Former Royal Navy chief Lord West has demanded Whitehall increases its spending on defence, highlighting the recent NAO report.

Lord West described the report as a ‘shocking sign’ of the current state of the budget.

The Former First Sea Lord said:

“The MoD can’t go on pretending there’s sufficient money for defence because there just isn’t. This is exactly what we have been warning about for years.

What this represents to me is the dreadful hollowing out that is going on in defence.”

The National Audit Office report claims that there has been a 49 per cent rise in parts being cannibalised from Royal Navy vessels to fix others in the fleet.

The MoD argue that increasing complexity in technology on platforms can mean it makes sense to take an existing component from one vessel which is not required at that time and put it on one that is to deploy, rather than waiting around for new supplies to be delivered before the vessel can sail.

Across ships and submarines, equipment cannibalisation has increased 49 per cent in the last five years, with a total of 3,230 instances involving 6,378 parts.

The National Audit Office warned:

“Each instance of equipment cannibalisation can delay programmes, create additional engineering risks and add to the work of staff, affecting morale.”

We contacted the MoD who told us:

“Less than half a percent of parts we use come from swapping components, and we only do this when it’s absolutely necessary to get ships out of port and back onto operations more quickly. We continue to make improvements to how we manage this long-established practice.”

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Mike Saul

Lord West was part of a government that trashed the defence budget with the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures that cost £37bn, 600 dead service personnel and many more wounded.

I wish he would retire gracefully and reflect on his own failings when in power.

Geoffrey Roach

Me too!


I think the cost of actual actions is met by the Treasury out of contingency, rather than out of the defence budget, which covers training, but not missiles, bullets or fuel costs in live actions.

Mike Saul

Only some of the costs were met by the treasury, such as UORs.

However after the conflict if those UORs were transferred to the main equipment they had to be funded by the MOD budget.


If we lived in a political vacuum and maintained defense forces as a matter of being current and responsible, then cuts and cancellations would be a matter of daily business. Yet, it appears Whitehall conducts itself in a very much similar way, as if it were in a vacuum! Disturbingly, there has been an increase in dire warnings issued by former service chiefs in recent months. Each amplifying alarming trends and actions within the MOD, worthy of very serious consideration. Then along comes ‘Vacum Man’, who freely admits he knows very little about defense, and will be advised and encouraged… Read more »


We don’t like experts you know, it seems the county would much rather have a load of Rees Moggs et als running everything. Experts just tell you things that quite frankly are a bit upsetting…..but a lovely politician will tell you it’s alright….much better way to run a country.

Daniele Mandelli

I’d take Rees Mogg in a heartbeat for PM thank you very much.

John Clark

Here here Danielle, he speaks a hell of a lot of sense!

I do take issue with retired top bass, especially when they looked in the opposite direction while Rome burned under their leadership!


Yes this extremely wealth, nanny raised, trinity College educated fund manager really understands what this country needs. Since he believes in minimal government spending and reductions in workers rights I’m sure the armed forces would have a splendid jolly time under his leadership.


Daniele I think may of us would be very leery of letting Mr Rees Mogg anywhere near the levers of power, but then these days, who knows what the political future will bring.


Time will tell if ‘Vaccum Man’ turns out to be a pacifying voice in the arena of experts, or a champion for logical, sensible, thinking?

Geoffrey Roach

Less than a month before the cuts, sorry review. Cracking time for a man who knows nothing but let’s be fair to Mr Williamson. He has been given a job that we would all kill for and taken it. He has the chance to do something meaningful for the future of our armed forces. Let’s hope he takes that chance.


Let us hope so, but why should defense be a lottery? Methods of operation have to change and mindsets procedures either scrapped or revisited. Total reliance on the taxpayer is not doing UK defense any favours, and self-financing opportunities need to be seriously considered to offset some of the reliance on government money. In a former post, I outlined some avenues of opportunity to create a margin of (untaxed) self-reliance, but at the same time realizing it would only result in a modest accumulation. Even so, it would be preferable to the current situation.


I agree with Mike Saul Lord West should remember he was part of a government that started this process of reducing our defence capability


Let’s call a spade a spade – the government has absolutely NO intention of increasing defence spending and will continue harping on about the 178Bn equipment plan and patting themselves on the back as they do, whilst knowing full well how underfunded defence truly is.

This is something they should be ashamed of but it doesn’t negate the fact it simply isn’t going to happen.

I hope I am wrong….. I really do!


There’s always a chance the new defence secretary will aks for more money, and be given it as a sweetener, specially as previously chief whip he knows where the cupboard is with the skeletons and still has the keys. And the pen drive!

John Clark

Won’t happen I’m afraid, continued squeezing on defense I think … With a positive spin of course….

Mr Bell

HMG will put a spin on the fact they are going to scrap ships, build inadequate replacements, under arm our fleet, army, RAF all the while giving out the usual bull about £178 billion equipment budget. let them eat cake is the governments attitude to defence. Lord West is right we need to go back to more than 2.5% gdp to defence. I would say 3% but only if the increased budget is matched by a bonfire of the quangos, personnel in non jobs and a drastic cutting back of senior ranks numbers. We should not have a commodore or… Read more »


Bird & Fortune – Interview with Admiral Sir George Parr, supposedly satire but may be closer to the truth than we think!


Might as well get the message in early but I fear that our new defence minister has exactly the same critical defensive equipment fitted as the previous one had – a fully functioning and perfectly maintained pair of deaf ears. As for offensive capabilities, I wonder whether Fallon’s will be cross-decked or whether Williamson will be equipped with an set of new empty soundbites to replace the “£178 billion budget”, possibly ones even more deadly in their ability to, via a saturation attack, increase blood pressure and turn brains to mush when aimed at people who actually know what’s really… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

Just been announced that the joint helicopter command is to cut back on training, particularly overseas, due to lack of resources. PATHETIC.

David Steeper

Guy’s the biggest obstacle to higher defence spend is the amount that is already wasted by them. An obscenely bloated officer corps. So many procurement delays and overspend. The treasury probably know more about it than we do and use them like bullets. Rather than banging on about spend if they first of all looked at themselves they would have a chance which they don’t have right now.

Robert blay

The chief of staff should stand in protest on the steps of 10 downing street if they really care so much about defence spending, always sombody who retired 5 years ago with there pension secure who speaks out. To little to late.


As an Admiral you technically never actually retire. You remain available to recall to active service and are paid accordingly. The accordingly being a rather lot more than your standard pension that minions like myself receive.


Im ex forces and now and understand through experience the way the mod works.

Issue isnt the budget its the civil servants we could provide what the military needs within the current budget but it will never happen due to the incompetanat civil service example and true 10p o ring had a price tag from a supplier of £420 same item 1st sea lord at time lnew i saw it handed to him

John Clark

Unfortunately, it seems the heads of the three services appear to view themselves as separate entities from the rest of the armed services. Primary concern being “the old boys club” and looking after no1. They don’t appear to give a toss that defence has been gutted, utter crocodile tears. Its always silence …. until they start working for Defence contractors, write books or get involved with other very lucrative pursuits and need to raise their profile in the press. Funny how the worst of this has happened over the last 20 years when the likes of Lord West had control… Read more »