Col Bob Stewart: Defence chiefs ‘should resign over Army cuts’

Col Stewart is angry at a refusal to commit to a Nato defence spending target

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Indy Politics

Britain’s military chiefs were urged by a senior Conservative MP yesterday to resign in protest over cuts to the defence budget.

Col Bob Stewart, a former commander of UN forces in Bosnia, said he was considering resigning as an MP because he was so angry about the continuing squeeze on military spending. The size of the Army is set to be cut from 100,000 to 82,000 by 2020 and David Cameron has angered Tory MPs by refusing to commit to the Nato target that nations should spend two per cent of GDP on defence.

Col Stewart, a member of the Commons defence select committee, said the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Sir Nick Houghton, his deputy, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, and the three chiefs of the services should resign. “Why are the Joint Chiefs of Staff not tendering their resignations? My God, that would make a very powerful message,” he told the UK Defence Association campaign group.

Asked later on LBC Radio if he would take the advice he was giving to the generals, Col Stewart said: “I’m thinking about it, to be honest.”

Challenged over whether he would quit from the select committee or his Commons seat, he said: “I’ve considered both actually.”

Col Stewart, the MP for Beckenham in Kent, added: “I think the defence of our country is the first duty of government and the first duty of politicians.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, a former head of the RAF, told the association that the service chiefs could face a “very, very difficult decision” if they face cutbacks after the general election in May.

He warned they could not carry on pretending they had the resources they needed. Asked if they should tender their resignations if they were ordered to make further cuts, Sir Michael said: “Yes”.

He went on: “We know the chiefs have made their views known to the Defence Secretary. That is their preferred route.

“But you cannot continue down this route and pretend you are capable of doing all the things the government asks you to do.”