Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has argued his department is modernising the Armed Forces with a focus on capability over troop numbers and "sentimentality".
Army

£3.9bn savings from Army cuts 'pale in comparison to waste'

The Lib-Dem defence spokesman was critical of MOD for plans to reduce the size of the regular Army, from 82,000 to 72,500 by 2025.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has argued his department is modernising the Armed Forces with a focus on capability over troop numbers and "sentimentality".

Plans to cut the size of the Army are estimated to save around £3.9bn over 10 years, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said, prompting criticism that the savings "pale in comparison" to money "wasted" on procurement.

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.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the Commons at the time that the Army's "increased deployability and technological advantage will mean that greater effect can be delivered by fewer people".

Mr Wallace argued that his department is modernising the Armed Forces with a focus on capability over troop numbers and "sentimentality".

Defence Minister James Heappey has now confirmed in response to a written parliamentary question that the change is estimated to save around £3.9bn over the next 10 years.

He said: "Whilst the Regular Army reorganises to its new structure of 73,000, naturally this will result in workforce cost savings.

"The reduction of the Army to 73,000 by 2025 has been estimated to present £3.9bn in savings over the 10 years following the financial year 2021-22.

"The department is delivering record investment in the Army, providing £41.3bn in support of existing platforms and new equipment."

Watch: In May, the outgoing head of the British Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith said he wanted to see greater investment in larger service.

Mr Heappey was responding to a question from Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson Jamie Stone.

Mr Stone said: "At this dark moment, the decision to cut our Armed Forces is looking more misguided by the day.

"The release of these costings makes clear that the year-on-year savings from the cut pale in comparison with the immense MOD waste on procurement projects.

"Our Armed Forces personnel should not be bearing the brunt of poor decision-making elsewhere within the department," he added.

Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey said: "Despite the Government confirming in its Integrated Review last year that threats to Britain are 'growing and diversifying', defence ministers plan to cut the Army by another 10,000 soldiers.

"This plan is driven by pressure to cut costs, not by Britain's defence needs. Defence ministers have lost any grip on MOD spending and are trying to balance the books on the backs of forces personnel."

He went on: "The MOD have wasted £6bn since 2019, when the current Defence Secretary came into post, and a total of over £15bn since 2010. Ministers are failing British troops and British taxpayers."

Watch: Billions have been wasted as the MOD continually fails to learn from its mistakes, the Commons spending watchdog said last November.

MOD Response

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "There is a difference between 'waste' and accounting adjustments and extensions.

"We always review and renew our capabilities to ensure relevance to today's threats.

"This Government is investing an extra £24bn in defence – the biggest investment in the UK's Armed Forces since the end of the Cold War – which will help provide the British Army with new tanks, armoured vehicles and attack helicopters.

"Under our plans, the Army will have a whole force of over 100,000 personnel, consisting of regulars and reserves, ready to fight the wars of the future."