Philip Hammond warns defence cuts 'risk capability'


Phillip Hammond warns further reductions in spending would erode military capability

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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".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    The military and the poor are both being pushed to breaking point - it is disgusting that the government is trying to make a choice between one or the other, both need looking after.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Does the NHS really need jobs with titles such as "Specialist Health Promotion Officer in Breastfeeding and Childhood Science" or "Specialist Health Trainer in Mental Health for the BME Community."?

    Reducing the number of superfluous staff in the NHS with their ludicrous job titles would be a great way to save money. Why not start there instead?

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    This was immediately obvious following the SDR that wasnt, Philip. Which you signed off on.

    Your point being? Whats changed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Hmm Welfare...... Is this yet another move in the Conservative Chess game to turn the bottom half of society against each other and hate anyone who has to claim welfare thus taking the focus off out tax evading betters who as we speak are ever widening the gulf between rich and poor.

    I thought we ALL had to tighten our belts, never has the phrase "We are in this together" been so misused.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    77. dollopskiver Considering all the aid work and emergency relief work our boys and girls do then yes we do need a military, where it is bloated is in the MOD and the bean counters like Hammond who can expect cushy salaries and even cushier pensions.Perhaps we would not need to make cuts if Vodafone and co paid the taxes they should, but hey the Conservatives wouldn't want to bite the hand right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Roughly translated "we would rather spend public money on war, death and destruction than on silly things like peoples' wellbeing".

    You and your fellow MPs (I would say ministers, but it's all political parties) are a joke Hammond. You and your elitest system have failed. Go now, quietly if you must.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Post 46 Bob Webster - yes, what you say is so obvious I can't see why we don't follow those countries lead. They all enjoy a much higher standard of living than we do, better services, cleaner environments, more efficient facilities, etc - I should know, as I worked in two of those countries, Switzerland & Norway. Meanwhile, the UK feels that we still need to Police the World - do we, really? IDTS

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    "Phillip Hammond warns that defence cuts will affect the share price of arms dealers" is what the headline should have said.

    Where are Fox and Werritty now, I wonder ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    a bit of political posturing in time for a leadership challenge?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    One question the armchair generals never answer is who is it that threatens us that requires such a massiive armed forces to protect us?

    Terrorists are not a military matter.....

    Countries like North Korea/Iran ARE NOT AFTER US, they just want to be left alone by us......

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    When will the politicians realise that we are only a small over populated kingdom with limited resources. We only ‘ruled the waves’ when we had a massive technological advantage. Many other countries now have similar or better technology (and more of it). Stop the guilt trips about our forebears’ imperialistic ego trips' and trying to ‘punch above our weight’ and live within our means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Not much left to cut? How about the Red Arrows, Battle of Britain memorial flight, numerous brass bands and that’s just the RAF.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I agree that with the last 23 or so years we've had to step up on the world stage far too often, so further defence cuts would be very puzzling to say the least. I do however note that welfare takes up only a small percentage of government spending.

    Despite what the media says, not everyone is chasing disability ticket or is work shy.

    Considering the flatlining economy it's a natural outcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    So you're saying the correct thing is to throw money at the military... the result of course being we end up with an even more interventionist world police force comparable in size, and budget, to the Pentagon?

    How-about We cut spending drastically, and achievable, by recalling our troops from far flung lands which do not threaten the realm :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    OR...we could pull out of Afghanistan altogether, cut the defence budget by 50% and save billions. Eventually additional savings in domestic counter-terrorism and policing departments could be made. If we stop inflaming the middle-east and leave these godforsaken countries to their own devices this generation of radicalised muslims might give way to a more docile one, less intent on blowing us up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Do we really need a military at all ? the modern British military is overbloated national discrace and an anacronistic embarrasment, its only function it seems is to give the Royal family something to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    As Welfare and Overseas Aid budgets will no doubt come under pressure again as others seek to defend other budgets, this is well worth a read to see some of the myths we are fed exposed:

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    If this government wish to get involved in conflicts and emergencies around the world they had better spend the cash instead of trying to get forces on the cheap i.e. T.A.
    If they won't do this then they should just disband all the forces rather than expect them to do a first class job with third class resources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    All part of Eu plans to remove our defence capabilities so as to make us insignificant and remove our role as a world leader France and Germany will take our place then Germany !!! Beware !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The problem at home is, you can only lose once. One person says we have no hostile neighbours, well most of our wars were against our so called neighbours.


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