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PM blamed for holding back cash for troops

Gordon Brown withheld funds demanded by the armed forces in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, it was revealed yesterday.

Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary at the time of the Iraq war, told the Chilcot inquiry that the Ministry of Defence had “asked for significantly more money than we eventually received” from the Treasury in July 2002, less than a year before the invasion.

Mr Hoon, who was behind last month's putsch against the Prime Minister's leadership, added that spending cuts imposed on the military by Mr Brown, had led to the shortage of helicopters experienced by British troops operating in Afghanistan.

Tony Blair was also left with new questions to answer as Mr Hoon revealed that the former Prime Minister had held him back from ordering crucial equipment.

He said Mr Blair feared that the secret military planning would become public if orders were placed too early. Delays meant that troops were hindered by shortages of body armour, boots and desert uniforms.

In his evidence to the Iraq inquiry, Mr Hoon said that accounting changes introduced by Mr Brown six months after the invasion of Iraq, had led to “difficult” spending cuts and a budget under “severe constraint”. As a result, spending on helicopters was cut.

Troops in Afghanistan have had to rely on lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers, putting them at greater risk from roadside bombs.

“Had that budget been spent in the way that we thought we should spend it, then those helicopters would probably be coming into service any time now,” Mr Hoon said.

Problems arose over funding the British operations in Iraq as the Treasury quibbled over providing the money needed for maintaining some new equipment and training troops to use it.

“Once you acquire a piece of equipment it has to be supported and maintained — there has to be training,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph