This article is a summary of errors made in the main UK political party manifestos relating to defence.
The Scottish National Party
The SNP manifesto has made an incorrect claim regarding shipbuilding in Scotland.
The Claim: “Before the referendum, the No campaign promised contracts for 13 Type-26 frigates to be built in Govan and Scotstoun shipyards. Now only 8 such frigates are to be built, and only some of the work on these ships will come to Scotland.”
The Reality: 13 Type 26 Frigates were promised to Scottish yards. In 2015, the Ministry of Defence changed plans, replacing five of the general purpose Type 26 frigates with five Type 31e Frigates. In addition, Five River class Offshore Patrol Ships were ordered to sustain the workforce until the Type 26 Frigate build started. Essentially, it went from 13 ships at one yard to 18 ships over two yards. In addition, all of the building work on the Type 26 Frigate is being done in Scotland despite the claim “only some of the work” is being done in Scotland.
Verdict: It’s more work, for more locations and for more workers.
The Labour Party
The Labour manifesto has made an incorrect claim regarding the size of the British Army.
The Claim: “Trained army personnel have been cut from 102,000 to just over 74,000.”
The Reality: The British Army aims for a strength of 81,500 trained Regulars and 27,000 Army Reservists. Retention and recruitment issues mean that this figure isn’t currently being reached.
Verdict: The figure provide by Labour in their manifesto refers to the current size of the British Army which is having problems with retention and recruitment, the Army however has not actually been cut to that size.
The Conservative Party
The Conservative manifesto has made an incorrect claim regarding Boxer armoured vehicles.
The Claim: “We will support the UK’s worldclass defence industry by investing in ambitious global programmes, including building the new Type 31 frigates in British shipyards such as Rosyth and a new generation of armoured vehicles, made in Britain.“
The Reality: While it’s true that the bulk of the British Boxer armoured vehicles will be built in the UK in Telford under A Rheinmetall-BAE Systems joint venture, UK production work is to begin in 2024 meaning that around 30 Boxers will have been delivered from vehicle lines in Germany. In addition, while the programme aims to source more than 60%, by value, of the vehicle content from UK suppliers, 40% is still coming from overseas.
Verdict: The bulk of the work is being done in the UK but the claim that the vehicles are “made in Britain” is not correct.
The Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats manifesto has made an incorrect point regarding the patrolling patterns of Trident carrying submarines.
The Claim: “Maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent, while pursuing multilateral nuclear disarmament: continuing with the Dreadnought programme, the submarinebased replacement for Vanguard, but procuring three boats and moving to a medium-readiness responsive posture and maintaining the deterrent through measures such as unpredictable and irregular patrolling patterns.”
The Reality: The idea of building three submarines instead of four – the minimum number needed to maintain a continuous at-sea deterrent – would mean that patrols are in fact more predictable as there will be long periods in which submarines are not ready to sail. The UK operates four submarines in this role to ensure that one is always available to sail while the others are in refit, working up for deployment and having just come off patrol.
Verdict: Reducing the fleet from four to three boats would not result in anything beyond negligible cost savings for what would be a significant decrease in availability. It is not correct to say that it’s possible to maintain unpredictable patrolling patterns with only three submarines as foreign states would be fully aware of when submarines are in maintenance or haven’t deployed.