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The Royal Navy will get 25 new warships – and could get three more – as the government indicates where its planned rise in defence spending will go.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News there are 28 new ships and submarines in the design or construction stage at the moment for the UK’s armed forces.

He said 22 ships are “already in the system” – but there is less clarity over six new warships he announced for the Royal Marines today.

The defence secretary said that the government is committing to three of the new “versatile” ships for the Marines, “and then possibly another three as well”. He later said the final three are “in the design phase”.

He also announced two of the ships being built – type 26 and 31 frigates – will be equipped with land-attack missiles so they will be capable of attacking targets on shore.

Mr Shapps said this is a “very, very large shipbuilding programme, a lot of warships, the golden era of shipbuilding here”.

He added: “It’s all possible because just last month we agreed as a government to spend 2.5% of our GDP on our defence sector because we think it’s very, very important to make sure that those who would seek to do us harm are put off, that they are dissuaded because they can see that we’re serious about our defence.”

Labour has pledged to reach 2.5% of GDP on defence spending when economic conditions allow it, while the Conservatives have said they would reach that number by 2030.

But defence spending fell in the early years of the Conservative government, which has been in power for 14 years, and spending was not boosted when Ukraine was invaded in 2014 or 2022.

grant shapps
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Mr Shapps accused Labour’s defence plan of posing a danger to security

Mr Shapps said the Tory pledge is different to Labour’s because the Conservatives have “set out a timeline”.

“We’ve also said how we would go about largely funding this, and that’s by reducing the size of the civil service, which is much bigger than it was before COVID,” he said.

“We want to get it back down to the size it was before and use that money to spend on defence.

“I have to say, as defence secretary, with everything that I know in this role, that I think that the Labour position presents a danger to this country because it will send a signal to our adversaries that we’re not serious about our defence if we won’t set out that timetable.”

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Labour’s shadow work and pensions minister Alison McGovern said she is “sceptical” about the Conservatives’ claim about how they will fund the spending rise.

She said Labour has had to pledge the rise for when the economy allows “because of what the Conservative Party have done to our economy” – as she accused Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak of implementing “big unfunded tax cuts”.

Ms McGovern added: “I think everybody would expect Rachel Reeves as the shadow chancellor to say, well, we will make our plans when we’ve got access to all of the books, all of the details of Ministry of Defence spending.”

Mr Shapps said the government did not spend as much on defence previously because countries such as China, North Korea, Iran and Russia were not such a threat.

The defence secretary added: “We were living in very, very different times.”

He said the government has also added £24bn to the defence budget over the past couple of years and the UK is “by a country mile the largest spender on defence in Europe, with the second largest in NATO after only the US”.

The fuel would have filled up electricity generators hat powering the HMS Bulwark, pictured
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HMS Bulwark will not be scrapped before its end of service date. Pic: PA

Discussing the UK’s current fleet, Mr Shapps said sister ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark are due to come out of service in 2033-2034 but the defence secretary said they will not be scrapped before that.

Albion and Bulwark are currently used as the Royal Navy’s landing platform docks to transport the Royal Marines.

Mr Shapps also announced HMS Argyll and HMS Westminster, two frigates with a combined service of 63 years, are to be retired, with HMS Argyll sold to BAE Systems to be used to support apprentice shipbuilder training.

The new ships being built include Type 26 and Type 31 frigates in Scotland, Astute and Dreadnought submarines in Barrow-in-Furness, and Fleet Solid Support ships in Belfast and Devon.

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Sunak’s Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

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Sunak's Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

Suddenly, at election time, political predictions become so much harder and riskier. Everything changes in a campaign, not least the news cycle.

That’s my excuse, at any rate, for failing to foresee the announcement of a general election in last week’s Politics at Jack and Sam’s.

There were a few clues – and one magisterial tweet from Financial Times journalist Lucy Fisher – but we were deaf to the signals.

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Politics at Jack and Sam’s wherever you get your podcasts 👈

Pic: Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the plane on their way to Staffordshire, Britain May 24, 2024. HENRY NICHOLLS/Pool via REUTERS
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Pic: Reuters

In this week’s Politics At Jack and Sam’s podcast, we reflect how this Number 10 – in big contrast to the last two – is much better at keeping secrets.

But the moment an election is called, the way information gets out alters and everything becomes trickier.

Follow live – general election latest:
Tories attack Starmer’s ‘stamina’ as PM shuns team to campaign

Normally political news emerges in so many different ways. There’s parliament. Government announcements. Questions, written and oral. MPs themselves, including ministers, wandering the corridors of the Commons where journalists can go stopping for a gossip.

All of that disappears at election time. Keeping things secret from the other side matters a lot more, while decisions and information is held by a much tighter group of people.

That’s why it’s not really feasible to do a weekly look ahead political podcast – and we’re responding by going daily. More details to follow.

Rishi Sunak‘s allies are quite upfront that the timing of the general election was a finely balanced argument and you can make a case both ways.

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Sunak defends wet election announcement

One of the big things that motivated Sunak to go now was that he was doing – in his view – big things; welfare announcements, defence spending commitments, NHS workforce plan.

But they found people weren’t listening and the polls weren’t moving. They weren’t “getting a hearing”. Which they put down to people being switched off from politics and apathy being high – and so the decision to call an election was motivated by that.

The other big consideration was that from around March, early April they were getting internal economic indicators, suggesting the economic conditions – things like inflation, interest rates – might be favourable sufficiently such that they could base a campaign around.

Fascinatingly, they say there wasn’t a “decision” meeting two months ago or even three weeks ago – the move was more like the tide coming in slowly.

Although Labour were caught on the hop – some staff had booked leave, were privately confident there was nothing coming this summer and the Labour campaign bus is not yet ready – candidates claim to be pretty happy with what’s happened so far.

However, the biggest challenge of the next five weeks will be seeing whether they can respond to the pressure of a campaign, and the relentless desire for more of everything.

Currently the narrative is that Sunak had a miserable start – in a few weeks, pictures of the PM in the rain could be a plucky fighter battling against the odds.

This feels unlikely right now, but having been through the 2017 campaign, we know anything can happen.

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Trump promises to release Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected

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Trump promises to release Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected

Former United States President Donald Trump vows to free Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected.

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Donald Trump declares US must not settle for ‘second place’ in crypto industry

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Donald Trump declares US must not settle for ‘second place’ in crypto industry

Former United States President Donald Trump claims he is “very open minded” to “all things related to this new and burgeoning industry.”

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