Friday, 25 March 2011

Why the Government needs to re-think its cuts to the defence budget.

This week I wrote for Total Politics on why there is a need for an urgent re-think on the Government's cuts to the defence budget. You can read my article below:

Time to re-think the SDSR by Graham Jones / 25 Mar 2011

Graham Jones MP calls for the government to rethink defence cuts and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR)

Following the recent developments in the Middle east and the subsequent imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, David Cameron is finding himself under increasing pressure this week to rethink the cuts to the UK’s defence budget following claims that decisions such as the scrapping of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the Harrier Jump Jet fleet is undermining the UK’s ability to mount military operations.

The government is cutting 5000 personnel from the Royal Air Force by 2015 and an additional 5000 from Navy personnel. There has also been heavy criticism over the decision to reduce the number of all RAF trainee pilots by a quarter.

Last month former Army and Navy chiefs wrote to the prime minister calling for him to urgently rethink the cuts that were previously laid out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in October of last year.

The SDSR gave an assurance that operations in Afghanistan remain a priority until 2015 and that resources and capabilities required to meet the demands of that campaign are protected. However now that we have seen our commitments in the Middle-East grow substantially in the space of a few weeks concern is growing that our already stretched military resources will be put under undue strain raising further concern that the country may be unable to respond quickly and effectively when it needs to.

The government noted itself in the SDSR that the nature of warfare in 2020 and beyond is becoming increasingly uncertain and that the UK needs to maintain its capabilities to allow us to react to the demands of a changing strategic environment. However the government cannot deny that while resources are being cut, our military are being expected to do more.

Labour’s shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said that rapid developments in the Middle East meant that the government’s SDSR was already looking out of date.

We simply cannot afford to underestimate the importance of our defence industry whose prime responsibility is to provide our armed forces with the support and equipment that they need, when and where they need it.

Equally we still cannot ignore the vital contribution that the UK defence industry makes to the British economy or indeed the wider manufacturing industry. The defence industry is a key contributor in manufacturing at a time when the government has said that it wants growth and export led recovery.

Under this growing pressure Cameron must pay heed to the calls for a rethink on his government’s cuts to defence.