The Daily Telegraph

Sunak to unveil multibilli­on defence spending boost on US tour to strike nuclear sub pact

- By Daniel Martin deputy political editor

RISHI SUNAK is expected to announce a significan­t boost in defence spending on a visit to the US next weekend.

It has been reported that the Prime Minister will announce a multibilli­onpound spending increase during the visit, which comes just days before Jeremy Hunt’s Budget on March 15.

Government sources did not deny the claims, first reported by The Sunday Times.

During the two-day visit, Mr Sunak will hold talks with Joe Biden, the US President, and Anthony Albanese, the Australian premier, to discuss the three countries’ Aukus nuclear submarine pact.

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has been pushing for an increase of between £8billion and £10billion to fulfil spending commitment­s, keep pace with inflation and meet higher levels of funding for Nato and Ukraine. While the increase expected to be announced by Mr Sunak is set to be significan­t, it is not thought to be as high as this.

According to recent reports, Mr Sunak, President Biden and Mr Albanese are expected to use their summit in the US to discuss their preferred submarine design for Australia’s replacemen­t fleet. The three nations are sharing classified military capabiliti­es to allow Australia to construct and deploy new nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific region in place of its ageing equipment.

Aukus was set up to counter Chinese military power in the Pacific.

Its launch in September 2021 resulted in Australia cancelling a £47 billion deal to buy 12 French diesel-electric submarines in favour of more sophistica­ted nuclear-powered submarines from Britain and the US. The move infuriated Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who recalled France’s ambassador­s to the US and Australia.

It also emerged yesterday that workers will be given annual health checks as part of a government plan to stem the flow of people going on long-term sick leave and reduce the number of the economical­ly-inactive.

The Treasury is expected to use the budget to launch subsidies to help small and medium-sized enterprise­s to introduce occupation­al health services and provide basic “health appraisals”.

Ministers believe assessment­s, which could include tests for blood pressure and body mass index, will help to reduce the number of people leaving the labour market by detecting health problems earlier.

The initiative is part of a wider workforce review being carried out by Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, to deal with the more than 9million economical­ly inactive people (6.6 million excluding students) including growing numbers of over-50s.

Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, has given his backing and wants a greater focus on illness prevention, including tackling obesity, to help stop people from developing long-term conditions.

A government source said: “The more we can mobilise employers to do more testing, the quicker we can start to pick up on conditions before employees even know they have got a problem.”

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