UK Politics

Election 2015: UKIP's plan for veterans and defence

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Media captionNigel Farage: "Army numbers should go up to 100,000"

UKIP has set out its defence policy, including a new independent veterans' minister and a national defence medal for all members of the armed forces.

It would also cut foreign aid in order to spend 2% of GDP on defence.

The party said there was "not a cigarette paper" between the defence policies of the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems.

The Conservatives accused UKIP of "playing politics with the military... in an irresponsible way".

The dedicated veterans' minister would be part of the Cabinet Office rather than the Ministry of Defence.

They would ensure veterans get specialist support, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said.

'Continual cuts'

This would include priority access to social housing and a fast-track card for NHS mental health services.

During a visit to the West Midlands, Mr Farage accused the Conservative Party of being guilty of "shocking double standards" over defence and foreign aid.

The Conservatives and Labour have not committed to matching the 2% Nato spending target, which was met during the last Parliament, beyond 2016.

Mr Farage said: "No previous Conservative prime minister in history would have countenanced sanctioning continual rises in foreign aid giveaways while at the same time pursuing a programme of continual cuts in defence."

He said troops who had served more than 12 years would, under UKIP, be offered jobs in the police force, prison service and the borders agency.

Campaigners have long called for a national defence medal, awarded by the Queen, for everyone who serves in Britain's armed forces.

Mr Farage said the medal could be worn by all veterans during parades, and would mean "millions of people would feel more engaged".

'Come home'

UKIP say extra spending on defence would come through cutting the foreign aid budget by £9bn per year.

Last year, the foreign aid budget was £11.7bn.

A Conservative Party spokesman said the UK had the second largest defence budget in Nato and would spend over £160bn in the next decade on new military equipment.

He added: "We've also enshrined the armed forces covenant into law so our troops are treated with the respect they deserve.

"It comes down to this: you can only have strong armed forces if you have a strong economy first."

Speaking to reporters during his visit to Dudley where the defence policy was set out, Mr Farage said UKIP's support had dipped since the "euphoric" feeling that followed the party's by-election wins in Rochester and Clacton last year.

Everybody had "peaks and troughs", he said, adding that the by-election wins of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless had caused a "slightly euphoric" feeling among UKIP supporters but the party is "back a bit since then."

This week Prime Minister David Cameron urged UKIP supporters to "come home" to the Tories, saying the general election was not the time to register a protest vote.

UKIP called his comments "absurd".

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