Mordaunt slams Hunt over lack of extra funding for defence as she declares 'first duty' is to protect Britain

Mordaunt slams Hunt over lack of extra funding for defence as she declares 'first duty' is to protect Britain

Penny Mordaunt is outspoken about military matters with her navy reserve background

GB News
James Saunders

By James Saunders

Published: 28/02/2024

- 17:49

Updated: 28/02/2024

- 18:48

The warning follows reports the MoD would not receive any funding boosts in the Budget next week

Penny Mordaunt has issued a stark national security reminder to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt after it emerged the Ministry of Defence would not be receiving any funding boosts in next week’s Budget.

Mordaunt, a former navy reserve, said the government’s “first duty is to protect our nation” amid growing concerns over military spending.

In a statement on social media, Mordaunt said: “Met with the Chancellor to reiterate what Portsmouth’s families and businesses need to hear in the Budget.

“I discussed the work I’m doing with UK civil reserve and others to deliver a greater return for our defence and contingency budgets and increase capability. Our first duty is to protect our nation and its interests.”

Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt

Mordaunt's warning comes amid an MoD funding row

Penny Mordaunt/X

Reports that the MoD would not qualify for extra funds sparked fury among senior figures – not one, but two former defence secretaries slammed the move, and expressed concerns over the UK armed forces’ capability.

Sir Gavin Williamson said Britain would be “ill-equipped to face the challenges that our enemies are increasingly presenting us with” if defence spending didn’t increase.

Ben Wallace, defence secretary before the incumbent Grant Shapps, echoed his predecessor’s statement and said the “hollowed-out” military would not be “match fit” without a funding boost.

Mordaunt issued a further warning online about the navy, a key concern for her constituency, Portsmouth, saying: “The Royal Navy and its partners must keep pace with the growing capabilities of other nations. If not, Britain’s interests cannot be secured.”


Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps is currently at loggerheads with the under-fire MoD ahead of next week's Budget


Her appeal to the Chancellor mirrors her Sunday Times column last month, in which she said the navy “must be able to continue to secure our interests”.

Worries over defence funding come as the armed forces stare down the barrel of a record recruitment slump – in January, MPs were warned Britain was “haemorrhaging” troops, with all three main branches of the military deep in staffing woes.

Government figures show the number of service personnel in the UK fell by almost 8,000 people since last year, prompting a range of concerns including the threat of conscription for British citizens.

Recruitment failures meant the navy was, as Mordaunt said, unable to secure British interests earlier this year, with staffing shortages stifling its ability to react as quickly as the US to Houthi activity in the Red Sea in January.

If the Budget goes ahead as reports suggest, it will be yet another bump in the road for Defence Secretary Grant Shapps in 2024.

Shapps is currently at loggerheads with the under-fire MoD – in January, he announced a full-scale review into the extent of diversity policies as part of an ongoing ‘woke’ row with his department.

And the defence secretary had to intervene once again this week following a large-scale backlash to plans to change how army accommodation would be allocated.

The UK military in-fighting sits before a grim backdrop; French President Emmanuel Macron’s failure to rule out the possibility of Nato troop deployments in Ukraine ratcheted up tensions with Russia, which said such actions would make full-scale war “inevitable”.

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