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 512.

    487 tightheadprop "What we need to do is stop the waste and cut down civillian posts." They've done that, and do you want to know - from 1st hand experience - what costs more? The contractors such as Babc**k they bring in to do the jobs in place. Equivalent grade posts are 1.25 to >2 times the salary, poor procurement strategies, and MOD(Governemnt/taxpayer) still carries all the liability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    Disabled and needy people in our society fear "loss of capability" too! There is evidence that people being thrown off benefits by the DWP and ATOS are getting sick, ill and some are even committing suicide. Why doesn't the Minister see the other side of welfare cuts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    Time to look after britain first ,stop aid,wars and that will save billions plus get tough on tax.Billions can be saved without starving our own and killing us off in the nhs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    Hmmmm ASDA couldn't supply me with a lemon on pancake day...It regularly runs out of bread when there is a bank holiday. Inventory control isnt their strong point. Contracts - yes they are better at them, but do you want all your defence sourced from suppliers on the verge of going bankrupt or selling you wooden rockets in the guise of live?

    Not all of us are naive/stupid

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    We're a small island nation with no ability to feed ourselves beyond out two week stockpile. For this reason alone we should spend more on defence (especially the navy) despite our nuclear weapons. Nukes dont prevent blockades or secure borders.

    Too many naive people on here who think the world is a secure with no enemies except terrorists & that it will always meet their excessive needs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    449 JamesStGeorge.
    You call for all immigrants to be sent back home in order to reduce our benefits bill. I guess it would have to be a two-way thing though, so are you going to insist that all British people who have emigrated be sent back to these shores? The British ex pat communities around the world would love that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    With America increasingly looking to the Pacific, the dwindling resources available to UK forces highlights the importance of working with European partners and particularly the French! We live in a global economy and depend on global trade so it's about Real Politk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    Fitting hunter killer subs with nuclear tipped cruise missiles would be a much more cost effective use of resources.

    Trident type ballistic missile subs are a cold war weapon which are hugely expensive & rely on US satellites for targetting. Part of the huge cost is that the UK buys the complete missile section from the US (it subsidizes their own ballistic boat programme).

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    So the military cannot take any more cuts and the welfare budget will not be cut?!

    Some 'out of the box' thinking is needed. 'Pay' our welfare parasites to be part of the military. Everybody wins. We get the defence we direly need and the welfarees get a career (unless of course, being a shield for bullets is just a bit too big a step in standing up for civil rights - white feather needed then)

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    Comments "a warning shot across Treasury boughs and Lib Dem boughs"?

    Yes, that's the way to make the tree-huggers see sense.
    We're setting up a splinter group to take things further.
    We shall fight them on the branches, we shall fight them on the trunk, we shall fight them in the twigs and in the leaves - we shall never surrender.
    Cry havoc, and let slip the squirrels of war!

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    @ 490. sheeple

    You've hit the nail on the head. The Military Industrial Complex funds terrorism, then responds with a war i.e. they cause the problem and then go to solve it; for profit.

    Big Pharma first inject us with disease at birth, under the guise of 'Vaccination', then they sell us treatments for Diabetes Type 1, Epilepsy, Cancer, HIV, Autism, Asthma, Eczema etc and make serious money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Could we get the Armed forces and the police to go and arrest every Mp and MEP in the country and then have HMQ run the country till we elect a government of the people

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    @Monkey Magic: Reduction in RN protection of shipping vessles WOULD result in increased piracy, which would result in significantly higher insurance costs for sea freight, hence increase in import costs. And unless you can grow bananas in your back garden, Britain will always be dependent on imports of food and durable goods, having such a dense population. We cannot be self-sufficient.

  • Comment number 499.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    I'm surprised nobody has considered a more subtle alternative.
    Round up gangs of rogue hedgiebankers and send them to geopolitical hotspots - these besuited "talent bombs" could then be integrate themselves into the local economies and be ignited by means of fraudulently acquired limit free bonuses

    Job done - enemy neutralised - "talent" satiated (and no longer destroying the uk!)
    Win win yay!

  • Comment number 497.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    MoD Wasting Billions. Says it all. Abolish the MoD stop playing war games and sort out the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    483 ken1760

    You suggest that we involve the management of Asda in our defence procurement.

    Do you really think so. They can't even tell the difference between a cow and a horse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    If we don't cut the ridiculous amounts of welfare we give to all and sundry who arrive here then we might as well cut defence as we'll have nothing worth defending anymore.

    Too many people given money for no good reason - we need to get tough. The world is getting more unstable - defence is a necessity unfortunately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    We seem to have a problem adjusting to being neither an empire nor one of the world superpowers. Our failure to adjust properly to this is what is actually putting us in danger. We cannot afford to have the no4 military but only the no6 economy it is making us uncompetative, so our producers go bankrupt, so if we needed to militarize again for a conflict we would be unable. Better to sort the mess


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