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Tue, 11 August 2020

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Defence Secretary insists 'no plan' to slash armed forces following reports troop numbers could be cut by a quarter

Defence Secretary insists 'no plan' to slash armed forces following reports troop numbers could be cut by a quarter

Ben Wallace said there were "no plans" for cuts to troop numbers

2 min read

The Defence Secretary has insisted there are "no plans" to slash the armed forces following reports that troop numbers could be cut by as much as a quarter.

Ben Wallace rejected claims that ministers were mulling a cut in service personnel numbers from 74,000 to 55,000.

And he said an upcoming review into defence and security would not start a "debate about numbers".

It comes after the Sunday Times reported that defence chiefs were considering a major overhaul of the UK's armed forces, including disbanding the Royal Marines commando brigade and shutting several RAF airbases, as part of new Treasury budget cuts.

Meanwhile, sources told the paper that senior Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings hoped to use the integrated review to divert spending from the traditional armed forces towards new projects related to cyber-warfare, space and artificial intelligence.

But questioned over the plans by MPs on Monday, Mr Wallace hit back, saying the reports were "erroneous".

"I can confirm there is no plan to slash the size of the armed forces, and the reports in the Sunday Times are complete erroneous reports that was made clear to the journalist at the Times," he said.

Mr Wallace added: "What is the case is our armed forces should always, always be defined by both the threat we face as a nation, the capabilities we have and Britain's global ambition.

"That is why in the integrated review we will deal with those processes rather than start a debate about numbers."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said the Government remained committed to maintaining defence spending.

But Number 10 refused to say whether troop numbers would remain untouched.

"I believe that what the manifesto said was that the government will continue to exceed the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence and increase the budget by at least 0.5% above inflation every year of a new Parliament," they said.

"It is just wrong to say that we plan to cut defence. We will fulfil our manifesto commitment, including to increase the budget above inflation."

The PM's spokesperson added: "The integrated review is covering all aspects of the UK's place in the world.

"But it is underpinned by the commitment the Government has already made to continue to exceed the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence and 0.7% of GNI on development and to maintain the nuclear deterent."

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