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1991: UK army spending to be cut

Britain is to reduce the amount it spends on the army by more than a quarter over the next five years, Defence Secretary Tom King has confirmed.

After the spending cuts the service will contain 116,000 soldiers -fewer than outlined in last year's strategy plan, "Options for Change", which sought to save between 10-15% of army costs.

Britain's armed units could be cut by half leaving one division in Germany as part of Nato's rapid response force, and the rest in Britain.

More than one third of infantry could go but the regimental system - under which soldiers make career-long attachments to a single part of the army - will remain unchanged.

Tradition threatened

Speaking in the Commons, Mr King said the cuts would be carried out in a "sensitive and intelligent way," and one which recognised the "tremendous benefits that flow from the deep tradition of the regimental system".

But some regiments are likely to disappear. Intense lobbying is to be expected from military circles as the army decides where to make the cuts.

The Queen is said to have tried to veto any cutbacks to the household cavalry in the Brigade of Guards.

More details of the army's new shape should be announced later this summer in a government white paper on the future of all three fighting services.

In Context
The Conservative Government's decision to reduce money spent on the army was made against a background of long-term cuts in defence spending.

The last Tory administration, in office from 1992 to 1997, made average reductions of 3% a year, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Labour has followed this trend by cutting defence spending by an average of 1.3% a year over the period 1997-2001.

Politicians argued that reductions in the early 1990s were justified because of the reduced threat brought about by the end of the cold war.


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