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PM defends military cash decisions

David Cameron has hit back over defence cuts fears raised by military top brass, insisting that Britain's forces are among the best-funded in the world.

The Prime Minister said "difficult decisions" are being taken under the coalition's austerity programme and warned that no department is immune from making savings.

Chief of the General Staff General Sir Peter Wall said any gap between military resources and planned capabilities caused by spending cuts "could become quite dangerous, quite quickly". He suggested that imposing further efficiencies while the impact of previous deep spending cuts on the armed forces are still being absorbed would be "very disruptive".

Speaking at a press conference in No 10's rose garden, Mr Cameron insisted that the Government had made "very clear commitments" for the future to the armed forces and would not make any further cuts to numbers.

He said: "We have had to make difficult decisions on defence but difficult decisions that have left us with the fourth largest defence budget of any country anywhere in the world and left us with a situation where we are going to have brand new aircraft carriers, brand new hunter-killer submarines, brand new destroyers, a fleet of A400M transport planes of an extraordinarily high quality."

"We are not going to be making further cuts to the numbers of our Army, Navy or Air Force," he added. "They know what they have available and I think we can be very proud of the job that they do. But no department can be excluded from being efficient, from saving money, from making sure we get the best possible value for every pound that we take from the taxpayers and spend.

"But our taxpayers and our country can be secure in the knowledge that we have the fourth largest budget in the world and we have some of the finest armed forces in the world and while I'm Prime Minister that is the way it will always stay."

The Ministry of Defence is one of the largest departments yet to finalise its settlement with the Treasury ahead of the 2015/16 spending round.

Defence has some protection in the June 26 review, with a guaranteed 1% increase in equipment budgets from 2015, but Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has still been asked to find a 5% cut in other spending.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said cuts would not necessarily fall on the areas "that Peter Wall and I are both concerned about". But the Liberal Democrat also warned that there was room for savings to be made in a department that has "more horses than tanks". 10)


From Belfast Telegraph