Brown wades into defence cuts debate

By Peter Wozniak

Gordon Brown has lent his voice to calls for the building of two new aircraft carriers to be spared George Osborne’s axe.

The former prime minister claimed in an interview with the BBC that the carrier programme was vital for the future of the UK’s security.

“We have 1,500 people who are serving the country here who are building and assembling parts of the aircraft carriers and they will be essential to the defence of Britain in future years,” he said.

“We’ve got 170 apprentices here who have been taken on specifically for the aircraft carrier and they deserve the right to know that the work that they’re doing, which is of great national importance, is going to continue.”

It is feared the building of the aircraft carriers, at a cost of over £5 billion, will become a victim of the government’s cuts drive.

Mr Brown’s move adds weight to representations already made by Scottish politicians to the defence secretary Liam Fox that cancellation of the carrier projects will have deleterious economic consequences.

The strategic defence and security review (SDSR), due to be completed this month, has so far been largely overshadowed by the spending review being simultaneously thrashed out.

Dr Fox is known, following a leaked letter to the prime minister, to be uncomfortable with the savings he is being asked to make by the Treasury.

With the army committed to operations in Afghanistan, analysts expect that the Royal Navy and RAF could bear the brunt of cuts.