Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 13:26 UK

Tories pledge MoD number review

British soldier
The Tories say front-line soldiers need to be the priority - not civil servants

The Tories would look at cutting the number of civil servants at the Ministry of Defence if they win power, defence spokesman Liam Fox has said.

He said a review was needed to ensure "we have the right balance of personnel, both in and out of uniform".

The Tories say there is a civil servant for every two serving armed force members. Last week the Lib Dems pledged to cut 10,000 "desk jobs".

But the government says it has already taken steps to reduce civilian staff.

Shadow defence secretary Dr Fox said it was time for the MoD to "get its house in order" and redirect resources toward the front line, in a speech to a defence conference in London.

"With a £35bn unfunded black hole in equipment programme, at a time when we are asking our armed forces to do more and more, this government has brought us to the brink of a defence crisis of unprecedented scale in modern history," he said.

'Radical' reform

The Conservatives would conduct a capabilities review as well as a strategic defence review to consider how to "stop the trend where the military seems consistently to shrink while the civil service keeps growing".

"Currently, there is one civilian for every two armed forces personnel in the Ministry of Defence. In other words the total of civilians in the MoD is larger than the Royal Navy and the RAF combined," he said.

We have taken steps to reduce the civilian workforce wherever we can without putting troops at risk
Bill Rammell
Armed forces minister

"We need to do a proper capability review which looks at all aspects of manning and force structure to ensure that we have the right balance of personnel - both in and out of uniform."

BBC political correspondent Carole Walker said Dr Fox had signalled that both numbers of civil servants and military top brass could be reduced.

The party also promises a "radical root and branch reform" of the MoD's procurement process to improve the purchase and delivery of equipment for the armed forces.

The party says the 28,000 staff working on procurement alone almost match the size of the 34,000-strong Royal Navy.

The party has already promised a strategic defence review to assess the shape of armed forces needed for future military threats.

But armed forces minister Bill Rammell said some of the Conservative proposals were "misguided" and the government was already implementing reforms to the MoD's staffing levels.

He said: "We have taken steps to reduce the civilian workforce wherever we can without putting troops at risk.

"Over the last four years we have reduced the number of civil servants from 109,000 to 85,730."

Mr Rammell said ministers had committed to a strategic defence review early in the next Parliament which would examine better ways of military procurement.

Last week Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg called for a £6,000 pay rise for entry level privates in the Army and their equivalents in other armed services, in addition to lower rises for other ranks.

The party said the money could be found from within the MoD's existing budget, and said it was "ridiculous" to employ one desk-based person for every two serving members of personnel.

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