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Military spending increase could fund free school meals scheme for 53 years

Boris Johnson with leaders of the UK armed forces

Military spending increase could fund free school meals scheme for 53 years

Extra 'defence' spending is more than 53 times the cost of schemes for extending free school meals provision in England into the school holidays. 

The figures were pointed out by the Peace Pledge Union, Britain's leading pacifist organisation, after Boris Johnson announced his plan for an extra £16bn of military spending over four years, the largest rise in UK military spending in three decades. The PPU said that the contrast showed the UK government's distorted and unrealistic priorities. 

The announcement comes only weeks after Johnson refused to extend free school meals in England into the school holidays. Estimates of the cost of such provision put it below £300 million per year. The government has only partially U-turned on free school meals after widespread opposition. 

The PPU said that Johnson's decision was perverse after a year in which the Covid pandemic had demonstrated that constant preparations for war cannot keep us safe. 

They added that the new military spending would do nothing to protect people in the UK form the most serious threats that we face, including pandemics, poverty and the climate emergency. 

The UK already has the eighth highest military spending in the world, and the second highest in NATO. UK military spending (so-called 'defence' spending) has amounted to more than £48bn in 2020, according to NATO's own statistics. 

The PPU urged Labour and other opposition parties to oppose the increase in military spending and to recognise that jobs and economic development could be better created through funding more socially useful industries. 

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), said:

"Is this government more concerned with the profits of arms dealers than the needs of hungry children?

"After a year in which our security has been threatened by a deadly virus, with the headlines full of PPE shortages, underpaid care workers and the need for free school meals, Boris Johnson is promising to throw another £16bn into yet more preparations for war. In the last two decades alone, the disastrous wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya have taught us that it is unrealistic to imagine you can solve deep-seated problems with bombs. 

"Tanks and warplanes can't keep us safe from the most serious threats that we face: pandemics, poverty and the climate emergency. Covid 19 has exposed the hollowness of naive claims that weapons can make us safe. You can't nuke a virus."

Earlier this year, the PPU launched the Healthcare, Not Warfare campaign, calling for military budgets and resources to be diverted to tackling the Covid 19 pandemic and similar threats.  

The Peace Pledge Union is not linked to any political party. PPU members include supporters of several parties and none. The PPU is the British section of War Resisters' International, which unites pacifists around the world.