Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Friday, 12 November 2010

Defence review a 'cost-cutting exercise'

The government has been accused of basing the Strategic Defence and Security Defence Review on financial considerations rather than on a coherent military strategy.

During a packed debate in the Lords on 12 November 2010, Labour spokesman Lord Rosser said there was a "very strong impression" that the SDSR was a cost-cutting exercise; a view echoed by crossbencher and former chief of defence staff Admiral Lord Boyce.

The government was under a "self-imposed pressure" to make swift cuts, Lord Rosser said, because of its "dodgy assertions" about the state of the UK economy.

The review, announced by David Cameron in October, included measures to cut military personnel by 17,000, scrap Nimrod spy planes and retire the HMS Ark Royal aircraft carrier leaving Britain without a carrier strike capability until the end of the decade.

Making his maiden speech Labour former Defence Secretary Lord Hutton told peers that concerns about the SDSR were "fully justified".

He said the decision to scrap the Harriers was "a profound mistake" and condemned the loss of Nimrod as an "unacceptable risk", warning the UK would be less able to deal with the threats it faced.

"The idea of aircraft carriers being without aircraft for a decade is not an example, I believe, of a sensible strategy, it undermines the very concept of carrier strike itself."

He went on: "I accept that the government... has tried very maintain a balance of defensive military capabilities, both on land, sea and air. Sadly, I think there are very few people who think they have achieved that objective."

Opening the debate, government defence spokesman Lord Astor of Hever defended the review saying the decisions taken would allow Britain to maintain its strategic influence and provide the capabilities required for the future.

"They guarantee the UK continues to play a proud and active role in shaping a more stable world."

Watch part two of the debate here.


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