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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  • Comment number 532.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    Empire has left us with a disproportionate sense of our own importance. What are these great riches we are guarding that require the worlds no 6 economy to have the worlds no4 forces. Germany and Japan, both richer than us have far less, so why exactly do we make ourselves uncompetative by burdening our industry with the huge expense of protecting other countries. So inefficient wemay fall further

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    Mean while, back in the real world not socialist fantasy land where money grows on the Magic Money Tree at the bottom of the garden.
    We HAVE to cut public spending much more and much quicker, otherwise we will take a lot longer to recover economically or continue the downward spiral towards even greater fiscal poverty for our children and grandchildren.
    There is a real world out there...

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    524 - It's hardly a barrack room conspiracy either mate....It's in the comfy, desk flying, area we need to cut, More Colonels than Regiments? More Admirals than Ships?....Never a word about 'Enough Boots on the Ground'...

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    I thought any cuts were all part of a Strategic Defence Review?

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    The less troops the less babys being killed. Win win.

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    For those saying who will invade us? We're not self sufficient. To beat the UK in a war don't invade just cut off our supply of fuel & food & wait a few months. This is why we should have the ability to project our power across the globe. Call it Globalisation, Empire building or Security the result is the same. If you can't secure resources to sustain yourself you're at the mercey of others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    Defence cuts risk capability. As do cuts to education, the health service and social services.

    Its like we can't even consider cutting the armed service as though they are a sacred cow.

    Answer this though - why do we need to spend so much more on "defence" than our European counterparts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    The military is designed to defend our nation, with obvious secrecy where needed. The problem is the military uses that training to defend itself against investigation. The nation is badly in debt and we need to penetrate barriers to purge wastage. Recent discoveries of wasted spending on unwanted items proves there is still scope for greater business-like efficiency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    Well perhaps we should allow some private competition."

    We already have privatisation in military R&D (QinetiQ) and MOD supply. It hasn't improved anything. Not a surprise, since as with the NHS, A4e, ATOS, Railway etc the employees are still civil servants in all but the name on their pay cheque - the private companies just siphon off 10% for 'profit' for no gain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    Usual plebs going on about defence.
    Just the last verse says it all
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
    But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!

    What a snotty little race the British are

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    You suggest that we involve the management of Asda in our defence procurement.
    Ex Asda Wunderkid Allan Leighton went to Royal Mail - achieved nothing aside from a large salary and bonus for himself and useless sidekick Adam Crozier...more banker style "talent".....

    Werrity and Fox Ltd was responsible for the procurement of Trident.

    #509 Omma :-) ref 1760 made me laugh...

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    512 deadramone
    The contractors get paid more but their ouput is much higher, they dont go off for sports days, sick weeks, have stupidly high pensions, and you can get rid of the muppets. Its almost impossible to get rid of civil servants unless they fiddle their expenses or punch a colleague.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    486. ommadawn2000
    Most of the relevant law is civil not criminal..

    Fraud by false representation = 8 years. Legal definition:

    - made a false representation
    - dishonestly
    - knowing that the representation was or might be untrue or misleading
    - with intent to make a gain for himself or another, to cause loss to another or to expose another to risk of loss.

    any banksters in jail? thought not

  • Comment number 518.

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

  • Comment number 517.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    Here is a radical idea, we sack 100% of our so called representatives. Ban all lobbying, declare our country officially neutral.
    Take our currency and central bank out of the internation exchange, have complete control over our money supply.
    With the trillions saved, build a sustainable, healthy, well educated society were critical thinking and all the arts are given equal footing with the 3 r'

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    It looks to me like Mr Hammond is throwing his hat into the leadership ring. If the right think he is the right person, they will be thinking "find us a stalking horse".

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    Rational man, you've made my Saturday. Extremely funny comments. Now don't drink too much rum over the rest of the day whilst watching Master and Commander!

    To put things back into perspective, where have the Navy been when the Army and RAF have been slogging through 12 years of Afghan fun?

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    Scrap Trident. Problem solved. Trident is - in the words of Tony Blair - "The Ultimate Insurance Policy" and lend nothing to "Capability."

    And oh, BTW - I also believe scrapping Trident will guarantee that the Scottish Independence Referendum will vote to stay in the Union.


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