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 572.

    28th Feb.... MOD' Wasting billions on equipment'.
    So, according to Hammond.......
    looking after our own people is less of a priority than killing !

    Anyone see this weeks Panorama, to think of the Brits who lost their lives in Afghanistan to get here!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    Our biggest treat will come from within the country, not from outside of it, our immigration is totally out of control. My grand parents said to me "what was the point of fighting Hitler, if we let him win our country would be in a better state then today" remember that David Cameron

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    Why does the BBC bother to attach HYS to news stories when all you get is the same leftie dross comments to every one:

    Tax only the rich
    Give all the tax money to people who do not work
    Everyone on benefits is rally nice and only out of work due DC
    Under any other party there would be no cuts at all
    Vote UKIP
    And the bankers are to blame for everything

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    You dont say!

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    518 Wide Awake ... I'm advocating that instead of just 'giving' benefits to those able to work, that we ask these people to 'work' (preferably for the state) for their money. If we have to pay these people then at least let us get something in return.
    548 Dumpthecar ... my brother (lorry driver) cannot afford Sky, my sister (on benefits) has Sky. Not hearsay ... FACT. (And far from unique!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    Well maybe you should offer all unemployed under 25s a chance to come off JSA and get some military experience say £500+ a month while at basic training, this will help with cuts on both sides but give someone a job and experience. Then if they manage to pass out they should be rewarded a 4year contract where the first two years is half pay, once again i think most people will take this over JSA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    And their we have it; the problem is identified!"

    It is indeed. c. 450,000 av. vacancies, c. 2.51m unemployed = c. 2m unemployed. *That* is the problem - address it *then* you can get your rocks off shouting at the less fortunate. Until then you are just tilting at windmills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    The nuclear submarines we have are a very useful weapon. When armed with conventional warheads they provide a potent threat. We used them in the libyan conflict.
    In fact in the absence of any aircraft carriers they are one of the few ways that we can project our military.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    Worth remembering that the reason Defence is so over-drawn is the habit of senior Commanders to sponsor "Pet Projects" such as the Aircraft Carrier,

    As a result the RN have paid a huge price in their numbers of ships based upon the wildly over-optimistic hope of the Chief of the Naval Staff that the Govt would fund additional forces to support this vulnerable and expensive White Elephant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    Exactly why does the UK need such a big military anyway is it to follow the US in its interventions everywhere in the world as Tony Blair did in Iraq? More gratuitous wars for glory?

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    520 tightheadprop - Like a lot of people you clearly believe the lies the Gov & media like to spit out against the civil service. You clearly do not work in this sector to be spouting that drivel. If only the "partner" organisation where I am DID increase output, rather they now have more staff on the books than there ever were civil sevants and do less for more. Gold plated pension? PMSL...

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    1) 2010 - GB (Mainly England) was the worlds 6th biggest exporter of arms.
    2) Roughly 400,000 people are in the British armed forces (vast majority are English jobs).
    3) British economy is a failing mess.

    How many of the people in the comments here want to stop selling weapons abroad and/or sack how whole military?

    If we do that England is bankrupt - Just making sure you understand that concept

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    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"

    So you advocate unconstitutional regime change brought about by those charged with upholding the constitution and rule of law. Why do you think that is acceptable rather than waiting until parliament is next dissolved?

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    The fact 2 people could find anything negative about my proposals tells me what chance this country has of a revolution.

    It's not by chance the serf have remained largely ignorant since Charles the 1st.

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    So who exactly is the very large defence budget supporting? The interests of multinational companies and their shareholders, of course. Do you feel safer as a result of what is going on in Afganistan? And who exactly are the ballistic nuclear submarine warheads pointed at these days? So cut Trident, cut defence spending and use the money to stimulate growth, create real jobs and save on welfare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    There is no point having a welfare system as if the cuts keep happening to the military no one will invest in a country which can be invaded over night! By 2015 most of the skilled force will leave as the suggested cuts to their pension is aound 200 000£ over the life of the pension.No point having the equipment if you dont have skilled people to operate and fix them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    497. wide awake
    "...kick the Americans out of places like Lakenheath...Why have we got their military bases on our shores? Did they conquer us? Are they protecting us?"

    You may have heard about a small conflict last century called World War 2? Or maybe the Cold War? Neither of those ring a bell?

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    So we need the army because we can not sustain ourselfs, we are not even trying to though are we ? We could have 200% more wind turbines but people say it spoils the view. I look out of my window and see vast amounts of land that could be growing crops. We throw good fish back into the sea. Invest in this and cut imigration (sorry but it would just not be feasible).

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    533 sandersons. interesting evidence. I'm sure our military is HUGELY wasteful.

    We are not an empire and not that important. We should reduce to world no6 forces in line with our no6 GDP status. Military intervention has been without exception a disaster. It has produced massive numbers of jihadists now able to use training we gave them to kill our own troops. Invaded countries no hell holes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    Its utterly grotesque that as a country we can happily say we will spend tens of billions on Trident nuclear weapons which will never be used yet want to cut boots on the ground.

    What a dysfunctional nation we have become.

    End the obscentity and waste of Trident and keep conventional forces.

    Just do it.


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