National security could be placed at risk by the Government’s “unconvincing” plan to cut the size of the British Army by 20 per cent, a cross-party group of MPs warns today.
The Commons Defence Committee said it has “considerable doubts” whether the huge cuts to the British Army will leave it able “meet the needs of the UK’s national security”, in a damning report published this morning.
Under the Army 2020 plan, troop numbers are being slashed from 102,000 to 82,000 by the end of the decade, while the number of part-time reservists is to be doubled to 30,000. Yorkshire’s 300-year old Green Howards regiment was among those to be axed.
But the committee warned the restructuring programme has been driven by the need to fit a “financial envelope”, rather than a proper assessment of potential threats – and urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to draw up contingency plans in case of a sudden urgent need for more troops.
The committee added that if Ministers attempt to make any further defence cuts, the whole plan would “unravel” completely.
Labour’s shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker said Mr Hammond should “pause his redundancy programme” until it was clear the Army “won’t be left with a dangerous capability gap”.
But an MoD source dismissed Labour’s claims of an 8,000 shortfall in troops, saying the figures reflected an “inevitable lag” between personnel leaving and the required forces numbers being reduced as the services move to their Army 2020 levels.