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Gordon Brown: Cuts were needed to balance the books

Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday defended his decision to curb defence spending after the Iraq invasion.

He told the Chilcot Inquiry that the move was necessary to prevent public finances spiralling out of control.

But he insisted he provided money every time defence chiefs asked for new equipment.

Mr Brown said paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — which have cost Britain about £18bn in total — did not result in cuts to other services.

But he acknowledged: “It's a very sizeable sum of money.”

In 2002, the Ministry of Defence used new Whitehall accounting rules to claim it had achieved efficiency savings of £1.3bn which it had intended to spend on new equipment.

But Mr Brown said there was no proof that the savings had been achieved. “The Ministry of Defence were planning to spend 9% additional cash that year. They had been allocated 3.6%. If we had every department doing what the Ministry of Defence was doing, we would have had the extra cost of £12bn which would be the equivalent of raising income tax by 3p in the pound,” he said.

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