Armed Forces Overseas: £800m more for military abroad

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown has been asked to come clean about the cost of Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as he announced an extra £800 million for military operations overseas for 2006-07 - but critics immediately claimed that it is not enough, and will have to be topped up later.

"The Ministry of Defence are serial offenders at coming along at the end of the financial year and demanding astounding sums of money," said the Liberal democrat defence spokesman, Nick Harvey. Last year Mr Brown pledged £400 million for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In December, he announced that the figure would double, but even the combined total of £980 million proved there was still a shortfall.

Last month the Ministry of Defence claimed that the real cost of operations would come to more than £1,300 million. Afghanistan is likely to cost more after government announcedan extra 3,300 British troops will be deployed there. This set off a heated debate in the Commons last week with James Arbuthnot, chairman of the all-party Commons Defence committee, warning that ministers were "asking Parliament to take too much on trust" by presenting MPs with these figures, with very little detail about how the money will be spent. There are no official figures for the cost of the Iraq conflict, butthe pressure group the Iraq Analysis Group said £6,440 million has been poured into the 'Special Reserve,' since 2002.

Liam Wren-Lewis, a researcher for the Iraq Analysis Group, said: "The government is providing no serious breakdown of where this money is going, nor any explanation as to why the cost of operations appear to be rising, while spending on aid and reconstruction dwindles. After three years of effectively writing blank cheques for the MOD, it's time that exact details of the Special Reserve allocations were made public, and a clear estimate given for the total cost of the conflict."

* Treasury Budget site

* Chancellor's Statement in full

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