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ScrapTrident


UK Cabinet Split Over Defence Cuts

Proposals to slice up to £15bn from the defence budget over the next decade have been drawn up by the Treasury, provoking bitter rows within Whitehall and the Cabinet at a time when the military are under enormous pressure to meet commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The rift has caused the Ministry of Defence to postpone publication of the latest 10-year industrial strategy because Ministers admit current negotiations are ongoing and no agreement has been reached.

Though overall spending on defence is due to rise from £34.1bn next year to £36.9bn in 2010, prior commitments to Trident and two new aircraft carriers mean deep cuts are being drawn up in other areas between now and 2017.

Proposals to slice up to £15bn from the defence budget over the next decade have been drawn up by the Treasury, provoking bitter rows within Whitehall and the Cabinet at a time when the military are under enormous pressure to meet commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The rift has caused the Ministry of Defence to postpone publication of the latest 10-year industrial strategy because Ministers admit current negotiations are ongoing and no agreement has been reached.

Though overall spending on defence is due to rise from £34.1bn next year to £36.9bn in 2010, prior commitments to Trident and two new aircraft carriers mean deep cuts are being drawn up in other areas between now and 2017. These include:

· Cutting the number of new Astute nuclear powered submarines to be built at Barrow from eight to as few as four

· Cancelling orders for the seventh and eighth Type 45 frigate at Portsmouth or diverting the ships from the Royal Navy by selling them to the Malaysian navy

· Scrapping the third tranche of Eurofighters if BAE Systems can be persuaded to waive cancellation charges in return for the Government diverting the order to Saudi Arabia

· Postponing an order for 3,000 new armoured vehicles to be built in Newcastle to replace ageing Land Rovers which are vulnerable to roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Hutton, the Business Secretary, is said to back the need to retain the orders - his own constituents in Barrow could lose jobs if the submarine order is cut - while David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, is not so sure all the orders are needed.

Shriti Vedera, a Junior Minister in the Department for International Development, but one of Gordon Brown's most influential advisers, is also said to be insisting that the Treasury push through more savings.

The UK is the highest per capita spender on defence among its European allies, and Brown has said he is putting "more money than ever before" into the defence budget.

Keith Hazlewood, GMB national secretary and chair of the CSEU shipbuilding negotiating committee, said: " This disclosure confirms our suspicions that the submarine order could be threatened and that there could be cutbacks in the Eurofighter programme. We had thought the two frigates were safe. It would be a devastating blow for workers if this happened."