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 112.

    Cutting the defence budget is the only policy of this Governmebt that I can support. We STILL have 17,000 troops in Germany happily boosting the german economy and the recently reported £billions wasted by the MOD stacking up supplies and spares that will never be used. Not to mention the ceremonial nonsense of professional troops dressed like something out of a comic opera parading around London

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    stop spending welfare for illegal immigrants, deport
    illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers from the country
    and fund that extra money for the welfare of solders and equipment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    I agree that welfare should decrease as employment rises, but let us see employment rise in real terms before putting welfare in the cross hairs of the snipers rifle. People, our people should matter more than expensive military toys etc for military adventures that benefit the few that make money out of misery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    If the UK stopped supporting in manpower, lives lost and finance, every move the USA makes in its continuous policy of interference with sovereign states, then we would be far better off & would not have so many US created terrorists through out the world. Look no further than the industrial military complex that is the USA with largest debt in the world. We should not be aligned with stupidity

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Rather than hit the military again, or the welfare budget let's make cuts in the government, they have got away so far without contributing any cuts so far.
    We could start by cutting the number of MP's by 20% and their pay by 10%. And yes all expenses.
    Cameron has increased the costs by implementing elected police commissioners and city mayors. How about an elected PM?

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Assuming we are not going to nuclear war with Russia or China, with their massive anti ballistic defences, then keep the nuclear deterrent against others by scrapping Trident and fitting nuclear warheads to Harpoon type missiles which can be fired from standard subs and warships, plus our Storm Shadow cruise missiles fired from Tornadoes. Multi billions saved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    So the MOD WASTE billions on £'s a year on equipment they don't need and now ask for more money??? Who's been sacked for the overpend then?.... No-one. that's who :( Stop invading other countries for spurious reasons to gain control of their natural resources and getting our soldiers killed, and start spending the savings on defeating poverty and hunger.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Our naval strength is around 25 warships and 10 submarines. Some of these are being maintained in dock at any given time.

    Do we really want to cut further on these already low numbers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I agree.

    Iran, North Korea and the like, these paranoid regimes are only interested in 1 thing: self preservation. We should leave these snakes under their logs. Despite their propaganda to control their domestic populations, they are acutely aware that war would = the end of their regimes.

    If we initiate war with Iran, I'll protest loudly :D

  • Comment number 103.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    In the 80s, defence got 6% of spending, it's now 1.8% and falling. of course, when we nexct get hit with floods, foot and mouth, firemens styrikes etc, cameron can always call on the 1.5million NHS staff, DFID, or gay marriage counsellors. Wake up Dave, this is why your traditional supporters are abandoning the party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    The naive thoughts of people on here is astounding! Do people really think that 'if they don't invade us we'll be alright'? Let's say that we did bring the troops home and let the Taliban control the Middle East. Do you think they would just give us the resources we buy and suddenly give their citizens fair and proper freedom? Even Scotland harp on about oil and they are a free, honorable nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    "Free TV licences and winter fuel allowance for millionaires over 75? We must be awash with money, so Defence need not be cut."

    How many millionaire pensioners are there? The reality is that to make any meaningful savings, you have to set the bar so low as to remove the benefit from almost all pensioners rather than just genuinely "well off" ones, just to recoup the higher administration costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Why not just save money by not sending our armed forces to invade countries we are not at war with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Some of the most influential countries in the world today are those with the most powerful economies, not the biggest armies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    There will be a critical tipping point below which our ability to re-establish our defence structures becomes irretrievable.The U.K. represents one of the very few active players in the world. We must have a strong defence to influence strategic issues.Cuts today will mean more loss of lives tomorrow, we have seen this time and time again, when will our politicians learn the lessons of history

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I wish they wouldn't call it Defence Spending, they are not defending anything, just warmongering in the Middle East and North Africa. It should be renamed "Bloodthirst Spending"

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I fail to see why our country, with the 22nd largest population worldwide, requires the 4th largest defense budget. We are living far beyond our means in this respect and it means money isn't being spent where we can directly feel the benefit. We obviously require a defense system, but I think a smaller, more efficient and more lean system is more appropriate,

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    As long as they don't cut education. You've spelt 'Bows' wrongly. Twice.

    Treasury boughs and Lib Dem boughs".

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    # 69 and 50, Well put! Very very True.


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