The armed forces were forced to cut major spending plans for helicopters, warships and spy planes after Gordon Brown “guillotined” the funds handed to the military, the Iraq inquiry has heard.
The Prime Minister was forced to answer damaging questions in the Commons today about the funding he provided for British troops during his tenure a the Treasury after Sir Kevin Tebbit, formerly the head civil servant at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), said Mr Brown had ordered “arbitrary” cuts.
Sir Kevin said that while resources were saved for Iraq, longer term operations may have suffered. British troops in Afghanistan have been put at greater risk from road-side bombs because of a lack of helicopters. He said that there was a “crisis period” for the MoD when Mr Brown cut spending just six months after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. He added that he had to carry out an “across-the-board major savings exercise” as a result.
“I was running essentially a crisis budget rather than one with sufficient resources to be able to plan as coherently, as well for the long term, as we would have liked,” he said. “By the summer of 2003 the Treasury felt that we were using far too much cash. And in September 2003, the chancellor of the day instituted a complete guillotine on our settlement.”
Confronted with the allegations at Prime Ministers Questions, Mr Brown denied the claims. “Not only did we prepare the army, navy and air forces with proper funding, but we also funded every urgent operational requirement that was made,” he said. David Cameron accused him of “ignoring the welfare” of the armed forces.
Mr Brown is due to appear at the Iraq inquiry at the end of the month after revealing he was happy to give evidence before the next election, expected in May.