Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Thursday, 16 September 2010 17:48 UK

Arbuthnot warns on 'rushed' strategic defence review

The government's review of the role of the UK's armed forces is being rushed, the chairman of the Commons defence select committee has warned.

Tory MP James Arbuthnot said the speed with which the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) was being carried out meant an opportunity had been missed to strengthen public support for the war in Afghanistan.

His comments follow the publication of his committee's report on the review, which warned that planned defence spending cuts were so deep they could jeopardise the armed forces' ability to maintain current military operations.

Opening a Commons debate on the subject on 16 September 2010, Mr Arbuthnot said: "Quite frankly it's a cacophony of anxiety boiled down into 23 pages of a report."

He acknowledged the government was in a "very difficult position" with the SDSR being carried out alongside a review of spending across government.

But he said the SDSR was being completed in less than half the time of the last major review in 1997/98.

He said: "A review that should be based on the identification of the United Kingdom's defence and security needs, and what the threats are to us as a country and to our interests, looks as though it's going to end up being driven by the need for financial cuts and little else."

Shadow defence secretary Bob Ainsworth echoed many of the concerns in the committee's report.

He said: "It has been clear for some time now that the chancellor is firmly in the driving seat, carrying out this review at breakneck speed, potentially sacrificing our long-term strategic priorities to the need to cut costs.

"That is an incredibly short-sighted approach for which the country will pay a heavy price."

But Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said he could not answer questions about specific equipment or force levels, which would be unveiled when the SDSR was published.

He told the Commons: "We are at a crucial stage in the SDSR, and while no final decisions have been made, the tough choices required are now imminent."

Watch part two of the debate here.

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