Philip Hammond warns defence cuts 'risk capability'


Phillip Hammond warns further reductions in spending would erode military capability

Related Stories

Further big cuts in defence spending will lead to the loss of the UK's armed forces capability, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has warned.

Things were "extremely taut" after the biggest cuts since 1991, he said ahead of the chancellor's spending review.

He told the BBC he would be "fighting the corner for my budget and defence".

The Ministry of Defence said while budgets for 2015-16 onwards had yet to be set, it had been promised a 1% annual increase in equipment spending.

Britain currently spends around £34bn a year on defence.

Speaking to the BBC, as he watched a Royal Marines training exercise in Norway, Mr Hammond said: "There may be some modest reductions we can make through further efficiencies and we will look for those, but we won't be able to make significant further cuts without eroding military capability."

Start Quote

This is just the annual game of horse trading that goes on at every department saying, 'we can't have any cuts here'”

End Quote Paul Flynn Labour MP

He added: "We have some very challenging targets ahead of us to deliver the outcome of the last spending review and I'm clear that we won't be able to deliver big further savings.

"But we need to look broadly across government at how we are going to do that, not just narrowly at a few departments."

'Collision course'

Reductions in defence spending for 2013-15, in addition to those in 2010's Strategic Defence and Security Review, were outlined in last year's Autumn Statement.

And Downing Street said last month the military would not be immune from further financial cuts in Chancellor George Osborne's next spending review - which is due to be published before the end of this year and will set out government spending plans for the first half of the next parliament.


It is rare for a senior minister to speak out so publicly about cuts that are still the subject of such tense negotiation.

But Philip Hammond is clearly trying to draw the battle lines ahead of the chancellor's Spending Review for post-2015.

George Osborne has to make savings of at least £10bn.

If that were to translate into cuts right across departments - save for those that have been "ring-fenced" - then the Ministry of Defence could lose more than another £1bn from its budget.

Mr Hammond says while there may be some scope for "modest efficiency savings" he's adamant that he won't be able to make significant cuts without eroding Britain's military capabilities - in other words making more troops redundant and axing more military equipment.

The defence secretary thinks the savings should come from other departments, namely the welfare budget.

That puts him on a collision course with the Conservative's coalition partners. Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, has already publicly stated that he has no plans to make further savings in welfare budget.

A report this week from the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) suggested this could lead to additional reductions of more than £1bn a year in the defence budget from 2015.

However, returning from a trade visit to India in February, Prime Minister David Cameron said he was open to the idea of diverting money from the UK's £10bn aid budget to MoD projects, including peacekeeping and other security-related development.

In a Daily Telegraph interview, Mr Hammond said a number of Conservative cabinet ministers believed "that we have to look at the welfare budget again... if we are going to get control of public spending on a sustainable basis".

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale says that, because Mr Hammond and other Tory ministers want a greater proportion of savings to come from the welfare budget, they are on a collision course with their Liberal Democrat partners.

Former leader of the Lib Dems, Sir Menzies Campbell, told BBC Radio 4's Saturday PM programme he understood the defence secretary's concerns, warning: "The real issue is you have to balance your resources against your ambitions, and the problem at the moment is that the resources keep being reduced, but the ambitions stay as grand as ever."

He admitted looking elsewhere for possible cuts was a "difficult issue" for the coalition, but said the chancellor had a "responsibility to make sure the poorest people are protected" if the welfare budget was reduced.

Battle lines

Our defence correspondent says tense negotiations over the next public spending round are already under way and Mr Hammond was publicly drawing the lines of battle.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said Mr Hammond's comments were "a warning shot across Treasury bows and Lib Dem bows".

He told BBC Radio 5 live it came at "an extremely febrile time" on the back of the Eastleigh by-election, which the Liberal Democrats won while the Conservatives were pushed into third place.

Labour MP Paul Flynn told Radio 5 live Mr Hammond had started "the annual game of horse trading that goes on at every department saying, 'we can't have any cuts here'".

"Every department should take these cuts," he said.

Referring to a report by the Public Accounts Committee - which revealed the MoD had bought £1.5bn worth of equipment between 2009 and 2011 that it had not used - he said it had been "most outrageously wasteful in spending".

In response to Thursday's report, the government pledged "to reverse decades of lax inventory management".

Scottish National Party MSP Bill Kidd said a "simple" solution to save money within the defence budget was not to renew the Trident nuclear weapons programme "which would save £100bn".


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    No to defence cuts. No to NHS privatisation. No to cuts in education, policing and infrastructure projects.

    Yes to recovering the billions that were stolen from taxpayers by irresponsible bankers.

    I won't hold my breath though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    We're on the edge of Europe with little to benefit an invader, what are we defending ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Classic divide and rule tactics from the Conservatives, again.

    It's Army v welfare now,

    We have to 'decide' who gets the cuts - and it will be our decison, and fault, not theirs. And all the while they keep funding bankers' bonuses with our money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I know from personal experience that more cuts in defence is the wrong thing to do, moral is low, and soldiers who are recruiting are hanging around the most unlikeliest of places looking for new recruits, friends of mine dead from sub standard armoured vehicles, the MOD can't boost moral if they can't even supply suitable kit. Cuts could and should be made from outside of the military

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    How stupid can the politicians get? Do they think that the world is all nice and cosy and friendly? Because it isn't. There are individuals, terrorist organisations and entire nation states that would see this country destroyed if they got half the chance. What if Argentina invade the Falklands, Iran gets nuclear weapons, and China gets bright ideas? The world is as dangerous as ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    we could save billions by scrapping the useless welfare to work industry, where results even according to govt figures 'are disappointing' billions of pounds of OUR money being given to the rich to line their pockets at the expense of the poor

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Further big cuts in defence spending would lead to the loss of the UK's military capability, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond warns

    Our military are rarely used for anything sensible so these resources would be better in the NHS
    Politicians use the Army for dumb stuff which the British people rarely agree with

    Even during the British Empire period we had an extremely small professional Army

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    There are serious emerging threats to UK security. I don't think war is the answer, but we have to realistic. If the government continues to weaken the armed forces, the UK will be in no position to deal with security as it may need to.

  • Comment number 4.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Trident, aircraft carriers, F35. £billions spent to project force but no one left in uniform to project it. What an expensive farce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Spend a few bob on cutting waste, fraud and incompetence and cuts may not be necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Good news, now spend the money saved, on the N.H.S who save lives instead of killing them


Page 43 of 43


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 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.