His intervention comes after the Conservatives slumped to an embarrassing
third place in the Eastleigh by-election, behind Ukip, leading to demands
for David Cameron to develop a more “Tory” agenda, with issues such as
security and immigration at the fore.

Speaking on a visit to an Arctic training camp for the Royal Marines before
the by-election result, the Defence Secretary disclosed that he would
strongly resist future cuts to the military, beyond moderate “efficiency
savings”.

“I shall go into the spending review fighting the case for the defence budget
on the basis that we have made very large cuts to defence, we’ve done that
with the collaboration and cooperation of the military,” he said.

“Any further reduction in the defence budget would fall on the level of
activity that we were able to carry out — the idea that expensively bought
equipment may not be able to be used, expensively employed troops may not be
able to be exercised and trained as regularly as they need to be.”

He added: “I am not going into the spending review offering any further
reductions in personnel. In my judgment, and I think the Chancellor and the
Prime Minister would both agree with this, the Armed Forces are at the
smallest level that is appropriate for the kind of defence posture that we
have set out in the SDSR [2010’s Strategic Defence and Security Review]. It
isn’t clear to me that we could go any smaller while retaining the range of
capabilities and commitments that the SDSR requires of us.”

The Chancellor and Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, are
drawing up plans for the next spending review, covering the year 2015-16.

While budgets for health, education and international development will be
protected, the Ministry of Defence could be expected to reduce costs by at
least another £500 million. The MoD is still midway through the current
round of spending cuts, despite having already made thousands of troops
redundant. Some 30,000 will be cut from the number of serving personnel,
many thousands of whom will go in the next two years.

Last month, Mr Cameron caused confusion by indicating that he would increase
overall defence spending from 2015, only for aides to say later that this
would only apply after 2016.

Today, Mr Hammond criticises Nick Clegg for not placing any Liberal Democrats
in the MoD. A Conservative source added: “There’s a real concern that the
Lib Dems want to protect the benefits culture at the expense of our troops.”

Hammond: cut welfare not troops – Telegraph.co.uk
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