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Dannatt: 'Underlying underfunding' of defence

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A former Chief of the Defence Staff has sais that the prime minister was "narrowly" correct about defence funding in his evidence to the Chilcot inquiry on the invasion of Iraq.

But, speaking on the Today programme, Gen Sir Richard Dannatt added that there has been "underlying underfunding" of the UK's defence since the 1997-98 defence review.

His comments come after two other former heads of the armed forces strongly challenged Gordon Brown's evidence. The prime minister, who was chancellor when the war began, said the military had been given everything it asked for.

But Lord Guthrie wrote in the Daily Telegraph that armed forces had been denied a request for more helicopters. And Lord Boyce told the Times Mr Brown had been "disingenuous", but No 10 rejected the criticisms.

Interviewed by Today presenter John Humphrys, Gen Dannatt, who is now an adviser to the Conservative party, said: "What the prime minister yesterday said about funding narrowly and precisely was correct, in so far as under government rules agreed between the Treasury and Ministry of Defence the additional cost of operations has to be funded from the UOR (Urgent Operational Requirements) process.

"That was done, and indeed it would have been an outrage if it hadn't been done.

"What Gordon Brown didn't address yesterday and what Lords Boyce and Guthrie are getting at was the underlying underfunding that goes right back to the outcome of the defence review in 1997-98, when the Treasury didn't fully fund the outcome. It has gone on since then.

And he added that, since 2003 the Treasury has "effectively cut #1 billion" out of the Ministry of Defence budget years-on-year,

Gen Dannatt added that it was this reduction that former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, former MoD permanent Secretary Sir Kevin Tebbit and former Chief of Defence Staff General Lord Walker were complaining of when they gave evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry.

"Nice try, prime minister, to say that we had everything we wanted," he commented. "But that only applies to the very narrow point of the additional costs of operations."

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