Defence Secretary Philip Hammond warns David Cameron to cut the welfare budget, not defence spending

 

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has warned he will resist further cuts to the armed forces in Chancellor George Osborne's forthcoming spending review.

After No 10 warned publicly last month that the military would not be immune from further financial retrenchment, Mr Hammond made clear that he would resist anything more than modest “efficiency savings”.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said other Conservative Cabinet ministers believed that the greatest burden of any cuts should fall on the welfare budget.

There was, he said, a “body of opinion within Cabinet who believes that we have to look at the welfare budget again”, and that “we should be seeing welfare spending falling” as a result of rising employment levels.

He said the “first priority” for the Government should be “defending the country and maintaining law and order” and that further defence cuts were not possible while meeting stated security objectives.

“I shall go into the spending review fighting the case for the defence budget on the basis that we have made very large cuts to defence, we've done that with the collaboration and co-operation of the military,” he said.

“Any further reduction in the defence budget would fall on the level of activity that we were able to carry out - the idea that expensively bought equipment may not be able to be used, expensively employed troops may not be able to be exercised and trained as regularly as they need to be.

“I am not going into the spending review offering any further reductions in personnel.”

Mr Hammond's comments are likely to be welcomed by Tory backbenchers who have been calling for a return to a core Conservative values in the wake of the party's trouncing in the Eastleigh by-election.

However they will also heighten tensions within the coalition, with the Liberal Democrats resisting a further squeeze on welfare spending.

It was being made clear Mr Hammond's comments were aimed particularly at the Lib Dems following remarks by senior Lib Dem ministers indicating that they believed welfare spending should be protected over defence.

A Whitehall source said: “There is a real concern that the Lib Dems wants to protect the benefits culture at the expense of the armed forces”.

Former Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Michael Graydon, agreed with Mr Hammond's view.

He told BBC Radio 5: “We have great capability gaps now, which we never had before. For example, we have no maritime patrol aircraft at all, we have no aircraft that can go on carriers - in fact we barely have carriers any longer.

“The army is now at a level, or will be shortly, it has never been that low for 200 years. That must surely worry people.”

Professor Michael Clarke, director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, told BBC Breakfast: “It's all a matter of risk analysis. If you don't think that the Armed Forces will be doing as much in the next five to eight years once Afghanistan is in the rear-view mirror then you might take that risk.”

But he warned: “The Armed Forces have been continuously in operation since 1991 when the Cold War came to an end so it would be a bit optimistic to think that that process which has gone on now for over 20 years would suddenly stop once we withdraw from Afghanistan.”

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hammond said: “We won't be able to make further cuts without eroding military capability.

”Of course I understand the Chancellor's challenge. He has to find additional savings in order to consolidate the public finances as we have to do but we need to look broadly across government at how we are going to do that, not just narrowly at a few departments.“

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “If it would not seem flippant, I would say to Philip Hammond 'welcome to the club'.

“At last a defence secretary has publicly recognised that the long-running drip drip reduction in defence spending has materially eroded capability and seriously restricted the military options open to a British prime minister.

“The truth is that our publicly stated ambitions now significantly exceed our capacity.”

Tory backbencher Mark Pritchard said Mr Hammond could expect strong support from Conservative MPs.

"Defence cuts have gone far enough," he said.

"There will be zero political support from Conservative backbenchers for any additional cuts beyond those already announced in the SDSR.

"The Treasury needs to look elsewhere for additional savings."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Test Lead (C#, Java, HTML, SQL) Kingston Finance

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Access/Teradata Developer, Banking, Bristol £400pd

£375 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Access / Teradata Developer - Banking - Bristol -...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home