UK Politics

Defence review under way says Michael Fallon

British soldier in Afghanistan

The government hopes to conclude its latest strategic defence and security review by the end of the year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.

Addressing MPs in Parliament, Mr Fallon said the process was under way.

The 2010 review was criticised by many for failing to anticipate uprisings and subsequent conflicts in the Middle East and the growing challenge from Russia.

Mr Fallon told MPs many of the 2010 review's findings "still held good" but future threats would be addressed.

The review comes at a time when the government is under pressure from many of its backbenchers, and the US, to continue to meet the Nato target of spending 2% of its national output on defence.

Speaking at Defence Questions in the House of Commons, Mr Fallon said the review would be led by the Cabinet Office and he expected it to be completed by the end of 2015.

'Alarmed'

While the process would "aligned" with the ongoing review of government spending between 2016 and 2020, he rejected claims that it would be heavily influenced by the Conservatives' stated objective of eliminating the annual £90bn budget deficit by 2017-8.

The Ministry of Defence is already having to cut £500m from its budget this year, having already experienced substantial cuts in funding since 2010 which will ultimately see regular army numbers fall from more than 100,000 to 82,000.

But Mr Fallon insisted this year's cuts would not affect current operations, manpower numbers nor the Nato spending commitment.

"Let me be very clear," he said. "This is a strategic defence review, not a Treasury-led review, a review across the whole of government to assess the threats to the country and the future threats that may emerge to our country, the capabilities needed to address those threats and, of course, the resources we need to finance those capabilities."

He added: "The strategic defence review we have embarked upon will be properly aligned with the spending review because defence to be deliverable has to be affordable."

Former defence minister Sir Gerald Ainsworth said the review needed to be predicated on the growing threats facing the UK not the resources that were available for defence.

"We need to establish the security, the strategic prospects for the UK in a very dangerous world. I, amongst others, are extremely alarmed at another Treasury-driven review when we face a very much more dangerous world than we did in 2010."

Labour said the review process was shrouded in secrecy and urged a "wide-ranging public debate and discussion" on existing capability gaps while the SNP said any review had to consider the future of the Trident nuclear weapons system to be credible.

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