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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee