The Defence Secretary has told a Conservative colleague "to never believe everything he reads in the newspapers" in response to a question about cuts in the British Army.
Former chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee Julian Lewis referenced press reports that the planned integrated defence review could result in "swingeing cuts" to Armed Forces personnel.
Ben Wallace replied: "My right honourable friend has been in this House long enough to never believe everything he reads in the newspapers."
Speaking during Defence Questions in the House of Commons, the Defence Secretary later told MPs "only a fool starts the debate on numbers rather than threat" when it comes to assessing the strategic needs of the UK.
In November, during the election campaign, Boris Johnson promised to "increase funding" and not to "cut" the Armed Forces "in any form", while speaking at the Conservative Party's 2019 manifesto launch in Telford.
When asked whether the Prime Minister is willing to see troop numbers fall by as much as 20,000, a Number 10 spokesperson said: "The Integrated Review is covering all aspects of the UK’s place in the world but it is underpinned by the commitment the Government has already made to continue to exceed the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence... and to maintain the nuclear deterrent.
"It’s false to say that we plan to cut defence."
The Government’s integrated review was launched in February to consider the future of UK defence, described as the deepest review of British foreign, defence and security policy in 30 years.
Outcomes are expected to be published in the Autumn, but Mr Wallace said slashing the size of the military will not be one of them.
"This is not driven by financial pressures, this is first and foremost driven by threat," he said.
Mr Wallace added on a meeting with military chiefs, with took place last week: "It was not a financial discussion, contrary to what was reported, it wasn’t a numbers discussion either, it was a discussion about how we meet the threat and how we deliver a future armed forces to match that."
Cover image: PA.