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Cut war, not jobs

Cameron commits £2bn to drones while chopping disability benefits

The Conservative-led government is committing billions to military spending while forcing through massive cuts in jobs and services, and reducing support for badly-needed green technologies.

The government has already spent £2bn on developing and deploying pilotless drone aircraft over the past five years, using some of them to kill an unknown number of Afghan civilians. It has committed another £2bn to a killer drone programme called 'Scavenger', due to come into operation in 2018, according to a new report by Drone Wars UK.

The Conservatives also want to spend tens of billions on a replacement for the Trident nuclear missile submarine system. Of that lifetime cost of £84.5bn, £3bn has already been set aside – and is already being spent – on research and design work.

There are other expensive submarines on the way. Two Astute submarines have so far been built at a cost of £1.2bn each. Three more are under construction and two have been ordered, at a total predicted cost of £5.7bn.
The government has also committed to spending £12bn on a future strategic tanker aircraft, £5.1bn on an aircraft carrier, £3.1bn on a large transport aircraft, and £1.4bn on new armoured vehicles, all aimed at projecting British military power around the world. The ministry of defence is also planning to spend £7bn on complex weapons, such as smart missiles and torpedoes.

Meanwhile, the NHS is being forced to cut £20bn over the next few years in 'efficiency savings', and the chancellor George Osborne has just announced a further £10bn cut in benefits

We're all in this together. In April, the Sunday Times Rich List revealed that the 1,000 richest women and men in the country had increased their combined wealth to a record total of £414 billion

Hardest hit

These millionaires are going to enjoy a cut in the top rate of tax from 50% to 45% for those earning £150,000 or more, while the government cuts eligibility for disability living allowance, forcing more than 25,000 disabled people out of work, according to research by new charity Disability Rights UK. 

People with disabilities and long-term conditions already feel 'Hardest Hit' by current reductions in support. Steve Winyard, co-chair of the Hardest Hit coalition, said in October: 'We have already seen £9 billion removed from disability benefits and services in this parliament. Disabled people are now at tipping point.'

Conversion

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that what is needed is not austerity, but productive spending in education, health, infrastructure and technology – 'high-powered investments'.

If there are going to be cuts, Stiglitz says they should be in areas with low returns on investment: 'Investments in wars, a lot of spending on the military, weapons that don't work against enemies that don't exist, are not high-return investments.'

Peace News believes that what we need is a 'just transition', a programme of conversion from military production towards socially-useful, green production.

 

Emily Johns & Milan Rai are PN co-editors.