided with more ships and aircraft than ever before. The reality is that, under the Government that you have been a member of we actually have fewer warships and Aircraft than ever before.

Between 2010 and 2015 the Tory-led coalition oversaw huge reductions to in-service defence equipment, including:

  1. A 41% reduction in the number of Main Battle Tanks
  2. A 19% reduction in the number of Infantry Fighting Vehicles/Personnel Carriers
  3. A 17% reduction in the number of Frigate’s and Destroyers
  4. A 33% reduction in the number of Aircraft Carriers/Amphibious Ships
  5. A 17% reduction in the number of submarines
  6. A 29% reduction in Fighter/Ground Attack Aircraft
  7. And of course, a 100% reduction in the number of Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

I accept that in the heat of the moment people sometimes use phrases that they subsequently regret, but when our Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen and women are working so diligently with ever leaner resources it is an insult to them to pretend that they have never had it so good. I fear it also betrays the extent to which the Government and department that you are a part of are loose with facts, and a belief that because a Minister has said something it must be so.

Our Armed Forces operate with the greatest precision every day of their lives, they have the right to expect the same of the people who equip and direct them.

I would be grateful if you would make a statement to the House in order to correct the record, or explain the basis on which you arrive at the assertion you have chosen to repeat.

Yours sincerely,


Toby Perkins MP


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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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