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 552.

    What do you expect from the Government that wants to tax families for having a room available for their children on active service and which thinks aircraft carriers without aircraft are a good idea?
    Is anyone remotely surprised that this omnishambles can't get anything right.

    Roll on 2015

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    Stop overseas aid. Cut tax avoidance loopholes. Stop benefits for immigrants, especially sending money to Eastern European countries for child benefit - when the children are living over in those countries. Stop benefit cheats.

    Not rocket science is it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    Ahh, Phil is a true NIMBY politician,
    Thats right, we are all in this together (except my corner of the budget)!
    my question is how can he say "But we need to look broadly across government at how we are going to do that, not just narrowly at a few departments." yet then say but not my department?
    Mr.Hammond you speak with forked tongue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    The question is what do you want our foreign policy to be?

    Is it one of intervention; British politician's trotting the globe holding American hands whilist mobilising the military under 'freedom' and 'anti-terrororism'.


    Is it a more understated and supportive role shying from direct combat?

    The simple fact is: with greater cuts the same aggressive foreign policy cannot continue.

  • Comment number 548.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    We HAVE to cut public spending much more and much quicker,"

    No. We. Do. Not. If closing tax loopholes was pursued with the same vigour that has been applied to cutting benefits then we'd be out of debt in c. 5 years. The poor have had their kicking, now it should be tax avoision that is pursued with equal vigour - and listen to the piggies squeal - that is fair (not Tory 'fair').

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    Scrap Trident.

    The sole reason that the UK government wishes us to remain a nuclear power is so that we can keep our permanent seat on the UN security council, & carry on pretending to be a world power.

    However, & especially since the security council has proved recently to be not fit for purpose, the £50 billion required to keep the seat could obviously be better spent elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    I was just checking my garage,there is nothing to fear, I have a broom handle, some string and an old knife. All I need is an LDV armband and the country will be safe. Just as it was after the defence cuts of the 1930's

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    If we have to keep policing the world, Europe should create a unique force for such tasks. Keep our forces adequate to just protect our shores.

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    Some good stuff in there....needs a revolution first though

    #495 : -)

    #487 Prop
    if everyone who likes to moan about the Government not spending enough on all sorts of things just sent a cheque
    How about a more radical approach

    1.Sack the board of HMRC
    2. Criminalise tax cheating
    3.Collect the bloody taxes that are due!

    Oh, and stop corrupt politicians buying the wrong stuff

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    Wow -5 in less than 10 mins for my last comment. And all because I suggested that welfare claimants should actually EARN their money. Seems we have a lot of people who expect a free ride. And their we have it; the problem is identified!
    The welfare budget is bloated and must be cut. Time and time again I hear about hardworking people who cannot afford the things those on welfare seem to be able to

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    I think I'm being converted by all the tree hugging comments. I think we should ignore what problems are going on in the world or "sticking our nose in" and all of us hold hands sit down and pray together.

    For too long the military have been giving us inventions like nuclear power, rockets to take us into space, jet engine and the internet. It's time we defeated our enemies with scented candles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    508. Crelling66 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.
    If I remember the last time Britain was invaded was 1066, so on assumption I think we are doing fine on defence

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    I'm not sure we need such capability, if we stopped getting involved in conflict that are not our concern, maybe we could make do with less. Build up our navy again and focus on defense (including the falklands), and stop all these unecessary invasions of places like Iraq an Afghanistan. We need to be more realistic about our military aspirations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.


    Or import less fuel and increase the use of renewable energy and grow more food in the UK, then cut the defence budget. It's a win, win. More jobs and less money spent on defence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    Army vs welfare - seems like a pretty easy choice from where I'm sitting...

    Or did I miss the part where we are under threat of invasion and subsequent subjugation by a hostile military force?

    Scrap everything that isn't special forces, commandos or TA - a large national standing army has no use in the 21st century. If the world needs a peacekeeping force it can be drawn from all nations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    It's all part of the master plan. This country is BROKEN and it'll be a long time before it's close to being comfortable again. That's why the Police are being made into a para-military force.
    EVERY Govt is expecting more riots so they're criminalising everyday life more by the day.
    Wars are artificially created to justify this.

    It's all around you, you just need to open your eyes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    The MoD is mismanaged by self-interested Commanders only concerned about personal advancement. Some careful scrutiny could do away with gross inefficiencies such as the "I need to know culture" despite being powerless to effect change.

    Current Commanders have limited power and therefore focus upon personal advancement rather than the well being of Defence.

    We will pay a heavy price for this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    Do I sense that the popularity of this so call coalition is now on the wain? Of course it is divide and rule I agree with naigib @10. The Tories will never change and God help us all if they did manage to get an overall majority after the next election just imagine the havoc they would reek if left to their own devices. Be careful be very careful or should it be be afraid be very afraid!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    UK defence procurement has staff of 20,000 / 66 million population.
    Israel defence procurement staff of 50 / 8 million population.
    Both contries have similar spend per head of population.
    Hammond needs to sort his department out before going anywhere else.
    Typical diversionary tactics for not being able to do his job.


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