‘DEFENCE COMMITTEE CHIEF BLAMES HAMMOND FOR CUTS’

By Edward Malnick, Whitehall Editor

Sunday Telegraph  — 21 January 2018

Philip Hammond has opened the door to cuts to the Armed Forces because he does not believe "there are enough votes in defence", a senior Conservative has suggested. Julian Lewis, the chairman of the Commons defence committee, warned the Government should be paying an "insurance premium" during peacetime in order to "call in the policy" in the event of a conflict.

Speaking amid an ongoing row between Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, and Mr Hammond, over a shortfall in the defence budget, Mr Lewis urged the Chancellor to think of the "next generation" rather than the "next election".

His intervention came as a Whitehall source separately claimed that the scale of Mr Williamson's challenge was particularly great because Sir Michael Fallon, his predecessor, had failed to stand up for the Ministry of Defence in talks with No 10 and the Treasury.

"Michael Fallon did a disservice to the Ministry of Defence in hiding the scale of the financial challenges rather than beating down Number 10's door as other Cabinet members did, including Amber Rudd in the Home Office for policing,"

the source said.

Mr Williamson is understood to have won more time as he tries to persuade the Treasury that defence needs up to £2billion a year, amid a wider Whitehall security review expected to report imminently.

But Mr Lewis told the Sunday Telegraph:

"People in the Treasury are insufficiently persuaded that there are enough votes in defence to justify taking away money from other areas even though the Government in power perpetually mouths the slogan 'Defence is the first priority of government'. It is not being treated as the first priority of Government. Defence is our national insurance policy, and it is time for the Treasury to pay the premiums."

He added:

"It is often said that the difference between a politician and a statesman is that the politician thinks of the next election and the statesman thinks of the next generation."

A Treasury source said:

"Philip is a huge advocate of the Armed Forces ... so I'm certain he also understands the pressures."