The former Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Lord West has said that any defence cuts will put Britain on the “road to disaster”.
Baron West of Spithead, who worked as a security advisor to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said the UK was “balanced on a knife edge” as news emerged that the Treasury has asked the Ministry of Defence to find £1bn of cuts by March of next year, the Express reports.
Speaking in the House of Lords where he sits as a Labour peer, Lord West said, “Without an increase in defence spending we are on a road to disaster.
“The Navy and the other military forces will not be able to do what the nation expects of them.”
And he warned that British troops “will become irrelevant in key global decision making” if the Conservatives, who were traditionally seen as the party of strong defences, continue with the planned cuts while ring fencing the international aid budget.
The Conservative Party manifesto for the general election promised that a Conservative government would ‘have the economic strength to maintain our world-class Armed Forces, to uphold our national security and project power globally.’
‘Furthermore, we will continue to ensure that defence policy remains firmly under British national control, maintaining NATO and the transatlantic relationship as the cornerstones of our defence and security policy.’
But Lord West went on the attack over David Cameron’s promise to stick to his promise to spend two per cent of national income on defence – something which NATO guidelines request for their members.
He said the pledge was “strong, positive stuff” but added, “I am not sure that [he] intends to practise what he preaches.”
He claimed that since Mr Cameron took office in 2010 there had been a 9.5 per cent reduction in defence spending, although there had been a £38 billion black hole in the defence budget and the sector had gone 12 years without a Strategic Defence and Security Review.
In March experts warned that further defence cuts would weaken the special relationship the UK has with the US with Sir Michael Graydon, former chief of the Air Staff, telling defence chiefs to resign en masse if they faced a new round of cuts.
“You cannot continue down this route and pretend you are capable of doing all the things the Government asks you to do,” he said.
And in April the former US ambassador to the UN and a leading Republican spokesman on foreign affairs said any further defence cuts would make Britain “far more vulnerable militarily” and send a signal to potential enemies that “there is a diminished will in the West to defend itself”.
John Bolton said slashes to defence expenditure could seriously affect future operations with the US, adding that “The decline in British defence spending is extremely troubling,”
But a Ministry of Defence spokesman said, “We are confident that we will spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence in this financial year.”
And a Treasury spokesman said they were “asking departments to identify options” but there was “no savings target” for the next financial year.