A former Defence Secretary has warned that the current defence review has no relation to strategic threats.

Lord Hutton was speaking during a debate on British defence forces in the House of Lords where he said:

“My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Soley for giving us the opportunity today to have a very important conversation about the future of our national security and Armed Forces. Like my noble friend Lord West, I think there was probably a broad consensus in 2015 about the outcome of that security review. It recommended Joint Force 2025, an expeditionary force of nearly 50,000 people, with significant land, sea and air elements. It embarked on a hugely significant programme of defence equipment procurement across land, sea and air, and contained a promise to keep spending on defence at 2% of GDP.

But there was obviously major concern at the time, confirmed now by the Public Accounts Committee, the Select Committee on Defence in another place, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, senior retired officers and think tanks—pretty well everyone—that the MoD would not be able to sustain the ambitions of the 2015 SDSR. There was and remains no clear path to realising the significant efficiency savings on which all that spending was predicated, other than continued pay restraint for members of the Armed Forces—and that is perhaps not a brilliant recruitment and retention tool over the long term. Since then, we have had to add into the equation the significant impact of Brexit and the dramatic fall in value of sterling—the pound is 30% down against the dollar and the euro—when so much of that defence budget is spent in dollars and euros.

Two years on, we have the announcement of a new security capability review. Every Defence Minister learns the mantra that everything is kept under review, which can sometimes get them out of trouble. On this occasion, it has probably got them into a little more trouble. There are probably two principal justifications, two years after a significant SDSR such as the 2015 report, for having another look at things. One would be any significant or material change in the threat situation facing the UK. By common consensus, that has got worse, not better. The other would be any significant change in technological development and science—technology that might allow us to think again about how we equip our Armed Forces and where we want to spend our money. Neither of those justifications is plausible for this midpoint review of the SDSR. There is only one obvious conclusion for us all to reach: this is really a review about money.”

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Who would have guessed…

Really, if the Tories are not for defence WTF are they for


Really, if the Tories are not for defence WTF are they for

As somebody who has only ever voted conservative, I don’t know, but worst of all, I don’t think even they know. Oh how we all laughed during my youth at the French calling them cheese surrender monkeys , but the impression I get from the current bunch of British MPs, is that the French can’t hold a candle to them, when it comes to surrendering.

Mike Saul

This government is not a Tory one of the Thatcher style, it’s a social democract one along the lines of the Heath government of 1970s. May is a very poor leader as can be seen by the Tory manifesto for election 2017, what a bloody disaster that was.

I know there are lots of reasons for this brexit, deficit, debt, low productivity, minority government et al.

The Tory party needs to think about what and whom it actually stands for. The only thing keeping them in government is that the alternative, Corbyn would be far worse.


At the time of May’s leadership victory, she could do no wrong all that was required was a steady hand at the helm through the Brexit process. However, the ultra-powerful British establishment of which many are Conservatives were dumbfounded, and could not digest the cold facts of the referendum result. Cameron was told by the Gods to get out and stay out for being reckless, so he went and fast even from his parliamentary seat. Next, how to put a few significant spanners in the mix? In order to destabilize, (remember her war cry ‘Strong and stable government’) pressures were… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Good post. So sad for democracy in my country!

Mr Bell

This is starting to look very very grim. our NATO allies must be worried if the uk is seriously considering any further cuts to a desperately weakened armed forces. As a nation we are heading towards an uncertain future full of potential threats with an armed forces cut to the bone already. Thanks to blair/ brown then Cameron who will go down in history as the worse PM ever. Just disastrous SDSRs in 2010 and 2015. This current round of NSR which is not actually scheduled is being done to save money. Osbourne should never have been allowed though creative… Read more »

barry white

Mr Bell
I love this post
If i have your permission i would love to copy and paste to my Facebook page
Stir things up a bit as i have friends that dont agree with my outlook on things


Mr Bell great post and I will go farther Minimum wage set to 15k and should be tax free and in work benefits stopped. Income tax after min wage set to 25%. VAT on any non essentials set to 25% and luxury goods set to 40%. Working Benefits should be set at 50% of minimum wage and last for 2 years only (as it should be interim help not a lifestyle) All benefits for others should be set at a minimum wage + what is required for the individuals care and disability. Child benefit stopped and put into pre and… Read more »


Mr Bell and Pacman 27, you would both get my vote. We need decisive and almost radical policies to sort this country out and to secure our future. Maybot and her ‘team’ have neither the wit nor the imagination to think outside the box.


Then watch the Conservatives get utterly annihilated at the next general election and watch a Corbyn government flail around dealing with the mess left begin!

If you think the general public will tolerate the kind of cuts you propose then a severe shock awaits you!

Any government which cuts child benefit entirely and raises the basic rate of income tax to 25% is committing electoral suicide!

When a large proportion of the middle classes are struggling with a real reduction in average earnings vs inflation no political party would dare propose it.

Get real!

Nick Bowman

Let’s just clarify the inaccuracies. This morning, a pound buys you 1.33 dollars. In December, 2014, the figure was 1.566. It fell to 1.521 by December 2015.9. That’s about a 12% drop since the last (pre-Brexit vote) SDSR, not 30%. While Lord Hutton is nominally right in noting that a significant portion of the UK’s defence budget is typically spent on American systems. He fails to qualify his statement by noting that the preponderance of equipment to be procured according to the 2015 SDSR will be of British origin. His Lordship is right to warn that the current review is… Read more »


Thanks for that, saves me the trouble as I keep seeing this “fell against the dollar”, and it really is exaggerated. Euro, yes.


The other thing to say is that the MOD and Govt are on record as stating they have hedged against all committed spending – so the cost of the £ should be irrelevant and at worst covered in the contingency. The main issue here is that they were spending money to be raised from savings which have not been realised. This kind of “planning” needs to stop as govt departments just cant deliver – there are a numbe of external companies that are good at getting these savings – but they are brutal in how they go about it. Heavy… Read more »


Nick – well said Sir. I do get fed up when the anti-Brexiteers like this Lord Hutton (a Labour ex – Defence Minister playing party politics lets not forget) throw out numbers that are just plainly untrue. You could also have quoted the Rate of $1.39 in February 2016 and no one was crying in their tea about it then were they? This lays bear the lies …. https://www.poundsterlinglive.com/bank-of-england-spot/historical-spot-exchange-rates/gbp/GBP-to-USD-2016 Not sure what we buy from any Euro countries apart from oil filters for the MAN trucks we should never have bought. Oh wait … Wasn’t that a Labour decision in… Read more »

Nick Bowman

^ Sorry about the grammar. I wish we could edit after posting…

Mike Saul

Some ideas to reduce defence expediture. Some general some specific. 1. Scrap the strike brigades concept and cut the order for Ajax AFVs. Retain the existing armoured brigades. 2. Reduce T26 order from 8 to 6. Increase T31 order to 8. 3. Reduce F35 purchase to 96. 4. Mothball HMSPOW. 5.Close Dhekelia SBA. 6.Transfer costs of MOD operations, such South Sudan to DFID. 6. Close BATUK. 7. Scrap puma helicopters, no replacement 8. Scrap bulldogs and replace with JLTV, forget about MIV. 9. Trident capital costs to funded outside defence budget.Running costs to stay with MOD 10. Cut MOD civilian… Read more »

barry white

Mike Saul
10 How can you cut civilian staff when they are needed to work in the Navy bases repairing and upgrading ships and whathaveyou and i suppose that goes for army and air bases
Not only that bear in mind that the RFA is manned by civiians

Mike Saul

MOD employs 56000 civil servants, in the SDSR 2015 the MOD said it would cut that figure by 30%. To date the MOD has failed to reduce the head count.

The MOD is not an efficiently run organisation, cuts can be found

Lee H

Hi Mike Mind if I play with your numbers a bit?: 4 Light brigades 3 Medium brigades 3 heavy brigades Keep AJAX as replacement for Warrior, cancel Warrior upgrade and put all effort into getting AJAX out the door Keep T26 at 8 Increase T31 to 8 Reduce F-35B to 108 Purchase 56 F-35A Remove Typhoon Tranche 1 Keep HMS PoW SBA remains but deploy a standing battle group ther on roulement for 3 years U.N. picking some of cost for S Sudan and it is good experience for engineers, better there adding value than in U.K. doing nothing Scrap… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Evening Lee Just saying army setting up on 2 Heavy 2 Medium ( Strike ) brigades which are deployable, not 3 Heavy 3 Medium. The 2 Light brigades 16AA and 3 Cdo are no longer deployable as complete formations, 3 cdo especially so. The 6 current Light Brigades are more akin to the old regional brigades and are not deployable. Ajax is a replacement for CVRT Scimitar and other types like Spartan, Samaritan, Samson, Sultun.. It cannot replace Warrior as an IFV as it will be used in the Armoured Cavalry and Medium armour role, 2 regiments each Strike Brigade.… Read more »

Lee H

Evening Daniele I think we could maintain 3 heavy brigades if we use the Type 39 model. This would allow a heavy brigade to be at 7 days and would not deplete the remaining CR2 fleet available. ( 2 x T39 and 1x AJAX). Admittedly this model would not allow all 3 brigades to be deployed at the same time but would allow an operational division (Heavy brigade, medium and light) to be deployed with the appropriate Corps support (Artillery, engineer and rotary lift etc.) AJAX – If needs be it will seat six in the back, sometimes tough decisions… Read more »


Lee – I am amazed you happily suggest exporting jobs to Europe and the USA. Why buy the NMH-90 when we can build the very capable Merlin here in the UK? And why scrap perfectly viable, paid for and properly maintained Tranche 1 Typhoons with decades of hours left that are better at QRA and multi role than an F-35A will ever be? Even on this forum too many people happily undersell the UK and trot out the ‘foreign is best’ and then complain when we buy tankers from Korea. Here is the option I would have played when Boeing… Read more »

Lee H

Morning Chris NMH-90 would get built at Yeovil. It’s a Leonardo factory and has the capacity to do so. The Merlin is too big and does not provide the same role as Puma. 15% of F-35 is built in the U.K., admittedly it is not the same as 100% of Typhoon but we need an interdiction aircraft, something that can attack the centres of gravity with minimal risk to the pilot. Whilst a great aircraft the Typhoon presents more of a risk than Lightning. However, I believe there is a future role for Typhoon out side of air defence which… Read more »


Hi Lee

I have read on numerous sites that the Chinook force is the most over deployed force in UK service and that we dont have enough to keep up with its workload.

Not sure where you get the opposite info as normally we are in sync on our information.


All definitely worth considering. But to save £2.1 billion a year on an ongoing basis the cuts will have to be savage; 12,000 reduction in the size of the army and perhaps 6,000 civil servants would put you in the right the ball park which might mean you could avoid selling Albion and Bulwark but expect Type 26 orders to be reduced to 6. All the services will have to make significant big ticket contributions. The RAF will see substantial reductions in F-35 numbers and even with a cut to Type 26 numbers and build rate the LPDs or POW… Read more »


Hi Mike There is no need to cut any assets and I would actually buy more- the key here is how do we spend £40bn pa on defence and broadly speaking I think we should have a single total force including civilians of 250k personnel and the budget spread as follows each year. Sea = £4bn equipment £3bn Operations £3bn Support and infrastructure. Land = £2bn Equipment £6bn Operations £4bn Support and infrastructure. Air = £5bn equipment, £4bn Operations, £2bn Support and Infrastructure. Cyber = £1bn equipment, £4bn Operations, £2bn support and Infrastructure. I think that even the above is… Read more »

Lee H

Hi Pacman27 WRT Chinook Fleet. The reason that it has taken up a lot of the rotary tasking is because CHF has been transitioning from Sea King to Merlin. All of those Merlins had to go through major maintenance to make them suitable for service aboard ships (folding tail rotor etc.), this happened at the same time as the major upgrade of the Puma fleet from Mk1 to Mk2. In reality there were no other frames available for tasking so Chinook, regardless of role, was utilised. As these two fleets (Merlin and Puma) get up to full ORBAT this will… Read more »


Hi Lee Thanks for this – makes sense… I agree the puma fleet should go, and I also think the Wildcat fleet should go and we standardise on Merlin. I also think at the price we are getting the apache we should buy 138, as for me they are real game changers. So it would be a 3 fleet helicopter force for me of chinook, merlin and apache and we just get on with it. Puma’s have been great but they are well past their sell by date I believe. Perhaps a helicopter force that DFID could buy and run… Read more »

Lee H

Hi Pacman27 It all comes down to a balance of what you are trying to do. Lynx: HMG MoD still need a light utility helicopter. Lynx fills that requirement and, if armed correctly fulfils the small ships flight requirement as well. Apache: The Army are ordering what they believe they can get away with, I do not think it is a funding issue. I think it is more an inter service issue. Apache is a very capable flying platform, the game changer as you say. However the Army treat their helicopters as weapons first and flying machines second. Treating it… Read more »


Doing 9 alone would save enough money to fill the MoD’s budget black hole many times over although from a national perspective it’s not saving money, it’s shifting it between budgets. If our new defence secretary could get that one to fly then I’d probably nominate him as the best defence secretary we’ve had in living memory because it wouldn’t just balance the books for current projects, it would actually allow some expansion of our conventional forces. Pretty much zero chance of it happening though.

Rick O'Shea

Here’s my idea;

Increase defence spending to 3% GDP, problem solved

Bob Perry

As much as I love the NHS, I know a Radiologist who earns a fortune by working for and Agency, the amount of money he earns would keep me happy for several years. I am pretty certain efficiencies and productivity could save money. Also stop some of the PFI deals that are costing the NHS dearly.
With some of the MOD positions they should not be using it as a gravy train for Ex officers of flag rank. We have enough Admirals, Generals, Air Marshals then ever before al on good pay and pension deals, private education etc


Those who voted Brexit are to blame.

Lee H

Lazy thinking, Unless you can better articulate your argument


I voted remain but Brexit could be a blessing in disguise if it forces us to take a realistic view of ourselves, our place in the world, our economy and what we can actually afford.

Daniele Mandelli

Bollocks. Don’t Insult people.

The black hole in the finances is of the government’s own making.

1 billion to the DUP to keep May in a job.
Untold billions to the EU.
Tens of billions on oversees aid.

There is money. They choose not to spend it and that which is given to mod, while a good amount, gets spent on things like Trident.


Danielle – Bollocks back and you are now insulting many people. * Any ‘black hole’ is because we are still repairing the black pit of no money left in 2010. We still have a £356 Bn a year deficit to fund. Remember that £35 Bn ‘black hole’ in the defence budget alone? Two carriers ordered with no pennies in the bank to pay for them? * That £1 Bn over 2 years was not paid to the DUP at all. And it didn’t keep May in the job. The DUP always vote with the Tories as they are Unionists. A… Read more »

Lee H

MoD has the money, it just needs to be spent more wisely.
When defence cuts are talked about it is never new purchases that are cancelled but reductions in manpower – the easy option. That easy option has now been closed off by a ministerial team that is younger, have served in the military and is aware of the lobbying power of major defence manufacturers.
Hence those that have put SDSR together are being told to think again.

Daniele Mandelli

Yep, I think you have nailed it again Lee.

The only big programme I can think of off my head that was cancelled in modern times was Nimrod MRA4, and even then a fortune had already been spent.

Even that didn’t save the existing personnel as existing Nimrods of 42R 201 and 206 Squadrons had already been disbanded already.

Daniele Mandelli

Er Chris, I think you have misunderstood the thrust of my post. My b**** comment was in reply to Harold blaming Brexit, which pissed me off. My comment on DUP, which you have expanded on better than I, thank you, was making the point that money was found, to fix a need, promptly. HMG choose where to spend. Therefore this current “black hole” is indeed their own making. It would disappear overnight if they wished. The previous Black Hole I had read had been eliminated by, ironically, Phillip Hammond from 2012 on when he was Defence Secretary. He was on… Read more »


** £35 Bn* not £356 Bn .. oops!

Geoffrey Roach

Perhaps we should have a NHS review to save £2 billion, or close five per cent of our schools, or cut wasting money on driver less cars or horror of horror freeze overseas aid at £10 billion. The problem with the latter though is that Pakistan might have to start looking at how to pay for it’s nuclear weapons. Politicians think defence is an easy touch. Let’s do what we can to make it difficult.

John Clark

Geoffrey, absolutely agree, billions goes straight down the toilet with NHS dire management and antiquated structures, but no one has the balls to take the unions on to sort it out. Police also waist “a lot” of money through pointless duplication of command and related facilities across small Police forces. As you say, Defence is a soft touch, Senior officers should resign on mass and really embarrass the Government if this goes ahead. If nurse’s can carry out industrial action, then so should the rank and file of the Armed forces….stage a large march on Westminster. We need Thatcherism ,… Read more »

Mr Bell

Barry feel free to post on facebook mate.
the situation drives me to tears, glad I can at least cheer up some of my fellow countrymen with my utter bemusement with the current situation.
Never known our country to be so bereft of common sense and strong leadership as it is now.

Old Geezer

I seam to remember that Blair promised the EU that we would provide a corps of 60000 personnel for the European Army. I think that “the powers that be”, are still thinking along those lines. They may be thinking that we will not leave the EU after all. It all fits in too nicely with the plans of the EU to be coincidental.


As it currently stands we have no chance of being able to deploy anything over 15k. — that was shown in afghan.

My plan above would stretch that to 30k indefinitely by getting 4 identical combat divisions and rotating them through various states of readiness.

I do think there are a lot of “non-combatants” in the forces now and that has to change with the onus put to deployable force.


The decision to build 2 huge carriers to be equipped with an unproven US aircraft was always likely to put enormous strain on the defence budget.Slowing the carrier build has added £2b, and the promised unit cost of the F35b has doubled. It now seems we may struggle to crew both ships. We could not afford to continue operating carriers in the 1970s when the budget was >5% of gdp. Those who made the decision( Labour ministers)and those who campaigned for it (admirals with little sense of reality) should be held to account for wasting so much taxpayers money on… Read more »

Mark L

Sorry Lord Hutton – on 01/06/16 for example £1 = $1.44, today £1 = 1.33. Obviously that isn’t a 30% drop. Try again.

Seriously, where do they find these people? I think it’s worthwhile to keep in mind this chap is a Labour politician, so will go out of his way to slag off the current government. I’m not a Tory supporter, but when one party attacks the other there’s a good chance that they’re exaggerating, if not telling absolute porkies.


the exchange rate had already dropped in the months before brexit as uncertainty hit, just as it continues to hit post vote.


Thatcher bought cuts which only hesitated when they precipitated the Falklands war. She destroyed the unions & much of UK manufacturing & heavy industry left our shores. The biggest failure of UK government, both Tory/coalition/Labour has been the mass escape of the highest earners from taxation back into the national economy, leaving everybody else to pay more whilst suffering continual austerity. It may have remained in the shadows from our media but HM armed forces have been run down to frankly dangerous levels where any serious conflict would find us incapable of overcoming or surviving losses. Having watched it over… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

“you could easily imagine it’s been some perverse plan to render us indefensible.”

I have thought this many times, it is indeed almost perverse.

I’d add that the dilution of national identity, loss of national pride, and mass immigration are also factors, making the UK just an island on the periphery of Europe that can then be safely consumed by the EU once us damned patriotic British are subdued.

Which is happening right now by the way. Although Brexiteers as we are called did try to fight it.


Ah of course. Its Thatcher’s fault ….


Daniele Mandelli

Agree Chris.

We have not had a PM like her since.


I am not adverse to the costs of the CASD replacement project being in the defence budget, provided those additional costs are recognised and the MOD budget increased to take account of this, even if this means that the budget is reduced in real terms once the project nears completion. On a wider note, the reduction in the size of the House of Commons from 650 to 600 has slipped off the radar since the last election. I think the process should start again, with the aim of reducing the commons to 450, ie 1 MP per 100k voters. That… Read more »

Lee H

Yes Minister – Series 3, episode 2 ??

Nick Bowman

I think the inclusion of the cost of the nuclear deterrent in the general defence budget has wrought havoc with our ability to maintain conventional forces. I suspect that we did that to be able to demonstrate a 2% annual defence spend. We then pointed to a $178B equipment plan as a triumph of commitment. Those of us who frequent this site know better but the general population remains oblivious. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Pray that our short-sightedness now doesn’t come back to haunt us later.


Nick I don’t actually belief government figures for CASD replacement as surely if we are building an astute at £1.4bn – successor isn’t going to be more than £3bn per ship, and we already have the missiles and facilities, so what is the main cost that brings it up to £31-41bn over 10 years, when the product needs no fuel has it weapons and just add people and food. I do worry that we have yet to hear about the costs of decommissioning the legacy fleets as we have just had them sitting there until we can sort out what… Read more »

Lee H

Gents The much quoted figure of £178Bn over 10 years is the total CDEL and RDEL estimate. CDEL unit costs of Astute when originally planned and budgeted was £900M for the first 3 boats. Boat 1 was turned out CDEL at about £1.2Bn. Since then unit prices have dropped but because production times cannot be improved without seriously damaging the drumbeat (cycle of builds) you are never going see the type of savings that the USN can get with their SSN/SSBN fleet builds. Astute 7 will cost roughly the same as Astute 1, however think of Astute as 3 batches… Read more »


I would be curious to know how whether France includes its nuclear weps in its 2% calculation.

Rick O'shea

That’s a great question, I too would very much like to know the answer


@ Lee H Thanks for your response above – TBH I am all for a single force structure with the assets being owned by the division and not the service. Broadly speaking I think a 9 division force structure with a 4 combat division Land force and a 2 (Divisions) CBG led expeditionary force that own all the assets they need to perform the required tasking, with the final 3 divisions being strategic cross divisional assets providing centralised CnC, logistics, intelligence, communications and the nuclear deterrent. I believe the days of 3 services (arguably more with SFG and Cyber) are… Read more »

Lee H

Morning Pacman27 Unfortunately USMC are not a balanced force. Whilst they have an excellent punch they require the other 3 services in one way or enough to provide them the things they do not have. I admire the way the US audit their spend, they may spend an awful lot more than us but it is controlled and, as you say audited. I am not a fan of the single force structure, it dilutes identity which is one of the things the military use to define who they are (down to unit level), where they come from and what they… Read more »


Totally agree and understood – but they do what they do with a larger force on an audited budget of less circa $30bn pa which is pretty extraordinary (lets not forget they are ordering 400+ F35b’s) – so surely the other 3 services of the UK can get by on the remaining $40bn of the UK’s supposedly $70bn pa defence spend. Similar story for ADF and IDF and even France seem to do better than us (which means there really is something wrong). I am quite happy to have a limited USMC type force, with all that entails that takes… Read more »

Peter French

We keep referring to “stop the cuts whereas we need to increase the spend, The Government proudly boasts that we spend 2percent of GDP . but of course a big slice is spent on the Nuclear deterrent eg Subs, missiles , base fascilities , Nuclear warheads , Aldermaston etc and the new subs eg Successor The fact is we probably spend the same if not less on conventional Forces as our counterparts. Either increase the spend or take out deterrent under a seperate budget, Osbourne insisted that Successor was funded from the existing budget, and this showed no concern for… Read more »