Labour 'will scrutinise military spending'

Jim Murphy Jim Murphy said military spending would not involve "smoke and mirrors" under a Labour government

Labour has promised to use external auditors to monitor the Ministry of Defence's spending.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the move would "strengthen scrutiny and discipline".

The coalition is cutting about 17,000 armed forces jobs, accusing Labour of leaving a £38bn "black hole" in the MoD's budget while in power,

Mr Murphy pledged to do more to help laid-off veterans find work by guaranteeing job interviews.

He told Labour's annual conference in Manchester: "In opposition we must outline our approach to some of the issues we would face if we were in power.

"That is why the shadow defence team have been clear about the need for defence savings. And that is why with a future Labour government defence spending will be subject to independent expert review.

"We will account for and justify our spending decisions. No smoke and mirrors, no delay in tough decisions and a culture of consequence."

'Affordability'

In total, the MoD wants to cut 29,000 military and 25,000 civilian posts by 2015, to plug the budget gap the government says was created by Labour.

Army numbers are also likely to fall from 101,000 to 82,000 by 2015, under the terms of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, announced in 2010.

In his speech, Mr Murphy said it was necessary to "strengthen scrutiny and discipline" of the MoD's budget to prevent "any future gap between affordability and the order book".

He added that Labour had incorporated the "principles of the Armed Forces Covenant".

"The sacrifice of service will not be a barrier to clear but a badge to be honoured in our movement and no Labour Party member will be disadvantaged as a result of service in the armed forces."

Calling his party "idealists", he added: "We believe in solidarity with those who have served our country. Our forces are central to our national security and to our national character. Let us each make it clear that they are crucial to the future of our party too."

Mr Murphy said: "Our country is brilliant at turning civilians into soldiers, but we are not good enough when the time comes to turning soldiers back into civilians. Finding work is so important and that's why we launched the Veterans' Interview Programme...

"It is simply wrong for anyone who has served in Afghanistan and comes back to a public parade and heroes' welcome to be sacked by their government almost immediately and then be expected to simply join the back of the queue at the local job centre.

"It's unfair and it's wrong. It shouldn't happen and under the next Labour government it won't."

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