Defence cuts putting UK on 'road to disaster', says peer


A group of former chiefs of the defence staff have warned that cuts to the Armed Forces budget are changing the nature of Britain and putting the country on the "road to disaster".

Admiral Lord West of Spithead warned that Britain's Armed Forces are being cut "into the bone" leaving them on a "knife edge", during a debate on 23 June 2014.

The Labour peer said Britain's powerful military had allowed "successive prime ministers and foreign secretaries to stride the world's stage punching above our weight for Britain".

"Our status is now changing, with our forces being cut into the bone. I have a real worry that we are becoming a different nation by default.

Without an increase in defence spending I believe we're on a road to disaster," he warned.

A strong military still has a role to play in modern Britain, Lord West insisted, telling peers "the world is becoming more dangerous and more chaotic" and that "global stability and security are crucial for our survival and wealth".

Echoing Lord West's sentiments, former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Stirrup warned that the level of defence spending is now "dangerously low".

Lord Stirrup, an independent crossbench peer, said: "We have allowed ourselves and Nato to grow weaker over the past few years.

"Risks and uncertainties are greater when we are weaker than when we are stronger. We need to be stronger if we want to be more secure."

Calling for a guarantee from the government to maintain defence spending at Nato's target of 2% of GDP, Lord West said: "Finding more money for defence is just a matter of government resolve."

Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, chief of the defence staff until last year, joined the criticism, during his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

Avoiding the convention that maiden speeches in the House are meant not to be controversial, Lord Richards said the UK army was not fit to combat militant Jihadism, which he said was biggest threat confronting the free world today.

Lord Richards joined Lord West in calling for the defence budget to be maintained at 2% of GDP.

"If not - given the mathematics that seem stubbornly to govern defence expenditure - the size and effectiveness of the armed forces will inevitably deteriorate further" he said.

The government response can be seen in part two of the debate.

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.