Cameron 'to review defence cuts'


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The Government is prepared to rethink planned reductions in military equipment and manpower which were announced as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, it emerged last night.

In a reassessment to cuts previously announced, David Cameron has told the Treasury to give the Ministry of Defence a reprieve on its overspent 2011-12 budget - partly as a consequence of additional spending on operations in Libya.

Ministers are adamant that there is no scope for a formal reopening of the defence review but Mr Cameron and his team are said to be looking at whether the SDSR’s cuts went too far and left Britain inadequately equipped for today’s international security situation.

A senior government source said that the SDSR cuts were the subject of ongoing reassessment. “You don’t just have a review and leave it at that,” he said. “You are always checking you have got what you need.” Mr Cameron has been stung by the political backlash from the SDSR and cuts to the Armed Forces, such as this week’s announcement that thousands of soldiers and seamen will be sacked in September.

This week Nick Harvey, a defence minister, admitted that operations in Libya and Afghanistan had left the Armed Forces “at full stretch”. Britain would “struggle” to cope with further military emergencies, he said. There remains little chance of HMS Ark Royal, Britain’s last aircraft carrier, being saved. Restoring the Royal Navy’s Harrier jump jets is also ruled out as prohibitively expensive.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has said the defence review was “the most difficult thing” the Coalition has done since taking office. Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has spoken openly of his personal dismay at making cuts to the Armed Forces.