Gavin Williamson suggests UK may have to use nuclear weapons due to defence cuts
Cuts to conventional military equipment could see the UK forced to deploy nuclear weapons in future battles, Gavin Williamson has suggested.
The Defence Secretary said Britain must be prepared to use "the greatest deterrence of all" in order to keep the country safe if no other options were available.
Mr Williamson's comments came as he continues to battle with Chancellor Philip Hammond to prevent a fresh round of defence cuts.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute's Sea Power conference, the Cabinet minister said: "We have got to talk about deterrence being full-spectrum, right across the board.
"It is sometimes difficult to explain to people that actually investing in our armed forces is all about making sure that things do not happen.
"It is about aircraft carriers, it is about a presence in the Pacific, it is a presence in the North Atlantic, it is a presence in the Mediterranean and in the Gulf with conventional frigates and destroyers that are able to say that Britain is interested, Britain cares, Britain will protect our interests and our values.
"If we do not have that conventional deterrence and the ability to deter through conventional forces, then what we will find ourselves in is a place that none of us wish to be in and having to turn to the greatest deterrence of them all."
A Downing Street spokeswoman said the Government uses "the full range of our capabilities in defending our national security".
She said: "The independent nuclear deterrent is the ultimate guarantee of the UK's security in the face of the most extreme threats.
"The whole point of deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it, but we are committed to investing in conventional capabilities."