British defence cuts to be kept under 10 percent: BBC

16th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Ministry of Defence will only face cuts of under 10 percent in the government's punishing spending review next week, compared to 25 percent for many other departments, the BBC reported Saturday.

Finance Minister George Osborne had told the MoD to prepare cuts of at least 10 percent despite strong resistance from Defence Secretary Liam Fox and military chiefs.

But Prime Minister David Cameron intervened in the row and the MoD is now likely to face cuts of between seven and eight percent, the BBC said, adding there would be no substantial cuts in army personnel numbers.

Britain will announce full details of the cuts in a strategic defence review being unveiled Tuesday, which will outline a long-term vision for the military.

That comes the day before an overall spending review Wednesday which Cameron has said will reveal details of cuts of up to 25 percent in most departments.

But there has been particular controversy over reductions to the defence budget.

Britain currently has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, the second largest contingent after the United States but Cameron has indicated they will be withdrawn from combat by 2015 in a process which may start next year.

The premier's reported intervention came after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the BBC Thursday she was worried that sharp spending cuts could damage the NATO military alliance.

The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday that the new professional head of the British Army, General Peter Wall, had warned Cameron that operations in Afghanistan could be undermined by cuts in army numbers and training.

Wall plus Chief of the Defence Staff Jock Stirrup, the Navy's head Admiral Mark Stanhope and Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Stephen Dalton are all concerned about the potential impact of cuts.

Reports suggest that areas of defence expenditure under threat from the cuts include RAF bases, Harrier jets and navy frigates, although two promised new Royal Navy aircraft carriers will be delivered.

© 2010 AFP

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