PM stands firm in face of Fox protests

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron is not prepared to retreat from plans to cut Britain’s military budget, despite strong opposition from the defence secretary.

Yesterday’s leaked letter from Liam Fox revealing his view that the proposed cuts currently on the table are “indefensible” has not shifted the prime minister’s position, the Financial Times newspaper reported.

It revealed details from the national security council meeting held earlier this week showing the prime minister’s refusal to consider Dr Fox’s attempts to avoid cuts to the defence budget.

Mr Cameron is thought to be unwilling to consider Dr Fox’s arguments towards a neutral budget settlement, preferring cuts of at least 10% to be imposed on the Ministry of Defence.

Under the terms of Dr Fox’s letter that could mean the cancellation of two aircraft carriers, the scrapping of Britain’s amphibious capabilities and the deletion of the Nimrod MR4 transport aircraft.

No 10 is prepared to consider cuts to the Navy but is unwilling to accept sweeping cuts to the Army’s budget, given the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan, it was reported.

The prime minister’s comments to ITV’s This Morning programme appeared to back the report up.

“Of course there are difficult decisions and of course there will be intense conversations between the Treasury on the one hand and the Ministry of Defence on the other,” he said.

“While our troops are right now at war in Afghanistan risking their lives, they must get every penny-piece of funding and equipment they need and I will make sure that they do.”

Most government departments face budget cuts of at least 25% under the terms of the comprehensive spending review, which will be revealed by chancellor George Osborne on October 20th.

“We have thought very carefully about how to fund our armed forces properly and above all how we structure them for the future,” Mr Cameron added.

“We need to fit them for the dangerous world we live in where you need greater flexibility and a different structure of your armed forces. That is what we are going to get right.”