Defence Secretary Ben Wallace Refuses To Deny Reports That Troop Numbers Will Be Cut By Almost 10,000
The Defence Secretary has refused to rule out cuts to the size of the Armed Forces
The Defence Secretary said the Armed Forces needed to adapt to "changing threats" as he refused to deny that troop numbers could be slashed.
The senior cabinet minister failed to give a guarantee over the size of the Armed Forces following reports they could be cut from 82,000 to 72,500 over the next decade in Monday's defence 'command paper'.
It comes after the recent Integrated Review of the UK's defence and foreign policy strategy revealed ministers were planning a major increase in the UK's nuclear weapons stockpile and a greater reliance on hi-tech weaponry.
But asked on Sunday whether he could commit to retaining troop numbers at their current level in the shake-up, Wallace told Sky's Sophie Ridge: "I am not going to reveal on the media before Parliament... the details of the numbers of men and women of our armed forces."
He added: "The assurance I can give is...that what I will be doing is making sure we have an armed forces that is the right size to meet the threat and the right size to meet the government's ambition of having a global Britain that uphold values and support its allies."And pressed on election campaign promises from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in which he claimed there would be no cuts to the Army in "any form", Wallace said: "The threat changes, we change with it. The threat is changing rapidly all the time".
His comments are likely further inflame tensions among some Conservative MPs who have been critical over the rumoured cuts, including chair of the Commons defence select committee Tobias Ellwood.
Speaking last week, the former soldier had hit out at the plans for a "shocking reduction" in the Army's capabilities, saying the "old threats" had not disappeared.
"Russia is rearming, Daesh is regrouping and China is nudging us out of military and trade parternships across Africa, yet we are about to witness a shocking reduction in our conventional hard power and full-spectrum capabilities," he told MPs.
"Yes, we must adapt to new threats, but that does not mean that the old threats have disappeared."
It comes after Boris Johnson also refused to rule out the cut when questioned by MPs last week, saying only that the size of the Army, including reserves, would be over 100,000.
But he warned it was "duty of this government to take the tough decision that are necessary to modernise our armed forces as well".
He added: "I've already explained that this is the biggest investment in our armed forces since the Cold War and there'll be no redundancies across the armed forces."