Anger over Fox defence cuts claim
Defence Secretary Liam Fox has been accused of shirking responsibility for Government defence cuts as some 350 sailors were told they were being axed from the Royal Navy against their will.
Dr Fox sparked a furious response after he attacked military chiefs and senior officials in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for allowing the defence budget to run out of control.
In an interview with The Guardian, he said that by the final days of Gordon Brown's Labour government there had been a "complete breakdown of trust" between the MoD and the rest of Whitehall.
"I think there had been a loss (of trust) and in the latter part of the Brown government, there was an almost complete breakdown between the MoD and the Treasury and the MoD and No 10," he said.
"I think the MoD consistently dug a hole for itself that it eventually found that it could not climb out of. It is irritating to hear some of those who helped create the problem criticising us when we try to bring in a solution."
However, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said Dr Fox should take responsibility for his actions and not try to blame others for the cuts he was was now imposing on the armed forces.
He said: "Liam Fox is not the victim but the author of his defence review, which has left holes in our equipment programme and is sacking thousands of service personnel, including those who have served on the front line.
"Morale is already low - entering into a blame game will only make matters worse. We need solutions, not accusations. Savings must, of course, be made. However, the scale of cuts imposed on our armed forces is the choice of this Government and this Government alone."
The row broke as 1,020 Royal Navy personnel were told that they were being made redundant - around a third of them compulsorily - as part of the first round of military job losses. Although some 810 sailors applied for redundancy, only 670 of them are being allowed to leave.
Commodore Michael Mansergh, the head of Royal Navy manning at the MoD, acknowledged that it was a "painful process". He told BBC News: "We have looked at the skills that we no longer require. We are doing what we are being asked to do which is to make sure the Navy is the right size for future operations."