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 492.

    Why not save a chunk of money by NOT renewing trident, we are telling other countries that they are not allowed to own them, why don't we lead by example? There's a lot of waste at whitehall how about getting that in order before saying that the most vulnerable take a bigger hit. I've yet to see an MP suggest they take a cut in pay/expenses so they can really be "in it together" with us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    Sell the Eurofighters and RAF bases.
    Merge the RAF into a new Fleet-Air-Arm (MRCA/JSF, Helicopters, Transport, AWACS & Drones)
    Merge Army into the Marines (Infantry, SBS, Armour, Artillery, Engineers/Signals/Support)
    Keep and maintain Trident
    Build two more carriers
    Re-introduce 'corvette' type ships (small, fast, economical)
    Result: Rapid Deployment Multi-Strike Task Forces.
    Job Done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    Amazing how the masses still haven't worked out the industrial military complex is a con, the same con as big pharma and big agro....oh and all lead to the same financial institutions, which in turn lead to the same share holding dynasties.

    Still keep lamenting about part politics, because that's what you're been sold.

  • Comment number 489.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    The defence secretary thinks there's only scope for "modest efficiency savings" in a dept. that wastes £billions on procurement.

    Well perhaps we should allow some private competition. If Tories want private competition in the nhs under auspices of efficiency savings why not the army...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    If you want more money spent on defence then pay for it. If everyone who likes to moan about the Government not spending enough on all sorts of things just sent a cheque to the treasury we would be able to spend more. We have the 4th highest defence spending now (down from 3rd) and we spend a third more than Germany. What we need to do is stop the waste and cut down civillian posts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    463.DUMPTHECAR - 'We must never forget.'

    So very true. But nor must we forget the factors and pressures that made it possible for Hitler to do it.

    Most of the relevant law is civil not criminal - incompetence is not a crime- and so someone harmed needs to be willing to take an action.

    458.C2DE Yes its naive, blind in fact, but not quite as perversely so as #460

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    Come now. Order, order!
    Bough "is a perfectly cromulent word.
    A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man"
    ~Jebediah Springfied

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    @ 10. naigib

    Erm... but we do have to decide who gets the cuts. This country spends more money than it takes in. Unless you're happy with burdening the future generations with crushing state debt, this means we have to reduce spending.

    Seriously, what alternative do you propose? Because it won't be one based in reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Get rid of the idiots that currently run the procurement processes for the MoD and replace them with people from organisations such as ASDA who seem to know what they are doing when setting up contracts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    'Defence' cuts? Surely we're talking about 'Attack' cuts, as the UK are the ones who attack not defend. Sure, so UK/USA fund terrorists somewhere as a pretext to go and attack them. It's about time we get rid of these terms of propaganda such as 'Defence' and just be honest that this is Empire Building or perhaps you prefer the more modern politically correct term of Globalization.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    We need defence for our own country. We do not need to wade into other countries' matters. If GB stopped jumping to the aid of the US and anyone else we would have plenty for our own. We are wasting limbs, lives and money abroad. Bring them home to defend us! The budget would come down without cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    We've been an open shop to anyone who wants to come here with a tale of 'persecution' from every poor country in the world. Now we've given it away what's to defend? You don't need to invade the UK, just turn up and claim you're free house.
    We've wrecked the nation, rapidly becoming poorer than them(which will make the hypocritical wet liberals happy). Spend our money on real border defence!

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    Why do we have British troops in Germany contributing 1.5 billion euros to the German economy and employing hundreds of German nationals? There are many additional costs like children in boarding schools in the UK that could be removed. The cost of bringing them home would be saved within about 18months.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    The question should be: do we need a large funded military when we have nuclear weapons to protect ourselves?
    Sorry to interject Stephen but the correct question should be :Will a rogue theocratic state with nuclear capability think twice about blowing the planet to pieces?

    Perhaps you think we've talking about banking? Different sort of gambling entirely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    Some deluded character has suggested that the EU should be used? Is that a serious suggestion or just someone who has been smoking wood ones !!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    once again we are being ruled by the eu,our government will NOT be happy till we are brought to our knee,s and run by europe ,deplete our navy airforce and army .make us realy dependant on goverments we cannot trust

  • Comment number 475.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Defence? from whom? Who is going / able to invade us? We should stop fighting wars to try and please the Americans. What do they do for us? We should spend more on trying to win the hearts and minds of those people we have annoyed. We need to be aware of the danger of drone strikes etc on hearts and minds. Then we will need less of the vastly "defence" hardware like Apache copters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    History tells us that it is very unwise to neglect defence. Just because a major threat is not foreseen does not mean you can take the short term view on spending because by the time you realise... it's too late. If you want to look at cuts, check out "Lions Donkeys and Dinosaurs" by Lewis Page on frightening wastage within the defence budget.


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