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 472.

    @407 back4more... "20 local RN staff" - thats not civilian manpower thats service personnel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    To Oswain #15. Good lord, man, what on earth have vegetarians got to do with this debate? Look at your negative rating. How on earth do you expect to be taken seriously?

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    I can see one name being put forward as a stalking horse, just say he wants referendum at beginning of the next parliament and bye bye Cameron.
    During hard times it is estimated that top 1000 richest people in this country have seen the wealth increase by 155b - Mansion tax is good idea, they can obviously afford it, otherwise we may see food parcels coming the other way for some forces families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    We have the 4th military in the world but only the no6 GDP. A large part of the country failing is probably this disproportionate spending on the military. We need to make sure we are safe.

    Other confilct are generally mistakes, Egypt now a mess as is LIbya, and Syria full of jihadists while the polulation are in refugee camps. Iraq and Afganistan are more unpleasant to live in than ever. Failure

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    Why do the Tories want powers back from the EU so they can get rid of the working time directive which would mean then employers could force people to work 60+ hours a week like it used to be
    All there plans revolve round making people work more and more hours for less money to live on while there friends make profits and money and hide them overseas with every loophole going

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    We don't need a Military! We've got a Donk!...

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    The military budget could be cut by employing competent civil servants

    The amount of overspend, wastage as well as poor value for money in procurement and military contracts is beyond belief.

    Why arent those responsible answerable for such incompetence (and also banned from being employed from these companies at later dates)

    Also the forces seem to be very top heavy - too many chiefs ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    Mrs Chaucers Pirate
    If it wasn't for the Navy your TV would cost 20 times what you paid because piracy
    Nonsense and where did you get that figure from, if that was the case we would just start manufacturing tv's back in the uk. that's got to be one of the worst arguments not cut defense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.


    Sad truth is that the wars of the past are no more a thing of the past than disease. Call them what you will but there are many forms of war and the nature of the world is such that we need to be able to protect ourselves from more forms of aggression than nuclear war. Do we need nuclear? I dont know but it seems to be getting more likely that we do rather than less likely.

  • Comment number 463.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    440. NJ
    ..those behind the banking crash are guilt of high treason and should be prosecuted as such.

    >> But they are not. Not one banker in jail since the crash & they continue to award themselves £Billions in bonuses for failure.

    Why? Because they have the politicians in their pockets. If we keep voting the blue/red/yellow clowns in even after all this why would you expect them to change?

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    the government have to make up their mind what type of world role we are going to play. If its just for defence of our island, then go ahead and cut, but if they want to be a world 'policeman', (as it appears), then we need more not less. This 'wonderful' government want to be a world power on a defence only budget!

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    455.Norman Bailey

    I think you mean we'll be safer from big cuts: because we won't be able to go around into foreign people's back yards blowing up their stuff, killing their kids and choosing governments for them.

    By doing this, we provoke an awful lot of anger towards our presence, and understandably so. It's called Blow-back: the unintended consequences of interventionism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Defence is the last thing we should cut.
    The defence of the realm is necessary before any other functions of the state can be considered.
    Without the stability provided by a secure state through a strong credible military we will always be vulnerable and whatever state we want to build is liable to come crashing down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    This guy is just whining about losing his toy soldiers.While we are on the subject, why does no one point out the cost of the war we have just fought ? that has to have contributed to the mess we are in.
    this may be a bit naive but if we can not afford to have our troops involved in fighting shoud we not bring them home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.


    Cut benefits aye, I suppose that would include unemployed soldiers as well."

    Soldier to shirker - it's the Tory way. Tells you what they *really* think people are - an inconvenience when no longer required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    405. stringerbell
    The SNP are right- cut Trident.
    It'll save £100bn (over 1/3 of the decades projected defence spending). Why, then, won't Westminster even consider this? Makes you think...
    that Nick Clegg's defected to the SNP along with the rest of the Lib dems?

    Werrity and Fox Ltd returned from a stateside jaunt to instruct government that Trident was a must have....."go figure"

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    We will be attacked one day because of all these cuts.......this world is becoming too full of radical minded so and so foreign nationals waiting to strike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    For the record; defence spending is only 2% of GPD. The argument that this is disproportionate is not true.The question should be: do we need a large funded military when we have nuclear weapons to protect ourselves? Nuclear weapons keep world powers from disrupting into world war, armies are used nowadays to uphold geostrategic policies under the guise of anti-terrorism and peacekeeping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    If we stopped poking our noses into other peoples conflicts that cost us, the taxpayer, millions a day then we'd have the money in the bank so the MoD cuts wouldnt be necessary. We cant save the world, feed the world or heal the world so we should stop trying and get on with restoring this country back to what it used to be, able to heal, feed, clothe, educate and employ our own people


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