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 772.

    Steve M-H @ 744
    I reckon my grand father who fought right through WW1 and my great-grandfather who died 3 months before the end of it probably both thought "bloody stupid war" and "what's the point of this". They would perhaps have been astounded that it was repeated 20 years later and that 100 years later some still wanted more money to spend on guns and bombs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    The armed forces should not be cut as they protect Britain from terrorism and other threats. What does need cutting is the amount we pay into the EU and the amount we give to people so they can watch TV all-day!

    Yes I support the welfare state but the people benefiting from from it should not be allowed luxuries such as the latest phone and flat screen TV!

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    Just wait for Argentina to launch another political motivated assault on the Falklands, this is completely stupid, baring in mind the fragility of the world at the moment and the threats we have are all thousands of miles away and need to be attacked or defended there not on UK soil.

    We need more defence spending not less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    This is just scaremongering by Tories so they have a further excuse to cut the welfare budget.

    ''we can't defend the realm and so we must all make sacrifices''

    Bull. Cut the damned defense budget and target the money saved on manufacturing and growth. Or isn't that popular with wealthy tory voters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    Germany only spends about two thirds of the british MoD budget for its defense and about the same or a bit more on welfare. Cutting one or the other is not the solution. You have to cut both! Britain is much poorer than Germany and cannot afford either. It should also avoid further conflicts. Its empire days are over, in fact the UK is diminishing in its importance generally in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    If just useing the word Riot is enough to get my post removed (as I was not promoting having one) then I suspect that the tention is so tangable that even the word is thought to inflammatory to even allow the question "Are we heading towards riots on our streets with these continual attacks on the lower classes" to be asked. I am worried we are heading this way not inciting it .

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    I'd rather guns than welfare. With guns we can take other countries welfare...

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    At some point someone has to make the first move and the first move should be, cut the budget for Trident Missiles. The only ones ever to attempt to set off nuclear weapons are the mad ones and we all know who they are and what sort of capability they have. It makes sense and this will save millions at the very least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    As a member of the government and of the Cabinet surely Hammond should be fighting for spending cuts, not against them?

    Oh I see - Hammond has 2 faces so he can face 2 directions at the same time - very convenient

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    I notice that there is no mention of cuts to the army of civil servants on gold plated salaries and pensions who work for the MOD, Who spend money on all the wrong equipment and services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    The way some people are talking you would think we have no need for a military.
    Just because there appears to be no immediate threat to the British Isles at this moment does not mean there will be none in the future. And of course there are threats now.
    Moreover the army could be needed for threats from within.
    We will not want to be found wanting

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    Our forces (or anyone elses) have had very little impact on the Taliban, when we pull out next year they will become stronger and more powerful than when we went in.
    Cameron, needs the troops back soon so (like thatcher) he can have his little set up war for the falklands and get his name in the history books as a winner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    What is there to defend in the UK?

    fat cat corporate interests.
    politicians - straight to the bunkers.
    banks - profits from 'defence' loans to gov.
    immigrants - wouldn't see for dust.
    foreign owned infrastructure.
    our culture and way of life - already invaded.

    The rest of us - left to cope under an invader's regime or suffer years of 'post-war' austerity from cost of repelling invader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    The MOD and Armed Forces get grossly ripped off in procurement by British companies.

    The Public Sector, in this respect, is massively propping up so-called private sector companies.

    British business attitudes need to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.


    The present procurement system is simply the result of manipulation by both politicians and the industry in concert. The armed forces know they can get the kit they need at cost and in quantity from sources abroad including Russia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    Now we know their in trouble.
    Ministers begging to avoid cuts before the Chancellor sets out his budget.
    My Forces recruitment offfice has moved off the High St to a TA centre.
    The Govts austerity measures crucify all but the rich.
    What do they get for paying less tax than the rest of us?
    More tax cuts which they spend on imported goods.
    Champagen and Caviar and high spec cars -all imports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    Why is anyone surprised at this?

    The same thing happened in the late 1930s. The government (again Tory) cut defence to the bone and then the 'lazy and feckless' working class had to bail them out from 1939 to 1945.

    After all, most of the ruling classes survived WW2 because they never actually went near a battlefield.

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    If instead of Austrian made guns, American aircraft, French lorries, Chinese uniforms etc etc we were to use BRITISH products then we would have people working in the UK, paying tax not claiming benefit and we would be able to afford a military of more than one guy with a gun he has never fired, a rowing boat and a couple of poundland rubber band planes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    Interesting concept, you only think people score others negatively when they tell the truth ?
    How about when they disagree or someone is talking hogwash or perhaps appear uncaring, cruel or vindictive. Don't take the minus ranking to heart it wouldn't be a debate if we all agreed on everything would it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    It's a Tory idea, not a coalition one - the LibDems don't want Trident. Anyway I thought we all agreed to get rid of nuclear weapons - who are we going to bomb?


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