Defence Secretary Uses Military Cuts to Advocate Cutting Social Security Even Further

by richardhutton

According to The Telegraph, aside from blaming the Liberal Democrats for his own government’s plans to reduce military spending, the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond claims that:

“There is a body of opinion within Cabinet that we have to look at the welfare budget again. The welfare budget is the bit of public spending that has risen the furthest and the fastest and if we are going to get control of public spending on a sustainable basis, we are going to have to do more to tackle the growth in the welfare budget.”

In Mr Hammond’s opinion, rising employment should be countered by a falling welfare budget. He appreciates Iain Duncan-Smith’s plans for the long-term, “but in the short term, we have an immediate problem in 2015-16 and I believe that welfare will have to make a further contribution to that problem”.

Needless to say, employment has not really risen. The UK’s adult population has been growing, and when the population grows employment growth follows. But this needs to be measured against the rate of unemployment, which remains extremely high, at c. 3.3 million people. Unemployment support has been reduced exponentially, and continuously, during the last three decades – and is set to be reduced further – as are all other forms of social security, most of which are paid to people who work. This is set to damage the economy.

However, unemployment support costs c. £4.91 billion per annum. The Ministry of Defence’s budget is over £30 billion per year. The war in Afghanistan has cost Britain at least £18 billion. The war in Libya cost c. £1 billion. The murderous disaster in Iraq cost £9.24 billion. One source of funding keeps highly vulnerable people out of total destitution, and puts nearly £5 billion into the economy. Military expenditure costs tens of billions; warfare generates no revenue.

But this is really beside the point.  Planned budget cuts have not seen the government pledge to reduce engagement in warfare. So cutting resources will put soldiers’ lives at risk; just as cutting social security puts civilians’ lives and well-being at risk. Neither are justified by virtue of any argument made by the government. Not only is it continuously blaming the other main political parties for its own decisions – its Defence Minister is now trying to put responsibility for soldiers’ facing future harm borne of budget cuts, onto the shoulders of people who are unemployed.

So why might they be trying to create a rift between soldiers and recipents of social security? Almost certainly because soldiers are one group highly likely to need financial support/social security, but who cannot be dismissed as snobs, scroungers, and skivers. Low-paid high-risk work; a high incidence of physical disability, or trauma and subsequent mental illness – which often results in homelessness/rough sleeping.

This should not be allowed to turn into ‘us versus them’ by people who oppose reckless welfare reform. Peoples’ focus should remain upon politicians and government ministers: these are the same people who intend to continue sending soldiers into warzones, on dangerously reduced budgets; and who have been mistreating people seeking work, along with people who are sick and ill,  for years.

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