Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, today declared himself a member of the so-called “National Union of Ministers” vehemently opposing cuts to their departmental budgets.
Mr Cable admitted he and other ministers in the Cabinet were “defending our turf” against spending cuts due to be implemented by George Osborne after 2015.
His comments came after Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, warned that the Armed Forces could not sustain further cuts and demanded the welfare bill was cut instead.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary is also said have voiced anger that her department was in line for cuts while others were exempt.
Mr Cable told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme that ring-fencing some Government department’s budgets was “not a good approach to public spending in the long run”.
“It’s not a question of just defending our turf,” Mr Cable said. “There is a very strong argument if we’re interested in growth and recovery, for investing a lot more, not less, in skills and science and innovation and our industrial strategy and I’ll make that case in government.”
Mr Cable said he “sympathised” with Mr Hammond’s desire to protect his department from further cuts, but called on the Defence Secretary to scrap the Trident missile programme to make savings.
He said it would be “very difficult” to make any more welfare cuts and instead said the Government should be looking at cutting “elements of universal benefit”. Asked whether he is a member of the “national union of ministers” Mr Cable replied: “I suspect I’ve been fingered as a shop steward in this particular organisation.”
Tim Farron, the president of the Liberal Democrats, attacked Mr Hammond’s demand to cut welfare instead of the Armed Forces saying it was “morally wrong” and “economically stupid”. “That would be a ludicrous thing to do,” he told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “I heard Philip Hammond making those comments and you think at a time like this to think it’s more important to invest money into Trident or something like that, rather than protecting those people who are the least well off in our society – that would be morally wrong as well as just economically stupid.”