Defence secretary Grant Shapps has warned voters that jobs in Stevenage could be at risk if Labour wins the upcoming general election.

Mr Shapps made the comments in a campaign video for Alex Clarkson, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Stevenage.

But, just days after issuing his warning, the Conservative government announced a Budget that has been criticised for a lack of defence spending.

In the video, Mr Shapps and Mr Clarkson discussed the war in Ukraine, and the defence secretary said that "Stevenage has played a very important part" in defending Ukraine.

He stated that the Storm Shadow cruise missiles, built by MBDA in Stevenage and given to Ukraine by the UK government, have been "amazingly significant".

"When I talk to President Zelensky and our friends in Ukraine, they say the Storm Shadow has made such a big difference, particularly down in Crimea where they've been opening the Black Sea back up to grain exports.

"So Stevenage [is] massively important for jobs in defence [and] massively important to support our friends in Ukraine."

But, Mr Shapps said, Labour are "unfortunately not committed to [spending] 2.5 per cent of our GDP on defence, that means that they say they'll do 2 per cent - that means £7bn off defence - that means job cuts, and that could be coming to Stevenage.


"So voting Labour could be job cuts in Stevenage in those defence companies."

Mr Clarkson added that Stevenage is currently "at the heart of keeping Britain safe", and that Britain is "only safe under the Conservatives".

While the Conservatives have said they will increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP, they have not yet reached that target - and no further increases were mentioned in this week's Budget speech.

Official tables for the Budget suggested there will be a decline of £2.5bn in defence spending in the financial year up to March 2025, but the Ministry of Defence said this is because the data does not include new money for the military pledged last autumn, as well as assistance to Ukraine.

Mr Shapps said the overall defence budget was up £1.4bn to £55.6bn, and that the 2.5 per cent target would be reached "as soon as possible".

Conservative MPs such as Mark Francois have criticised the lack of additional defence spending, while Sir Jeremy Quin MP, chair of the defence select committee, has asked to meet Mr Shapps "urgently". He suggested that Mr Shapps' comments about Britain being in a "pre-war" state do "not appear to be reflected in his Department's Budget allocation".

In Stevenage, Labour's parliamentary candidate Kevin Bonavia told the Comet that Mr Shapps "has some cheek to scaremonger about Labour's plans on defence after 14 years of Tory neglect to our armed forces".

The Comet: Kevin Bonavia, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, criticised Mr Shapps' remarks.Kevin Bonavia, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, criticised Mr Shapps' remarks. (Image: Kevin Bonavia)

He continued: "When Labour last left government, Britain was spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence. Labour also maintained the size of the Army at over 100,000 troops during 13 years in government.

"But since 2010, the Army has fallen by over 25,000 troops - and will fall further to 73,000 by next year under current Conservative government plans. 

"Labour will always do what is needed to defend Britain. What’s needed is determined by the threats we face.

"That’s why we have committed to undertaking a Strategic Defence and Security Review on day one of a Labour government.

"If I'm elected as Labour MP for Stevenage later this year, I will speak up for the many jobs in our town that ensure our armed forces are properly equipped to keep our country safe."