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Lord Guthrie: Army should take 'lion's share' of budget

Lord Guthrie

A former Chief of the Defence Staff has called for a "ruthless" prioritisation of defence spending, under which "the lion's share of the budget", should go to the army.

Interviewed on the Today programme, Lord Guthrie, who was head of the army between 1994 and 1997, argued that land operations "are the most likely thing to happen" in the future and that the army, not the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force, should become the focus of defence spending.

Lord Guthrie questioned the proposed £20bn upgrade of the Trident nuclear deterrent, adding "if we do upgrade it, I'd like to find a cheaper option".

British troops in action in Afghanistan
The army is now the 'senior service', according to Lord Guthrie

But he did concede that he would not be happy seeing a conference table discussing nuclear non-proliferation "which had on it North Korea, Iran, various other countries".

He dismissed calls for two new aircraft carriers for the navy, saying "we can't just go for things which are are nice to have. We actually need a larger fleet. But one way you won't get a large fleet is if you have aircraft carriers.

"What we need are smaller, faster ships, ships to keep the sea lanes open."

And he added that he believed that Gordon Brown was "unsympathetic to defence" particularly when he was Chancellor, but that equipment personal kit of people in Afghanistan, for instance, is better than it ever has been. But, goodness me, it's taken some time to get there".

Lord Guthrie also denied that he, and other former senior officers who had criticised government defence policy, were Conservative supporters.

"I certainly am a crossbencher and quite prepared to criticise anyone", he said, adding that "it was a great mistake" that Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, another former Chief of the Defence Staff, should have become a Conservative Party adviser. "I do not believe that serving officers should criticise publicly", he said.

All three major political parties have pledged to conduct a strategic defence review if they win the forthcoming general election.




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Today: Thursday 11th March
Thursday, 11 March 2010, 07:37 GMT |  Today

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