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‘WILLIAMSON WINS REPRIEVE OVER MILITARY CUTS’

Defence Secretary has five months to make case for increased funding as MOD announces new review

By Ben Farmer

Daily Telegraph – 24 January 2018

Gavin Williamson has been given five months to make the case for increased military funding and avoid sweeping cuts, after Downing Street announced a new defence review. The Ministry of Defence will now take control of the new review, in a move likely to be seen as a victory after lobbying by the Defence Secretary.

In the coming weeks service chiefs are expected to highlight what they say are rising threats to Britain. General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the General Staff, has warned that his forces are struggling to keep up with Russian advances and on Monday called for public debate about defence. His speech would be followed by a push to "give chiefs their voices back", sources said.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the Chief of the Defence Staff, also used a lecture before Christmas to warn of the danger to UK undersea internet cables from Russian naval activity. Mr Williamson is expected to tour bases to raise the profile of defence.

Downing Street said yesterday that the defence strand of Sir Mark Sedwill's long-awaited security capability review would become a full-blown defence review expected to report back by July. Under Sir Mark's review, which was to provide no new money, defence chiefs had proposed a series of cuts to meet the £20billion of savings planned by the MoD in the next decade. These included reducing the Army by 11,000 and axing as many as seven frigates.

Theresa May and Mr Williamson both rejected the proposals just before Christmas, and the Defence Secretary has said he will lobby the Treasury for up to £2billion extra per year. Downing Street said

"further work is needed in order to modernise defence and deliver better military capability and value for money".

Julian Lewis, the chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said:

"If this means that defence reviews are now once more being carried out by the MoD then this is a welcome victory for the new Defence Secretary.

"However, the more fundamental issue is the inadequacy of the defence budget at barely two per cent of GDP, which is not enough even to meet ongoing threats, previously identified, let alone the new and intensified threats which led to this security and capability review in the first place."

Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, said the decision reflected

"a realisation there is a real problem in defence and they are desperately trying to find time to see what they can do. It is a way of gaining time, let's face it."

But a senior military officer urged caution, warning it was "early days". The officer said:

"We haven't seen any money and it's quite possible this could still all end badly."

Nia Griffith, the shadow defence secretary, said the separate review

"cannot simply be an excuse to kick the difficult decisions facing the defence budget into the long grass. The true test of any defence review will be whether it delivers real investment in our nation's defences and the resources that our armed forces so badly need,"

she said.

"You cannot do security on the cheap, and it is high time the Government recognised this