Ex-min­is­ter leads fight to stop de­fence cuts

The Sunday Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - TIM ROSS Se­nior Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

A CABI­NET min­is­ter sacked by David Cameron will lead a new battle to stop fur­ther cuts to the Armed Forces this week, amid warn­ings that Bri­tain will be un­able to de­fend it­self if fund­ing falls again.

Owen Pater­son, who is seen as the stan­dard-bearer for the Tory Right-wing, will use a speech in Amer­ica to ac­cuse the gov­ern­ment of “suc­cumb­ing to temp­ta­tion” by out­sourc­ing na­tional de­fence to the Euro­pean Union and Nato.

At a time when Vladimir Putin is threat­en­ing Europe, and Is­lamist ter­ror­ists are en­gaged in “bar­baric slaugh­ter” in the Mid­dle East, the Gov­ern­ment must “pro­vide the nec­es­sary funds” to de­fend Bri­tish cit­i­zens, he will say.

He will also warn that this ap­proach risks dam­ag­ing the “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” with the United States, ar­gu­ing: “To­day Bri­tain is not hold­ing up its part of the de­fence bar­gain.”

Last night, Michael Fal­lon, the De­fence Sec­re­tary, sought to quell the re­volt over the de­fence bud­get, in­sist­ing that the Forces will get the funds they need. He

added that the Prime Min­is­ter had promised not to cut the num­ber of full-time regular mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

The in­ter­ven­tion from Mr Pater­son, who served as both North­ern Ire­land and en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary be­fore be­ing sacked in the last reshuf­fle, will reignite the row over Tory plans for de­fence in the runup to May’s gen­eral elec­tion.

Mr Pater­son will set out his con­cerns in a speech to the Mar­garet Thatcher Cen­ter for Free­dom in Wash­ing­ton. He will praise Amer­ica for spend­ing 4 per cent of its na­tional bud­get on de­fence.

By con­trast Bri­tain is let­ting the transat­lantic al­liance down, he will say.

Scores of Tory MPs, and se­nior com­man­ders, are pri­vately dis­mayed that the party has failed to rule out fur­ther cuts to de­fence. In par­tic­u­lar, they fear the Con­ser­va­tives will fail to meet Nato’s tar­get of spend­ing 2 per cent of GDP on de­fence in fu­ture years.

Last night, Ad­mi­ral Lord West, the Falk­lands War vet- eran, said he was deeply wor­ried about Bri­tain’s fu­ture abil­ity to de­fend it­self against ag­gres­sion from Rus­sia af­ter in­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts said fund­ing could fall to 1.4 per cent by 2020.

He will sin­gle out Rus­sia as a par­tic­u­larly grave threat.

“Putin’s econ­omy is now on a war foot­ing. He is spend­ing 42 per cent more on nu­clear weapons, spend­ing more on de­fence equip­ment, yet the econ­omy is a bas­ket case.

“If I were still chief of de­fence in­tel­li­gence I would be telling the MoD that Rus­sia thinks there might be a war within five years.”

The Prime Min­is­ter has tried to calm the row by as­sur­ing crit­ics he does not want to see any fur­ther re­duc­tions in the num­bers of full-time, or “regular” ser­vice per­son­nel.

Un­der Coali­tion cuts, the Army is be­ing re­duced from 102,000 to 82,000, while an ad­di­tional 30,000 re­servists are be­ing re­cruited. But Mr Fal­lon told The Sun

day Tele­graph that the Tories were com­mit­ted to de­fence. “It is an ab­so­lute prom­ise: the Armed Forces will get the re­sources and equip­ment they need and the reg­u­lars will not be cut fur­ther. We are spend­ing 2 per cent at the mo­ment. We are go­ing to be spend­ing 2 per cent again next year.”

2pc Nato tar­get for pro­por­tion of

bud­get spent on de­fence

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