UKIP Leader Nigel Farage and Defence Spokesman Mike Hookem MEP have today set out our stall on the defence of the realm in speeches in Dudley in the West Midlands today. They were joined by many UKIP candidates and members who have served in the armed forces.
In their speeches Nigel Farage and Mike Hookem set out how UKIP will plough a cumulative £16bn extra into defence during the course of the next parliament compared to the other parties, meet that 2% of GDP NATO commitment every year and set out a range of new policies to help veterans.
They also confirmed UKIP's full support for our armed forces, something that the other parties have forgotten or rejected, despite being quick to send our troops into war. The Conservatives and Labour have sent our men and women into war far too quickly, and without thinking of the full consequences. From today, it should be clear: UKIP is the party of defence.
We are the only party to have committed to spending 2 per cent of Britain's GDP on defence. We think it is of far greater importance to this country than the commitment to overseas aid as we believe the first duty of government is defence.
Our announcements today include:
-- Meeting the NATO requirement of 2% defence spend per year;
-- Creating a Veterans' Administration with a dedicated Minister
-- A National Service Medal for all those who have served, The NDM
-- UKIP wants to ensure our service men and women who leave the armed forces have priority access to mental health care on our NHS, as well as social housing, and jobs in the police, prisons or the border force if they want it.
In his speech Mike Hookem also announced UKIP's pledge to create a standalone Minister for Veterans, who will be attached to the Cabinet Office, not the MoD. We must ensure that funding for veterans, stays with veterans, and that veterans have their own dedicated Minister who will not be distracted by other MoD related tasks.
Our new Minister for Veterans will be responsible for working with all MoD veteran services and established charities to provide the best possible service in a range of fields. Areas the new Minister will be expected to act upon will include veterans health care, housing, counselling, training and rehabilitation, access to financial services, benefits, memorials and so on. They will also tackle issues such as veteran homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse among veterans and mental health issues identified either in service or post service.
We also unveiled a hard-hitting new campaign poster on the theme of the defence cuts envisaged by the other major parties.