Multiple anonymous personnel on parade at Bulford Camp
UK

Cuts to troop numbers 'untenable' in face of Russian aggression, Tory MPs warn

Tory MPs urged a rethink on cuts in the size of the Army, with one warning already "the battalions have been hollowed out".

Multiple anonymous personnel on parade at Bulford Camp

Conservative MPs have called Government plans to cut troop numbers "untenable" and "inconceivable" as they called for greater defence spending in the face of Russian aggression.

During a debate on defence spending in the House of Commons, a number of Tory MPs urged a rethink on cuts in the size of the Army, with one warning already "the battalions have been hollowed out".

Conservative MP Bob Stewart said: "The one thing the Russians are showing is that in order to take territory, you've got to put boots on it, and guess what – we're chucking our boots out. It's appalling, we've got to reverse that decision."

Dr Julian Lewis, Conservative chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), said the effort put in to defending the UK "is the most important investment we can make".

"3% of GDP should now be seen, not as a target, not as a minimum," he said.

"It should be seen as a stepping stone on the way to a realistic investment to meet the threat which never really went away."

Conservative MP Andrew Bowie told the Commons it is "simply inconceivable" the UK is "about to reduce the size of our Army by 10,000 personnel".

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"At a time when allies of ours are being invaded by an aggressive foe, for us to send a signal that we're reducing the size of our Armed Forces is simply untenable," he said.

"I do believe that has to be looked at again."

While Conservative MP Sir Robert Syms said the UK needs to have "more boots in the military",  the Integrated Review needs revisiting and the UK "will need to spend more on defence".

However, Defence minister Jeremy Quin said the Integrated Review recognised a "perpetual peace dividend" could not be assumed.

He added the UK needs to be prepared to defend and deter threats from Russia and states which violate international law.

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"The Army is receiving significant investment. It may be leaner, but it's also more agile and will have greater lethality," he said.

"There is a role for tanks in the battlefields of the future and we recognise it," he said.

Mr Quin added the UK will ensure "the extra £24bn that we have to invest in defence" will be spent "wisely and appropriately".

"We will also ensure that, as we made clear in the Integrated Review, with that £24bn of extra investment in defence, we will have the Armed Forces we require to deter and defend."

Speaking for the SNP, Dave Doogan said there are "no surface warships stationed in Scotland, meaning that when Russia does come knocking on Scotland's door the Royal Navy are busy at the other end of this island and take fully a day to engage".

In response, Mr Quin said the Royal Navy is "there to protect the whole of the United Kingdom and our interests overseas".

He added there is a "huge commitment" to the high north "going on right now", and said Scotland is home to the submarine fleet and nuclear deterrent.