Shifting the goalposts? Defence expenditure and the 2% pledge

09 September 2015

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee today announces a major new inquiry into defence expenditure and the pledge for the UK to meet the NATO defence expenditure target of 2% of GDP throughout the current parliament.


Defence has been heralded as the ‘first duty of government’. The question of whether defence expenditure is commensurate with such a claim is therefore an important one.

Terms of reference

The questions the Committee is particularly interested in examining are:

  • To what extent can the government confirm that spending 2% of GDP on defence is sufficient to address the gaps in our current capabilities, and to ensure that UK defence is capable of meeting the aspirations of the government in line with their perception of ‘Britain’s place in the world’?
  • Is UK defence actually any better off as a result of the amended calculation criteria? Is the Government’s 8 July pledge to spend at least 2% comparing like with like, or is the total made up, in part, of significant expenditure (e.g. on the Intelligence Services) previously allocated to other departments (e.g. the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Home Office)?
  • Exceeding the NATO 2% target until 2021 has been achieved by adding 14% in total (£5.7 billion) to defence budget calculations. What proportion of this 14% is ‘new’ money and what proportion is redefinition of defence expenditure?
  • What defence capabilities and capacities will exist as a result of the publicised ‘increase in defence expenditure’ that would not have existed before? In the event that the funds are used to confirm the completion of the new aircraft carrier, a new maritime surveillance capability and the new Army scout vehicle, do these investments comprehensively address military deficiencies to ensure sufficient defence of the UK?
  • If defence expenditure at this level falls short of what is needed, to what extent could the Government consider committing more than the minimum of the NATO target of 2% of GDP during this parliament?

Submitting evidence

Written submissions for this inquiry should be submitted via the inquiry page on the Defence Committee website. The deadline for written submissions is Wednesday 30 September.

Submissions should state clearly who the submission is from e.g. ‘Written evidence submitted by xxxx’ and be no longer than 3000 words, please contact the Committee staff if you wish to discuss this.
Submissions must be a self-contained memorandum in Word or Rich Text Format (not PDFs). Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference and the document should, if possible, include an executive summary.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act.

Further information

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