Brown did slash MOD funds

John A Silkstone

Mi General
MI.Net Member
Jul 11, 2004
Gordon Brown demanded immediate and deep cuts to military spending only six months after the invasion of Iraq, a letter seen by The Times reveals.

Then the Chancellor, Mr Brown wrote to Tony Blair on September 26, 2003, forbidding the Ministry of Defence from switching resources to the front line. His guillotine forced defence chiefs to slash £800 million from their budgets, including future spending on helicopters, which they claim is hampering operations in Afghanistan. A bitter dispute over Mr Brown’s record on defence funding overshadowed yesterday’s launch of government proposals on the future of the military.

Armed Forces chiefs issued a stark warning that Britain risks losing the ability to fight overseas, to the detriment of its world power status. In a bleak assessment of the pressures on the military, they stated in the Government’s Green Paper: “We cannot proceed with all the activities and programmes we currently aspire to, while simultaneously supporting our current operations, and investing in the new capabilities we need.”

The report warned that the Strategic Defence Review, which will follow the general election, “must be able to drive radical change” within the Forces.Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, even cast doubt on whether the Army, Royal Navy and RAF would exist as separate entities in ten years.

David Cameron seized on evidence yesterday to the Iraq inquiry from Sir Kevin Tebbit, the MoD’s top civil servant during the war, that Mr Brown “arbitrarily” ordered cuts. He said he was only the latest witness to show that Mr Brown’s decisions meant troops were “not equipped properly when they were sent into harm’s way”.

In angry exchanges in Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Brown insisted that defence spending had “risen in every year” he was Chancellor.

Mr Brown is certain to be questioned about his decision to rein back spending when he gives evidence to the inquiry later this month.

The Green Paper posed questions about whether the public is prepared to pay for Britain to remain a power with global reach: “We must determine the global role we wish to play, the relative role of the Armed Forces and the resources we are willing to dedicate to them.” The 52-page document reveals an increasingly fractured and unpredictable world in which “cluttered” wars will see “hard and dangerous combat” in urban areas, coastal waters and low airspace.

It predicted that British troops can expect to see casualty rates that “increase markedly” as developing areas of the world close the gap on the West’s technological advantages.

Service chiefs are expected to argue for a new focus on alliance building, particularly in Nato and with the US, to compensate for the rising costs of defence. Britain is expected to co-operate with France, the only other large military power in the EU.

The Green Paper is frequently self-critical, acknowledging that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced a fundamental rethink of the way the Army is configured.

Professor Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute, welcomed the report: “The paper is a realistic take on the situation we are going to find ourselves in. We haven’t had these sort of big strategic choices since the early 1930s.”