In strongly-worded letter to David Cameron, Liam Fox warns against "impossible" cuts to the armed forces
By Tim Montgomerie
The Daily Telegraph splashes tomorrow with a letter from Defence Secretary Liam Fox to the Prime Minister about looming defence cuts. Although the letter was marked “for the Prime Minister’s eyes only” it has leaked.
Dr Fox writes:
“Frankly, this process is looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR and more like a “super CSR” (comprehensive spending review). If it continues on its current trajectory it is likely to have grave political consequences for us.”
He warns that the draft cuts are “financially and intellectually virtually impossible” at a time of war.
The full story is here.
Reacting to the leak Downing Street commented: “You would expect the Secretary of State to make robust representations.”
Five quick reactions:
- Fox/ Treasury tensions: This is incredibly strong wording and the fact that Dr Fox is appealing directly to the Prime Minister is clear confirmation that relations between Dr Fox and the Treasury are not as they should be.
- Tory members want defence prioritised: Tory members (and candidates) have consistently said that defence should be the top spending priority. Sadly it is being cut more deeply because of the decision to ringfence NHS and middle class welfare spending.
- The fattest departments should be cut most: The budgets that increased most during the Labour years should be cut most as they have the most fat. The reverse is often happening with hugely stretched budgets - like defence - being cut deeply.
- Cabinet should be discussing spending cuts: ConservativeHome understands that there has been no collective discussion at Cabinet of the scale of cuts that each department should face. Although detailed budget discussions must be bilateral it is regrettable that broad priorities have not been discussed outside of the PM's inner circle.
- Whitehall has become very leaky: The Coalition is being hit by far too many leaks. Last week the plan for culling quangoes was leaked. Cabinet ministers are now resorting to using codewords in Departments to disguise intentions from civil servants.