Ministers urged to reverse 'crazy' plan for Army job cuts by cross-party MPs

The Government has been urged to reverse course on its “crazy policy” of cutting the size of the Army to just over 72,000 personnel.

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said the plan made it more difficult for the UK to be an effective member of Nato in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Government set out plans last year to reduce the size of the regular Army, lowering the target size from 82,000 personnel to 72,500 by 2025. When the announcement was made in March 2021, the Army had around 76,500 regular soldiers.

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Mr Sheerman said in Parliament: “If we are going to be an effective member of Nato, when are we going to stop this crazy policy of a diminishing size of Armed Forces?

Barry Sheerman spoke out against the planned job cuts in the Army.Barry Sheerman spoke out against the planned job cuts in the Army.
Barry Sheerman spoke out against the planned job cuts in the Army.

“Seven years ago, I asked a former Defence Secretary what if Mr Putin’s people just arrived in the English Channel as we went below 100,000 service personnel?

“The plan today now is to go to 72,000.

“Is that credible as a major armed force in Nato?”

Defence Minister James Heappey said he believed Mr Sheerman’s analysis to be wrong.

“Nato massively outnumbers Russia as an adversary, the UK commits more than our minimum requirement to Nato and moreover allies around Nsto are clear that contributions in the traditional domains of land, sea and air are no longer sufficient and Nato needs capabilities in space and cyberspace on which the UK has invested and is to the fore,” he said.

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But Mr Sheerman’s position was supported by Tory MP Richard Drax, who urged ministers “to reverse the very bad decision to reduce the Army by 10,000”.

Mr Heappey said the way the war in Ukraine is unfolding has actually vindicated the UK’s strategy and the need to think beyond traditional capabilities.

He said: “The UK continues to lead thinking rather than being behind it.”

Shadow defence secretary and MP for Wentworth and Dearne John Healey asked if it was “true the Defence Secretary warned the Chancellor that Britain risks missing its 2% spending commitment”.

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He said: “Nato meets in two weeks’ time to agree its masterplan for the next ten years, yet there are growing concerns about the UK meeting even its core Nato commitments.

“Is it true the Defence Secretary warned the Chancellor that Britain risks missing its 2% spending commitment? What is the Defence Secretary doing about Ajax given the Public Accounts Committee’s new report which says the MoD is failing to deliver the capability that the army needs to meet its Nato commitments and why has the Defence Secretary failed to set out a vision to ensure that Britain continues to be Nato’s leading European nation?”

Mr Heappey replied: “The Defence Secretary is a passionate advocate for our nation’s armed forces and for defence within government, but his correspondence with other ministers in the Cabinet necessarily should remain private.”

He added: “The UK exceeds its Nato minimum requirement and as Nato moves into its new strategic concept and looks at how it will operate across all five domains, it is the UK’s decisions from the IR (Integrated Review) that are informing what others will now contribute to Nato rather than visa versa.

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“I cannot think of anybody within Nato at all who has set out a more compelling vision for the alliance and the UK’s role within it.”

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