Defence cuts 'threat to UN seat'

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Indy Politics
THE TREASURY has been warned by the Commons Select Committee on Defence that Britain's seat on the UN Security Council could be at risk unless the Government protects defence spending for its peacekeeping role.

The report by the committee, chaired by Sir Nicholas Bonsor, a senior Tory backbench MP, will be seen as a pre-emptive strike against any attempt by the Treasury to cut deeper into the defence Budget as part of the Chancellor's attempt to reduce the pounds 50bn public sector deficit.

Its findings reinforce a weekend defence report by a group of leading Tory backbenchers, including Ian Taylor, MP for Esher, and three other ministerial aides, as part of the in- fighting over public spending.

The committee said Britain should not fear comparison in its defence capabilities with Germany and Japan, which are tipped for the UN seat. But it said there were signs that Germany and Japan were able and willing to participate in the UN peacekeeping role.

The committee argued against earmarking a special unit for peacekeeping duties, but reminded ministers that it had already warned of 'overstretch' facing infantry forces. It also warned that Britain's amphibious intervention capability was 'threadbare'; and that Britain had no airborne surveillance capability equivalent to the US JSTARS, which can identify distant ground targets and force movements.

UK Peacekeeping and intervention forces, Defence Committee, fourth report; HoC paper 188/369 HMSO; pounds 22.80.

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