Campbell calls for urgent rise in defence spending

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Indy Politics

Liberal Democrats called yesterday for extra defence spending to cope with Britain's military commitments as Washington and London prepare for their war on terrorism.

Menzies Campbell, the party's foreign affairs spokesman, said the armed forces could not continue worldwide operations without increases in military budgets. He told the party's annual conference: "We shall find it difficult to deal with turbulence abroad if the armed forces are facing financial turbulence at home."

He said: "No political party campaigned in the general election on the footing of increasing defence spending. And yet every party wants the armed forces to do more, to be better equipped, better manned, to make a better contribution to our foreign policy objectives."

He pointed to Britain's role in peace-keeping and humanitarian operations, such as helping to decommission arms in Macedonia. He said: "I simply do not believe that we can do all this on the existing defence budget." And he repeated Liberal Democrat calls for America to back the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and called for the United Nations to have a role in the worldwide war on terrorism.

Simon Hughes, the party's home affairs spokesman, said curbs on civil rights would not be tolerated unless they produced clear benefits in the fight against terror. "This is the time to stand by the Human Rights Act and the European Human Rights Convention; not to talk of walking away from them."