Speaking the House of Commons on the 11th January, Defence Sub-Committee Chair Madeleine Moon warned about reductions in military personnel numbers.

Madeleine Moon is a Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Bridgend since the 2005 general election and has held many positions relating to the scrutiny of defence matters.

“When it comes to defence, we have to accept that without the right personnel with the right expertise and in enough numbers, the military cannot function. All the most sophisticated technology imaginable is useless if we do not have the skilled individuals to operate it. The planes cannot fly, the ships cannot sail and the vehicles cannot move without the people with the expertise. In essence, without people there is no military capability, and yet it is the people that we keep cutting.

Following the strategic defence and security review in 2010, there was a restructuring of the Army through a plan dubbed Army 2020, along with Future Reserves 2020 for the Army Reserve.

The plan was refined in 2015. It proposed to reduce the number of regular Army, or full-time, personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 and to increase the rebranded and re-enrolled reserve forces, or part-time personnel, from around 15,000 to 35,000 to make up the shortfall. On paper, that looks great. In April 2017, the regular Army numbered 83,560 personnel and the Army Reserve 29,940. However, we need to dig deeper.”

This comes as Tory backbenchers vowed to join with Labour to try and stop severe cuts to the British armed forces.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Here’s an idea for HMG.

    Rather than constantly salami slicing to even more ridiculous proportions how about cancelling or scaling back juicy lucrative contracts with industry and SOMETIMES buy cheaper kit and keep what mass the military have left.

    I’d almost guarantee that they won’t and will always prioritise the military industrial complex and their profits over the men and women serving this country.

    • The UK defence industry is huge and brings invaluable revenue to the UK Treasury. The country needs to encourage investment in this industry to produce the best quality, and to keep abreast of advanced technology. The MOD is blamed for many issues facing the country’s forces but, I believe has learned lessons from past conflicts, such as the Falklands, Iraq, and Afganistan, when delivering quality (and yes, expensive) equipment. Remember the horrendous fires on Type 21 and 42’s, and where subsequent ships were built with less combustible materials and so on. The same can be said for experience in Iraq, and Afganistan with soft skinned and poorly protected Landrovers and the inevitable creation of heavy and well-protected replacements. In regards to future manning in the forces, unmanned tanks, aircraft, and ships are no longer regarded as fiction, and huge strides are taking place to introduces such systems in the near future. Such a development could help create smaller force numbers, but increase the quality and capability of personnel? As a result, manning may not be so critical in the coming years, and we should be planning for such changes, in terms of feet on the ground. Admittedly, operating unmanned equipment in greater numbers will call for brigades of highly trained and skilled operatives, which may create a new headache for the MOD in its own right?

    • Hi Daneile, “2018 and nothing has changed. Is this the stuff regurgitated from the Times… or…. Where has it come from?

      • Hi Geoffrey. Yes i think so.

        I really think many cuts could be avoided if we went for a balance of quality with quantity rather than always the gold plated options.

        If that means buying some off the shelf kit so be it.

        • Yes, agreed. I see it, you see it, but but there’s a lot of blinkers out there, mostly in the higher echelons. Unless we first make a decision as to what we can do and want to do and then buy accordingly we are never going to get anywhere.

  2. Todays leaks are shameful on this government and the civil service, I am now losing confidence in this government and labour is starting to pile on the pressure.

    So we have a party that does not supposedly support defence becoming the best option for defence, barking mad.

    Conservative party needs to commit to 3% for defence or I am not voting for them again.

  3. This is a joke. This is an absolute joke. Cutting the army to as low as 50,000. Merging the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment. Scrapping NINE(!) warships. What are those clowns at the MOD playing at? What the f**k is £35 Billion being spent on?

    If any of these reported cuts go ahead they might as well just scrap the military all together. At the very least we won’t have to listen to those t**ts from the MOD reading from the pre approved message on how their plans to cut the military to the bone and then snap it in half is ‘Reveiwing options on how to best keep Britian safe’ or whatever the latest excuse is.

    Pardon my language but this has me fuming. The conservatives are meant to be the party of defense but they are effectively dismantling our armed forces. This is what I expected if Jeremy ‘IRA’ Cobryn got into power.

    Just to put this into perspective, if the army is cut to their proposed numbers we’ll have a smaller army than Australia and Canada. That’s not some third world country who has a hundred thousand soldiers that they pay a pittance, these are first world countries that both have half the GDP and population we do.

    And the navy? Well we might as well sell the scrapped ships to Australia and Canada because they’ll have more ships than us as well.

    I woild vote for any party that would stand up for the armed forces but the Tories have been proven to be snakes who claim to stand up for the military whilst stabbing in the back, whilst Labour is led by a man and his cronies who would pop a cork of champagne whenever a British soldier is killed.

    What a joke.

    • DOnt worry about Canada, Not much better off. All that said Australia will be poaching yours guys. Have been doing it for years stealing the best from Canada, US and UK and with plans to add another 4,000 odd personnel we will be needing more. Sorry not sorry 🙂

  4. Now here’s something that confuses me somewhat. Comparing our armed forces to the French, we have a slightly higher defence budget. Yet we have around 100000 less personnel, fewer aircraft, tanks, vehicles, ships, carriers etc. My first thought was trident…. but no apparently the French pay more for their nuclear deterrent. They have similar military capability and arguably a stronger ability to commit an expeditionary force overseas having done so effectively in west Africa.

    How have the French managed to stretch the budget so much further than the UK? Procurement, state of the art kit, facilities, are we paying the debt for drawn out engagements in Iraq/Afghan?

    It would take someone of higher intelligence and more time to fully investigate this and I admit this info was gathered from a rudementry check of a few defence articles but if anyone could enlighten me?

  5. I see the defence cut proposals have been leaked. £20 billion is a lot to save. Even I am amazed at the proposals to reduce the army to 50,000, to reduce frigates and destroyers to 12, to dispense with the assault ships and massively cut helicopters and armoured vehicles. It seems to me that we will have armed forces unsuited for an overseas role which I have no problem with but more dangerously unsuited for a home defence role. The time has come to take another look at the nuclear deterrent and to frankly stop parading around like a world power. Balanced forces comprising a well equipped home defence force and more OPV/ corvette vessels are more suited to this country’s place. But an army of 50,000 meaning a cut back of 28,000 from the current 78,000 is dangerous.

  6. I think these leaked 3 proposals by the top brass are designed to shock those that matter, the new Defence Secretary and also the PM, and reportedly they have and have been rejected.

  7. I note that MP,s .join to prevent “Severe Cuts” , not “any cuts” , So be prepared for some cuts which will satisfy the mealy mouthed.

  8. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case of leak major cuts to make the real cuts look minor when they are announced. What concerns me is the sheer size of the leaked cuts, some pretty major cuts would look tiny in comparison.

    • p.s. the French defence budget is around the same as ours, but they have significantly more troops. I wonder where the money is going. Based on what we know about the strengths of the French unions and appetite to strike over work conditions etc, I doubt the difference really comes down to BAe, and I suspect the French version of the MOD is equally bruecatic and inefficient.

      • Are salary levels comparable between British and French military staff? I cannot see where so much British taxpayers’ money is being spent. The French maintain large armed forces for less cash.

        • to be blunt – I dont believe we are spending the amount stated on defence.

          I have looked over published figures for the last 5 years and they constantly contradict themselves.

          We seem to spend most our money on people, maintenance and infrastructure with very little actually being spent on new equipment (relatively speaking that is).

          I believe the MOD can fund a good force at the £45bn mark and can even do it at the £40bn mark – with some significant restructuring into a single force structure, which is where we need to go anyway in my opiinion.

          Various government publications state defence expenditure at between £35 – 44 bn pa – even as far back as 2015. Yet we have been in austerity.

          I do wonder whether the costs of operations in the Middle East (Syria, Afghan, Iraq) have actually been funded out of MOD budget instead of by the government. If so this would account for some of the disparity.

          I am sorry but time for £7-10bn to be moved from Foreign aid to the MOD.

          So much for the written commitment of this government to give our troops the right equipment to do their job and never send them into a war zone with sub standard equipment again… seems to me this government is not to be trusted

          • Any foreign aid money cut from that budget would be shared – the MOD would only get a proportionate share at best. The NHS and local government etc. would get the lions share.

          • Will’s right. The clamour has already begun in some of the UK press for some of the foreign aid budget to be diverted to the NHS.

            I get the impression that most of the general public aren’t hugely interested in defence and if it came to a head-to-head between more cash for the NHS vs more for defence then I suspect that any opinion polls of what the public thought wouldn’t be 48%/52% (or 52%/48% if you prefer) but more like over 70% or even over 80% in favour of the NHS being the priority.

            The politicians would go with public opinion, especially if it were so overwhelmingly in favour of the NHS, so the best that defence would see is a sliver of any diverted funds.

          • Whilst i agree with Pacman that there is almost certainly some figure fudging going on, i highly doubt that it is not also going on in other nations, politics and political spin is the same world over.

          • My gut feeling is we just spend too much money on glamour items like the carriers and on pretending to be a world power (we can no longer act alone and therefore are not a world power) by having our forces all over the world, that we are wasting the little money we have. In addition too much buying foreign and then tweaking with UK parts making the item insanely expensive. Either go local or foreign, don’t do a half way house fudge.

          • Steve, good post and I agree with your view on expenditure. Could the RN have built existing designs for the carrier and simply had one design for the destroyers and frigates (all built in UK yards). The savings on design and also efficiencies to be gained from standardising armaments, radars, GTs, diesels etc are likely to be considerable.

  9. Neither Defence nor the NHS should be cut. Both need more money but the NHS has the more urgent need; or rather social care.

    Off topic
    Council tax should be raised to fund the re-opening of convalesnent wards in cottage hospitals closed under NHS sustainability initiatives. They should ve staffed by part time and retired GPs and carers, some of whom from the EU havd nursing skills. This would get post operative patients out of general hospital and cure the bedblocking problem which is the root cause of A&E congestion and cancellations of operations. We have a good National Health Servoce but a none existent Community Health Service.

  10. raising taxes or council tax is a no go, as the public don’t want it. a huge part of the public purse goes the repaying the interest on the debt and on welfare (not nhs), these need to be looked at.

    • This isn’t really the forum to debate NHS funding etc. What we are all saying is more cuts are unacceptable and in fact unsafe. Cost saving and re-organisations in both the NHS and the armed forces have not been sufficient because of demographic and technology changes to prevent crisis so funding must rise which means taxes must increase. Take your pick, income tax, excise duty, inheritance tax, council tax. We need some action which is rapid and fair.

  11. I have a feeling we may be witnessing the final collapse of Britain. It’s been a long, slow demise but the taxpayers are faced with huge debt, bigger now than ever, overwhelming demands on failing public services such as the NHS, a clinging on to the past represented in sending an old frigate to the Pacific and participating in expensive foreign interventions with dubious outcomes in support of the American petro, military dollar. I am saddened to see the prospect of an army which fewer and fewer wish to join and being under strength at 78,000 being considered for reduction to just 50,000 which is inadequate for home defence. I cannot forgive a system which allows hundreds of members of an unelected upper House drawing hundreds of pounds merely for turning up. And I agree that the overseas aid budget is unsustainable at its current 0.7% of GDP. I cannot see where £35 billion plus of taxpayers’ money is disappearing in the MoD. The whole system cannot possibly continue. I do not see a future at all without a root and branch reform.

  12. That national debt will be £1.83 trillion by March, 2018. It is still rising. You couldn’t run your own lives in this fashion. The country cannot be run like this. Something has to give.

    • And what’s the national debt of the US, France, Spain and Italy? Debt is the norm in western society, so get over yourself and **** off!

      • to be clear the debt is around 180% whilst most of us have 4x salary as mortgage. the debt is a serious problem but it’s a long way off what is was post war.

          • And all you seem to do is write fairy tale like posts about things that will never be and cast insults. I am allowed to post here. Get over it.

  13. something we often forget is defence spending might be 2% of gdp which sounds low but is also misleading. it’s around 6% of tax revenue, which is pretty high, raising it to 3% GDP would really be 9% tax revenur. the interest on public debt is around 8%, which is scary considering how low interest rates currently are and how likely they will increase and because low any increase will be a large percentage increase.

  14. It’s time that we started having long complex grown up Conversations in this country about what we need and how much we need to pay for it vs what we think we should have/ would like and want to pay. We need to make our politicians stop lying/spinning to win points or defend Their mistakes/ dogma.

    Classic example is NHS and social care, one year the government is all the NHS about waste, inefficiency and poor care ( because they want to reform and open up the markets, due to political dogma, but people would be pissed if they messed with it for no reason). Four years later when the whole health and social care system is in free fall and they have no one to put it back together ( health/social systems are the most complex systems in the world and they scrapped the PCTs and sacked half of the strategic planners/managers who understand how to make one work) they roll out the common wealth study and use this to try and say the NHS is the best in the world on their watch ( I’ve reviewed the common wealth studies for 20 years and they always say the NHS is first or second in the world, this is due to its efficency in delivery, via tax funded public sector care and ability to cover an entire polpulation with good primary and community care, it always points out the lack of investment that hits choice and secondary care outcomes, it’s not the best in the world, just most most cost effective and fair)

    Effectively over 50 years we,ve somehow managed to screw an extra 350-400 billions worth of healthcare more than we payed for from a system, while letting politicians dick around with it for the sake of their own political dogma and now wonder why the infrastructure and workforce have gone belly up.

    We have pretty much done the same with defence, public sector workforces tend to be there for higher reasons of service and are not there for the money so,will mend, make do and work more hours/do more than they should…..right up until they can’t and the whole thing starts to colapsed.

    The military and health + education and social care have been warning it’s going to colapsed around our ears for a number of years ( we have been selling of the future to keep the present going), but we have let it happen.

    • We spend as much as a %age of GDP on health as countries like France and Germany if you include private health care. Our problem is the ineficiency of duplication.

      • I don’t know how France/Germany health system works and how the private sector interacts with it. I also don’t know what percentage of the populations are covered by private insurance which massively reduces the drain on the public sector.

      • Hi Paul, the avaliable internation spending comparisons include both private and public spending on health as all countries have a mix, even the US (the US actually has a greater public spend on health than we do). We apsolutly do spend less on health than comparative nations and we do have just about the most cost efficient system in the western world (sometimes the antipodians beat us).

  15. one controversial solution could be

    give up our WMD capability, and use money to invest and increase conventional forces and perhaps invite the Americans to have their very own Navel base here in Scotland or wider UK.

    Our strength is in our training, history and our various alliances and its about time we take a long hard look at ourselves as our direction is currently misguided imo

    • And just why should the Americans defend a UK that hasn’t the will to defend itself?

      There seems to be very little recognition in the UK that its unilateral disarmament, combined with its contemptuous and disgraceful treatment of the President of the United States, has fueled an increasing sentiment in the US that “the Brits” are little different from the Germans or the Italians when it comes to NATO. It is Donald Trump’s constituency that have historically believed in a close relationship with the UK and are the ones who will fight to defend Britain. That sentiment is no longer as prevalent as it once was and is rapidly diminishing.

      The PM , the Cabinet and, indeed the Tory Party (Labour, under Corbyn, is hopeless on defense) seem to have very little recognition of the damage that is being done. The UK may, very soon, find herself with no allies willing to fight for her.

  16. The easiest and simplest solution is to simplify the tax system and align it to spending departments, In this way it is wholly transparent what taxes go where and can be directly correlated by even the most illiterate of us.

    An example would be national insurance could go to the NSH, Income Tax would be used for Pensions and Corporation Tax for Defence, VAT for Education etc etc. Where there are depts with big spending commitments (such as NHS) additional taxes would need to be aligned (Sugar tax, Alcohol and Cigarettes for instance). Importantly there will need to be a line for the national deficit – both interest and pay down – and as stated this is significant, probably the 4-6th biggest budget line in the UK budget.

    Lastly, we need to stop the habit of taking in taxes from one group of people to subsidise another group of people who have made a different set of lifestyle choices (poor education, poor work record and loads of kids). In the current system these people can get £23k worth of benefits whilst a person in the exact same position with a different work ethic would be getting less than half on minimum wage. Minimum wage should be untaxed at source but VAT should rise to 25% with a 40% VAT rate on luxury items (such as 2l cars for instance)

    Until we make significant changes to how the country currently operates – I believe all budgets outside of pensions and NHS will constantly be under pressure.

  17. TH please point out any of my fairytale posts?
    You’re the one spreading constant nonsense and passively agressily attacking people who have a positive interest in the UK Armed Forces. You sir are nothing but a troll with too much free time on your hands.

  18. At the end of the Cold War, in 1987 or so, the UK was spending 4.4% of GNP on defence. The agreement between NATO and the Soviet Union was that both would reduce their armed forces in Europe by 25%. If the budget had followed the same reduction, we would today be spending 3.3% of GNP on defence, not under 2%.

    That figure excluded Trident, which was funded separately by the Government outwith the defence budget, and also excluded out-of-area forces and therefore costs. So in reality, defence expenditure today should really be standing at about 3.8% of GNP.

    What went wrong and how did we come to the current parlous position regarding the defence forces? i looked at the official UK defence expenditure figures published by NATO and put them into a chart, which I have now gone and lost (!). But basically, the only two periods in the intervening 30 years when defence expenditure was not cut or there were only small cuts were during the Labour government of Blair and the Tory-Lib Dem coalition under Cameron.

    For the rest, the cuts have been made almost entirely by Conservative governments, in 5 successive rounds of sharp reductions, plus the big trick (Osborne/Cameron) of switching the full costs of the multi-billion Trident programme into the existing defence budget, thereby creating a £30 bn black hole.

    Anybody who thinks the Conservatives are the party of defence has been seriously hoodwinked. They are the party of reduced public expenditure and low taxes, to which they have long had a fervent ideological dedication bordering on fanaticism. Defence, foreign affairs, police, prisons, social services, housing etc etc have all been cut severely and the NHS and education would be too if they could get away with it, they have had to content themselves with Free schools and back door cuts for now lest joe public rises up.

    There are those in the Tory party who do care about defence and do think the defence cuts had already gone too far with the 2010 SDSR, let alone the 2015 one, 2020 and 2020 Refine. They are mainly on the Defence sub-Committee in the Commons and there are quite a number in the Lords.
    We do need to ascertain our MPs’ views on defence and, if necessary, debate with them by letter. It is a subject most of them know little about and it is low on their agenda.

    I have written to my MP, who is Labour, and will do battle with him if necessary to encourage his support for the services and not only for no further cuts to the defence vote (aka budget), but for the need for a tangible increase in (a) defence expenditure and (b) service personnel, the latter particularly in the army CS and CSS echelons. I encourage others to do likewise. You can only write to your own constituency MP, if you write to others they will just pass it to him/her.

  19. Ref the National Debt being the norm in western countries, yes it is and it is a valid way of a government proceeding following the crash of 2008 – up to a point.

    The downside is that we are currently paying £50 bn a year – it’s probably more now – in interest on that debt. That is a monumental amount that would more than meet all the shortfall calls from the NHS, defence, police, prisons, courts, education, housing etc and still leave money over.

    A more prudent national policy would commend itself. The logical alternative to ever-more borrowing is of course to raise taxes, but the current incumbents are theologically disinclined to do so, so we are stuck until someone presents the sensible alternative. And rams it past the big slice of the electorate who think tax cuts are great and every other collective responsibility can go hang.

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