Tory backbenchers threaten rebellion over defence cuts
Backbench Tory MPs have threatened a 25-strong rebellion over cuts to defence spending, piling further pressure on Philip Hammond ahead of this week’s Budget.
In a letter to the new Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, seen by the Sun, 25 Conservative MPs have said they would vote down any plans that would reduce cash to the armed forces.
The calls are being led by former Army officer Johnny Mercer, who last night told the newspaper: “We have drawn up a red line on the strength and capability of our armed forces.”
“At some stage you have to stand up for what you believe in, and we have reached that point now. I’m pleased so many of my colleagues agree.”
The intervention will come as a further blow to the Chancellor as he prepares to deliver this week’s crunch Autumn Budget.
Mr Hammond has faced calls from his own party in recent weeks to end austerity and invest in the NHS, housing and public sector pay.
But yesterday he played down expectations of a spending spree, by dismissing calls for an extra £4bn for the NHS and saying 300,000 new homes and year could be delivered without “pouring money in”.
The Chancellor is also expected to face pressure from the newly appointed Defence Secretary, with The Times reporting that he is preparing to confront the Treasury over planned cuts.
The newspaper reveals that Mr Williamson is working with military chiefs on proposals that “do more to protect the armed forces,” according to a Whitehall source.
In the letter to the Defence Secretary, the backbenchers state: “We wish to draw your attention to the potential negative impact that any reduction in our amphibious capability would have, and the subsequent consequences on this country’s ability to respond to international events.
“It is simply not credible for us as Government MPs, or a proud island nation, to claim that we are on the side of defence but then allow the Government unhindered to reduce one of our most capable and effective assets – the Royal Marines – and our amphibious capabilities, in particular HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion.
“We must make it clear to you that as a cohort of MPs representing a large portion of the Government’s vote, we are not prepared to see the degradation of this nation’s amphibious capabilities any further.”
They add: “We very much look forward to seeing the results of a security review conducted as a result of a ‘significant change’ in the threats we now face as a country, met with the commensurate funding and capabilities.
“As countless Prime Ministers and Defence Secretaries before you have said – it is the first duty of Government to protect the nation. We look forward to that rhetoric being matched in deeds over the coming months.”