PM 'faces tough defence decision'
David Cameron must decide whether he wants to be remembered as "a Chamberlain or a Churchill", a defence pressure group has said as it issued a direct appeal to the Prime Minister for the Armed Forces to be spared from cuts.
The UK National Defence Association (UKNDA) urged Mr Cameron not to "take risks with the nation's security" by cutting the military budget in next month's spending review.
Chancellor George Osborne has demanded savings of between 10% and 20% to the £37 billion budget of the Ministry of Defence, which is currently undertaking the first strategic review of the UK's defence needs for more than a decade. With the MoD being required to fund the estimated £20 billion cost of updating the UK's Trident nuclear deterrent, there is speculation that orders for RAF fast jets and Royal Navy aircraft carriers may be cancelled or delayed and manpower across the armed forces scaled back.
The report acknowledged there was "considerable scope" for efficiency savings at the MoD, but said any money saved should be ploughed back into the armed forces.
The Government should recognise that "defence is different" and treat it more generously than other spending departments, said the UKNDA.
Drawing a contrast between the PM who appeased Hitler and the one who defeated him, the association asked: "Does the Prime Minister wish to be remembered as a Chamberlain or a Churchill?"
In a foreword to the report, Conservative former shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin urged the Treasury not to "sacrifice the defence budget to pay for the previous government's wasteful spending elsewhere".
The report's authors - Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, Air Commodore Andrew Lambert and Allen Sykes - warned decisions on armed forces funding should not be rushed through without proper consultation or examination of the consequences.
"Capital items take up to 15 years to design and build, but have an effective life of 30 years or more," they said. "Hasty cutting of major defence programmes will create gaps in our capabilities that are irreversible."
A previous "hasty and ill-considered" defence review under Margaret Thatcher's government had "precipitated" the Falklands War, they claimed.