Defence secretary repeats claim about £75 billion increase in defence spending

20 May 2024
What was claimed

The government is putting an additional £75 billion into defence spending.

Our verdict

This figure is misleading, because it assumes spending would otherwise have been frozen in cash terms, and fallen as a percentage of GDP, over the next six years.

In a video posted on X (formerly Twitter) on 14 May, defence secretary Grant Shapps announced that 28 new Royal Navy ships and submarines are under construction or on order, heralding a “golden age” in British shipbuilding. 

He claimed: “all of this wouldn’t be possible without the additional £75 billion that this government has put into defence.”

This figure refers to increased defence spending announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month, but, as we explained then, it is misleading. 

It assumes that spending would otherwise have been frozen in cash terms over the next six years, with no increases based on inflation, and that the amount spent would actually have declined as a percentage of GDP. 

Under existing plans, the government will spend £64.1 billion, which currently amounts to 2.32% of GDP, on defence in 2024/25. And as announced last month, a series of planned increases will see this rise to 2.5% of GDP, or £87 billion, in 2030/31. 

The figure of £75 billion is the sum of all the additional amounts above £64.1 billion spent between now and 2030. As the government’s own documentation states: “Starting today and over the next six years spending will increase steadily and consistently, and we will spend cumulatively an additional £75 billion on defence.” 

We contacted the Ministry of Defence about the comments made by Mr Shapps and they referred us to this parliamentary debate in which Mr Shapps said that previous increases in defence spending had been announced in the same way.

A 2022 House of Commons Library briefing on defence expenditure, which has since been archived, notes that while the figures resulting from such a calculation were not factually wrong, “this is not how increases and decreases in spending are usually discussed”. We fact checked a related claim in 2022. 

Statistics on their own have limitations. The way they are presented is a crucial part of how they are interpreted and understood by the public. If data is presented without context or caveats, it can give an incomplete or misleading picture. 

Ministers and their government departments must use statistics and data more transparently and responsibly, and quickly rectify misleading claims when they occur.

Image courtesy of the Houses of Parliament

Correction 20 May 2024

Corrected date of X post in story

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After we published this fact check, we contacted Grant Shapps to request a correction regarding this claim.

We are waiting to hear back from him.

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