CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

'FIRST SEA LORD IN THREAT TO QUIT OVER CUTS'

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent

Daily Telegraph – 17 February 2007

The First Sea Lord yesterday made veiled threats that he would resign from his post if the Government failed to deliver a Fleet that would be "serious player" on the High Seas. Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said there were "yellow cards and red cards" which he would use to indicate how far officials could go in making savings.

He said an extra £1 billion a year was required if Britain was to remain a top naval power. Admiral Band also indicated that Whitehall knew his "red line" was to ensure two new aircraft carriers were built. If the looming cuts turned the Fleet into "the Belgium navy", he said during lunch with defence journalists, "then I am gone."

A national debate was needed, he said, on the current size of the defence budget if the country wanted to maintain its "insurance policy", as 90 per cent of Britain's goods travelled by sea. It has already been reported that almost half the Fleet will be mothballed under current plans to cut costs.

Admiral Band, who is tipped as the future leader of all three Services, made clear that extra funding was needed if Britain wanted to project its power abroad. The Tories said that the "reckless destruction" of the Fleet by the Government meant that it was inevitable that senior Royal Navy officers would soon be forced to resign.

Julian Lewis, the shadow defence minister, said:

"The fact that the First Sea Lord feels it necessary to speak out in this forthright way, confirms everything we have said about the destruction of the frontline strength of the fleet."

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'FIRST SEA LORD DECLARES WAR ON NAVY CUTS'

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent

Daily Telegraph – 17 February 2007

The First Sea Lord said yesterday that a significant increase in spending was needed if the nation wanted the Royal Navy to remain a "serious player". An increase of more than 30 per cent in the Fleet's day-to-day budget was necessary to pay for better sailors' wages, the running of ships and improved accommodation, said Admiral Sir Jonathon Band.

He also threatened to resign as head of the Navy if the Government failed to agree to pay for two new aircraft carriers it has promised. Looming Whitehall cuts could turn Britain's powerful array of warships into the "Belgian navy and if we do then I am gone," he told defence journalists.

The chiefs of the three Services have made their views firmly known to the Prime Minister and "he is clear what they are", Admiral Band said.

It has been reported that the Navy could face having almost half its fleet of warships permanently moth-balled under the Comprehensive Spending Review that sets government spending for the next four years. Asked what he would want for the Navy from the review, Admiral Band said:

"Give me two carriers and less than a billion a year and I would be off your back tomorrow – a happy boy."

With more than 90 per cent of Britain's goods travelling by sea it was "in the national interest" to keep the Navy powerful enough to protect shipping. To keep the Navy in the big league with America and France, day-to-day spending would need to increase by £1 billion to £4.1 billion.

This was needed for running repairs, fuel, refitting, better pay and improved accommodation. The Admiral also said he wanted the increase to ensure the long term future of the Navy, allowing it to maintain aircraft carriers, a submarine strike force and an amphibious fleet. He said a debate was needed in Britain over the amount of money spent on defence.

"What sort of military does this country want?"

he said.

"We are at a scale now that requires a certain amount of investment."

Having a strong fleet also gave Britain leverage with America. "They are the things that bring us to the operational table with the US. If you get rid of us then we just say over to you France," he said. To remain in that league it needed the two aircraft carriers, estimated to cost £3.6 billion, because there was "no more expressive statement" that Britain was a global power "than to get our four acres of UK mainland anywhere in the world".

While many minds were focused on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan it was important that the Navy was not "disrupted by shorter term issues". The current running costs of £3.1 billion a year was "the equivalent of first class stamp per day for every taxpayer in this country," Admiral Band said.

Julian Lewis, the shadow defence minister, said it was clear some senior Navy officers were close to resigning. He added:

"At the rate the Navy is being destroyed it is only a matter of time, given the number of senior members who find it necessary to speak out, that someone in the Service feels he cannot carry on in his position."