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  • We do not live in an ideal world and there will be times when we must meet aggressors and terrorists with force. Use of force should always be a last resort.
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  • To put pressure on the government to properly resource the RN. To provide a major increase in funding to redress decades of cuts and neglect.
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  • To see service personnel treated fairly, valued and properly paid particularly those who are risking their lives on a daily basis and those who have sustained injuries, both physical and mental while serving their country in a succession of conflicts.


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Hal G. P. Colebatch
Hal G. P. Colebatch

Published in ‘The Australian’ June 24

In Britain bent on National suicide? By Hal G. P. Colebatch
A Government call to be “proud” of Britain’s Foreign Aid Budget makes no sense in a straitened economy.

It was deeply depressing to read of a senior British Minister, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, claiming that lavish foreign aid was making Britain something called a “development superpower” and claiming that voters should take the same pride in it as they do in their armed forces.
Britain’s Tory-led government has decided to increase foreign aid spending by 34%, that is, to about $24 billion. Mitchell claimed that this spending was achieving “brilliant” results and making Britain admired round the world – has anyone noticed cheering mobs waving Union Jacks (or at least non-burning ones) in Dar-Es-Salam or Johannesburg lately? One wonders if there is not some kind of impulse for national suicide at work in Westminster.
He claimed: “My ambition is that over the next four years people will come to think across our country – in all parts of it – of Britain’s fantastic development work around the poorest parts of the world with the same pride and satisfaction that they see in some of our great institutions like the Armed Forces and the monarchy. This is brilliant work that Britain is doing.”
This includes $600 million a year to India which, as Tory MP Phillip Davies pointed out, is spending billions on defence, and has its own space programme. It has a navy with about twice as many ships as Britain, and a booming economy, and probably has more nuclear weapons. For Britain to subsidise the Indian space programme etc. is simply crazy. It won’t even buy the Tories domestic popularity, which Prime Minister Cameron may be aiming for, rather, emphatically, the reverse: the right-wing mass-circulation Daily Mail is polling nearly 9 to 1 against it.
As for claiming the British people should take the same pride in aid donations as they do in their armed forces, that is one of those statements from which men die politically – or at least it is possible to hope so. Britain’s near-Belgium-sized Navy and Air Force have become sad jokes (The Falkland Islands, for example, are defended by just four planes). One coroner’s enquiry after another has blamed the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan on skimped and inadequate equipment, and it now appears Britain is in danger of being sucked into a third war in Libya with under-equipped troops.
Meanwhile, with all the feeble violence of a demented sheep, the Archbishop of Canterbury has waded in, claiming that, “With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted.” This is all too true, but of course, it is not defence he is talking about. He wants more monery spent of social services. So by roing-fencing foreign aid against cuts at the expense of defence the Tories haven’t succeeded in shedding the “Nasty party” image at all. Their utterly disgusting display of abject political cowardice has achieved nothing. The press is reporting deaths from cold and malnutrition among British pensioners, and walking through parts of some British cities it is not difficult to believe this, however picture post-card some other parts may look.
But even if Britain had adequate armed forces – to say nothing of adequate aged-care and veterans’ care facilities, hospitals and transport networks, all of which are badly lacking – foreign aid would be nothing to be proud of.
Following the pioneering work of Lord Peter Bauer, Professor of Developmental Economics at the London School of Economics, it is now accepted that foreign aid amounts to the poor in rich countries subsidising the rich in poor countries (Mr Mitchell himself is comfortably insulated against the tax-demands of foreign aid, having made a fortune in investment banking).
Foreign aid increases the power of non-democratic governments, promotes the expansion of bureaucracy and encourages the misallocation of resources. It is not merely neutral but acts as a positive disincentive to development: it deprives various third world despots of incentives to develop their economies so they can become self-supporting and encourages them to live on robbery and corruption. In many cases the money simply passes straight into Swiss bank-accounts.
Cutting defence also means that there is less help possible when it might be really useful, that is, for disaster relief. In a major disaster an aircraft-carrier with helicopters and an operating theatre might make a real difference to more than the local Generalissimo’s bank-account. But Britain has no aircraft-carriers now. It is by no means out of the question that one result of the “Arab Spring” will be the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in Egypt, and turning on and massacring Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. A ship capable of evacuating them or landing a force to protect them might come in handy at that stage. I don’t expect His Grace at Canterbury to think in such terms, though.
History shows the wealthy and powerful economies got that way without foreign aid, while those countries whose governments have received large amounts of aid – practically any sub-Saharan African country is an example – remain mired in poverty. The only possible exceptions are rare cases of countries in unusual circumstances such as Taiwan – a resource-poor island which had to cope with a sudden huge influx of refugees from the mainland. Even Taiwan stopped receiving foreign aid as soon as it could, and has prospered without it.
Most dishearteningly, none of it is new or radical. Lord Bauer’s Dissent on Development, which demolished the arguments for government-to-government aid, was first published in 1972. His work was influential with Margaret Thatcher, who awarded him a peerage.
To make matter worse, Obama is allowing his Anglophobia to show more and more nakedly. He praised the Special Relationship effusively when he visited London recently, but his administration continues to slap Britain in the face over the highly sensitive Falklands issue. Washington signed on to a so-called “draft declaration of the question of the Malvinas Islands” passed by unanimous consent by the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) at its meeting in San Salvador, an issue heavily pushed by Argentina. In doing so, the United States sided not only with Buenos Aires, but also with a number of anti-American regimes including Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela Cuba-aligned lunatocracy and Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua. During the last Falklands war Britain had General Pinochet’s Chile as an invaluable alley, an ally thrown away by the Blair Government’s perfidious behaviour and Cameron’s subsequent torpor. Further, Obama’s Middle-East policies seem bound to make matters there worse.
A decade of Labour government did enormous damage to Britain. Now it seems the Tories are bent on continuing the bad work. It is impossible to fathom why.


Hal, the RN is still one of the most capable navies in the world and nothing like the size of the Belgian Navy. Your reporting is wide of the mark, to say the least. Consider the following:

SSNs: UK = 7, Belgium = 0
Destroyers: UK = 6, Belgium = 0
Frigates: UK = 13, Belgium = 2
Helicopter Carriers: UK = 2, Belgium = 0
LPDs: UK = 2, Belgium = 0
MCM vessels: UK = 16, Belgium = 6 . . . and I could go on.

Yes, the RN has declined considerably in recent years, but if better use had been made of our (very considerable) defence budget and the top brass had not been obsessed with buying massively over-priced kit, the situation would not be nearly as bad as it is. There is no direct military threat to the UK, or likely to be for the forseeable future, and we are no longer a global or colonial power. Therefore we do not need the RN of fifty or sixty years ago.
The biggest threat to our security is global financial instability, not military conflict. We actually punch above our weight in terms of our defence spending, as we consistently have the fifth/sixth largest economy but the third/fourth largest defence budget.

Hal G. P. Colebatch
Hal G. P. Colebatch

And that is supposed to be reassuring?

Christopher Ash
Christopher Ash

Excellent article, Mr Colebatch

Every penny spent on foreign aid is wasted. These nations demanded ‘independence’ but then seem to feel they have the right to live on handouts from the British tax-payer.

Giving money to India is a farce – their economy will soon be larger than Britain’s – why in heaven’s name should we be giving them anything?

The Royal Navy is one of the very few real forces for good in the world – it should be strong, well funded and well supported politically. I also think we should be much smarter in our procurement though – why are we messing about building two new carriers when we could have picked up half a dozen 2nd hand Tarawa Class ones from the USN for a fraction of the cost, and without delay?


Tarawa class ships wouldn’t be a viable proposition for the RN – and acquiring six would be completely out of the question. They are old and worn out (30+ years service) and expensive to crew, operate and maintain. Buying new ships such as the Cavour, Juan Carlos/Canberra or Hyuga would be the way forward – and preferable to building costly new carriers we can’t afford.

Ultimo Tiger

“Punch above our weight” is code for doing it on the cheap or excusing bad procurement.


So why are we giving India financial aid when they use it to buy Land Rover and Jaguar.
Are Brtish politicians NUTS
This money is there for our defence for a strong Navy.
Heaven forbid we are not talking about back handers are we?


The RAF Typhoon has just proved itself – you need to delete the “white elephant” tag, which has become as erroneous as it is tedious.

One can make a very valid case for strengthening the RN, without the decades old prejudice against the RAF.


JJ – It’s true we are stuck with the Typhoon (after spending a colossal £23Billion on them we can’t afford to ditch them). Maybe they are no longer a ‘white elephant’, just a financial and military milstone round our necks! The project should have been canned in the early 1990s as the Soviet threat to UK airspace receded, but the RAF who still think in terms of re-fighting the Battle of Britain kept pressing on (aided by the vested interests of BAe). So 25 years after the project was started the UK is stuck with these expensive, short range air defence fighters. Great for defending UK airspace against non-existant threats but not much else. For the Libya campaign yet more money has been poured down this black hole to equip the Typhoon for bombing missions – something they could just about manage but hardy ‘proving them’. All they proved was the Harrier would have been cheaper and vastly more effective.

Good ground attack aircraft is what the UK most needs – it had an excellent aircraft called the Harrier GR9 which was battle proven in Afghanistan and crucially able to operate from aircraft carriers. However the RAF Tornado Mafia (headed by CDS Jock Stirrup) managed to get the Harriers ditched and the Tornadoes retained. At approximately 6 x the running cost of the Harriers, the Tornadoes are old, have poor serviceability and are not even much good at the ground attack role they were originally designed for (decimated by puny Iraqi defences in 1991 war).


Your comments about the Russian threat to UK airspace now seem totally out of date and short sighted (based on bias) and the Tornado is now recognised as one of the most effective CAS platform in the world. The Harrier would not have been cable of completed the wide range of missions the Tornado has since 2010.


Yes we need a UK air defence fighter. Yes we have Typhoon now and yes it can do the job. The comments are more about the mistakes of the past. ie. if we were not wasting fortunes on outrageously expensive land-based aircraft we could have had 2 or 3 US-style carriers with full air groups that would have made us a real global power. With several squadrons of carrier-capable aircraft that can also provide UK air defence such a Super Hornets we could have had the best of both worlds. Of course this is a hopeless pipe dream now and we have to live with what we have, however scandalous the procurement process was. For the billions spent on Typhoon it had better be a decent AD fighter.

Yes Tornado is slightly more capable the Harrier in some ways (although Harriers were being upgraded when ditched by RAF). The key point that RAF ignore is the reach of carrier aircraft. The Tornados operating in Iraq are flying from Cyprus are forced to make tortuous routes over foreign airspace. US Strike aircraft from carriers in Northern Gulf can go direct over ‘friendly’ airspace. We have spent approx 6 times on Tornado what it would have cost to keep Harrier and all we have achieved is tiny sortie numbers over Iraq an an ageing aircraft that will be gone by 2020 anyway. The RAF are loathed to admit Harrier had a much better serviceability and operational record in Afghanistan and could have done many of the Tornado missions. However the bring ‘back the Harrier brigade’ are a bit on the lunatic fringe by 2014, obviously it was a good 20th Century aircraft that was retired too early but F35 for all its problems is in a different league and that is the future. CATOBAR carriers with Advanced Super Hornets operated by the Fleet Air Arm without RAF involvement would be a far better solution. The long and complex arguments about that can be found on this site and in many other places.


I am an over privileged son of a few middle class people in the UK.But I am a staunch Royal Navy supporter. Everything from the Battle of the Nile, to the first battle of Copenhagen, the battle of Cape St.Vincent, to the battle of Trafalgar to the Falklands campaign. (of
which ive now read 5 books. I am a UK citizen of the age of 24 who has supported the RN since as long as I can remember.

Your blog is brilliant and excellent and it is very appreciated, please continue writing it and post this blog


This is an excellent resource and well done for creating it and continuing to develop it.

I can’t help noticing in all of this that individual services make claims about the value of their own services and how the huge, gigantic sums spent by the MoD on them has been worthwhile. No doubt they are.

However it does not change the simple fact that the MoD is a gigantic, huge, monumental drain on the 4th largest defence budget on the planet, which delivers probably about 1/2 the capability that a budget like that should deliver. It is not the decisions being made by government, ill informed though they normally are (MoD influenced usually), nor is it the services themselves. It is the endless incompetence and politics that exist within the MoD which leads to appalling budget overruns, gigantic levels of waste and so on, while the senior echelons of the MoD get their knighthoods and so on. The only way to save the RN, the army and the RAF is to remove the cancer that is killing them, namely the MoD and replace it with something leaner, much more responsive and not run for the betterment of the senior civil servants at the expense of the uniformed service personnel

Murray Kirkby
Murray Kirkby

“For a variety of good reasons names and personal details are not published on the site”

What reasons would that be? Is it because…

1. You actually are an organisation but wish to hide the fact;
2. You really are serving members of the Royal Navy, Armed Forces or retired senior members whose current career prospects would be harmed by disclosing your identity;
3. You are an interested party working in the defence industry and have a vested interest in increased defence spending;
4. You are members of parliament who publicly toe the party line but secretly plot and undermine your party leadership.

Murray Kirkby
Ex Royal Navy Petty Officer


I am not a citizen of UK however i did my law in Cardiff and my affinity to UK is strong. I am “distressed” about the downsizing of the RN. With such reduced level, would UK be active in the 5 power pact arrangement (UK, Australia, New Zealand , Malaysia and Singapore)?

Adam Hiley
Adam Hiley

getting rid of the current 3 old parties is the only way none of them can be trusted anymore