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 152.

    i am sick of reading articles like this.

    there will be a major political and economic re-haul at some point just wait. we are seeing anti-austerity protests in Europe because people are fed up of having their government's, their state's, their COUNTRY's actions dictated by private interests!

    i say no to cuts in the military as it will lessen yet another part of my country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I fail to see how it is fair for the NHS, which offers a greater protection to our people, to receive cutbacks whilst maintaining the 4th largest defense budget. It is time for us to live within our means and not as we wish at the expense of the tax payer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    According to the TUC, £25 billion is lost per year to tax avoidance, by corporations and individuals. According to Oxfam, a further £5 billion is lost to tax evasion. So, £30 billion is lost overall. Our govt. deficit is forecast to be £125 billion this year.

    If everyone paid their taxes... we'd still have an enormous budget deficit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Government need to stop overseas aid because we got to many problem, still we are suffering economic growth so why government wanting to become arrogant? I think we are not rich country.
    Stop aid. Stop aid!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    With MoD procurement so on the ball, no wastage etc, and the success of spending billions and billions in Iraq and Afghan to achieve so much....

    ....oh wait. :-(

    Hammond disgusts me. All politicians do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Little Plum Can you explain that we have more Admirals than ships, enough Generals to ,manage an army of 6 times the size that we have. The armed forces are top heavy with a lot of filing cabinet staff officers being paid to collect their pay. Time to cut at the top where most of the dead wood is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    200 Million pound was spent freeing the people of Libya through a bombing campaign, in its early stages of "freedom" they murdered the US ambassador over a film, sentenced 15 Gay men to death and arrested Missionaries suspected of "spreading Christianity" . Spend less time helping Muslim Fascists and you may not need to sack our troops who fight your Neo Con wars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    '..the government pledged "to reverse decades of lax inventory management'
    Shouldn't that be lax infantry management?
    Our troops do a commendable job. It's just where the Government instructs them to do it that I have a problem with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Collect the tens of billions currently being hidden in tax avoidance / cosy tax deals.

    End of problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.


    The facts: only 2 banks received investment from the government.

    Not really a "fact", as it greatly depends on which government you're talking about, and forgetting there are more governments in the world propping the banks up (plus various policies directly assisting..).

    I have no problem with defence cuts, for our mainly offensively used forces. Defence should mean defence!

  • Comment number 142.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    How can this inept Government defend the indefencible. All we hear are platitutes but no positive action on anything. A truly disgraceful mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Instead of playing with the world police We should replace our border force with the army to stop the influx of drugs, illicit contraband and criminals, the enemy is within and homeland security can't cope !

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    All you do gooders out there remember what we sleep walked into in the 1930's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    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?
    Good question; but imho another needs to be answered first. Do we really need them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    If they cut anymore we will not be able to properly defend ourselves, which sadly though is a concept lost on the two dolts in No10 and No11...Plenty of other areas of Government spending that could and should be pruned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    @115Mooker. Who is going to attack us !
    That's precisely what they thought after the 1914-1918 war.
    The war to end all wars (until the next one) ! A lot can happen in the space of a couple of decades. At times of austerity and political unrest it happens more frequently.
    If you want to make budget cuts, lets start with the MP's first. They tend to involve us in the wars in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    We need to be able to handle internal strife, to patrol our waters (once we get them back from the EU) and defend oursleves against terrorists. We must also defend our outposts like the Talklands.

    We do not need to send troops to Iraq, Afghanistan etc.

    Our armed forces should be maintained appropriately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    64% of benefits and over 50% of welfare is taken by the 65+ age group, who have been protected (for political reasons) from welfare cuts. The 16-64 group are suffering huge cuts so there is very little scope for more cuts. What does Hammond suggest? Maybe £10pw off the state pension?! Easy solution is to scrap Trident.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    I heard a disheartening theory:
    That our defence forces were now hired muscle - thugs - to be used by governments, beholden to private corporatist interest, desirous of the natural resources of foreign lands. A corporatised Scramble for Africa.

    How long will we tolerate our boys & girls being sent abroad by No.10, under UN Banners, to kill or be killed and maimed, for unscrupulous interests.


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