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'MPs ELECT CRITIC OF MILITARY CUTS TO KEY UK DEFENCE ROLE' [EXTRACT]

By Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent

Financial Times Online – 18 June 2015

Tory MP Julian Lewis, a fierce critic of his party’s record on defence spending, has been elected as chair of the Commons defence select committee, giving him a prominent platform from which to oppose further spending cuts.

Mr Lewis, who replaces Rory Stewart – who has become a junior environment minister – recently warned that the Tory leadership had left the UK’s capabilities “enfeebled”. He has joined the ranks of politicians calling for the government to make a firm commitment to spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence – a NATO pledge.

The Treasury has promised to ring-fence the equipment budget of the Ministry of Defence. But it has been ordered to find £500m of savings in this year alone from other spending areas. Whitehall officials believe that defence spending will be the most contentious element of the spending review in the autumn given hostility to cuts from large numbers of Tory MPs.

Mr Lewis was picked for his new post under a system of secret ballots for Select Committees, brought in by the Coalition in 2010. He beat Richard Benyon and Bob Stewart to the role …