Osborne attacks Labour over 'Cold War' weaponry

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Chancellor George Osborne launched a searing attack on Labour today for leaving Britain's armed forces dangerously outdated.

As Tory members gathered in Birmingham for the party's first conference since it entered coalition, Mr Osborne accused the previous government of spending billions of pounds on weapons and equipment only suitable for the Cold War era.



He also said the defence budget left by the previous government was "the most chaotic, the most disorganised, the most overcommitted."



The chancellor told the Daily Telegraph: "We are going to have a bunch of kit that makes us extremely well prepared to fight the Russians on the north German plain. That's not a war we are likely to face.



But Mr Osborne admitted there was not much the coalition could do about the problems. "We are bound into contracts and that's just a fact of life," he added.



It emerged this week that Defence Secretary Liam Fox had written privately to Prime Minister David Cameron warning that "draconian" cuts demanded by the Treasury will have "grave consequences".



Mr Osborne admitted he was "not thrilled" to learn of Dr Fox's letter, and supported Mr Cameron's insistence that the Army and the operation in Afghanistan must take priority in the defence budget.



By contrast, Dr Fox is believed to want to make significant cuts in Army manpower, and focus resources on the Navy and RAF.



The chancellor will deliver the coalition government's Comprehensive Spending Review later this month.



Five departments - The Treasury, Cabinet Office, Foreign Office, Environment and Communities - have already settled their budgets.



Along with defence, the welfare budget has been contentious.



Mr Osborne admitted he had a "bust up" with work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith earlier this summer about how to tackle the mammoth welfare bill.



He said: "We've had some good robust discussion. But people will be impressed by the package we have jointly agreed and robust discussions have come to a good robust conclusion."



Mr Cameron is due to arrive in Birmingham this evening, before the real business of conference gets under way tomorrow.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "This public squabbling is embarrassing but more to the point it gets in the way of a coherent outcome to the defence review.



"We need to get back to first principles. What should be our foreign policy objectives, what military capabilities do we need to meet them and how much will it cost?



"It is far better to get it right than to get it quick."



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