Green candidate sparks confusion over party's defence cut plans

A Green candidate has announced that his party has no plans to make further defence spending cuts – apparently contradicting statements on its own website.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Darren Hall, who is standing for Bristol West, said: “It might surprise people to know that the Green party has no plans to make further cuts to defence spending over and above what has been set out by the coalition government other than, of course, our well-understood position on Trident.”

He later added: “We have a long-term view that we need to move to a more diplomatic solution, I think the cuts to the Foreign Office are difficult but in the short-term we have no plans to go beyond the cuts that the coalition government has set out.”

The statement seems to go against policies outlined on the Green party’s website and voted on by members, which set out a principle of “minimum military preparations” and advocate policies that “build a culture of trust among peoples”.

Under the heading short- and medium-term policies, a document on the site claims that there is “little or no threat” of direct invasion of the UK by any nation, so a “commitment to a large standing army, a navy of large warships around our coastline, squadrons of fighter planes and a cripplingly expensive missile defence system is therefore unnecessary”.

It goes on to say the Green party would reform the territorial army to become a body of civilian and military volunteers, willing to contribute their services in times of domestic and international crisis. The document adds that some military training areas should be decommissioned and used as nature reserves, with suitable provision for public access.

A Green party spokesperson said that the commitment to maintain current levels of spending on defence was a short-term one and the online policy documents were longer-term aims. The party has not yet released its manifesto, which the spokesperson said would contain policies it would try to implement over the next parliament.

It comes as pressure builds on David Cameron to commit to meet the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence in the next parliament.

On Wednesday, the former head of the British army warned David Cameron that he would be in breach of an “undertaking” he gave to service chiefs in 2010 if he failed to increase military spending in real terms.

Hall is standing against Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams in Bristol West, one of the Green party’s main target seats. A former RAF engineering officer, Hall has been touted by his party as different to most of its parliamentary candidates.

He told the Today programme: “Defence is a primary role of government and it’s incredibly important that we’re able to play a full and proper role in a Europe-wide capability that can resist attacks here and abroad.”

A key Green policy is to scrap plans to renew the UK’s nuclear missile submarines programme, Trident. Upgrading the system is expected to cost £40bn over the next nine years.

On its website, the party suggests that “an imaginative programme of arms conversion could use many of the skills and resources at present tied up in military industry to create new jobs and produce socially useful products”.

It continues: “New renewable energy industries, for instance, could be set up in the same area and use the same skills and resources as the existing arms industries, eg wave power (shipbuilding), wind power (aerospace) and tidal power (engineering).”

Powered by article was written by Frances Perraudin, for on Thursday 12th March 2015 14.38 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010