A Birmingham MP on the Defence Select Committee has warned the Government that cuts to the armed forces have left them unable to fulfil their duties.
Edgbaston Labour MP Gisela Stuart accused the Government of “wishful thinking” in believing that major funding cuts would not harm Britain’s defences.
The Defence Select Committee published a hard-hitting report warning that, without more funding for defence, Britain’s politicians risk “failing” the country’s military.
It follows an inquiry in which MPs quizzed the heads of the army, navy and RAF, as well as Prime Minister David Cameron.
Ms Stuart said: “Britain is unable to take military action without depending on allies and this raises questions about our own defence, on top of all the duties across the world that we are asking our armed forces to perform.”
The inquiry warned that cuts to the armed forces would leave them unable to deliver what is asked of them after 2015.
In a serious rebuke to Mr Cameron, the Defence Select Committee said it rejected the Prime Minister’s assurance that Britain retains a “full spectrum” defence capability.
And a toughly-worded report warned that without firm commitments to improved funding in the very near future, Britain’s politicians risk “failing” the country’s military.
The committee warned that the National Security Strategy unveiled with much fanfare last autumn was in danger of becoming no more than a “wish list” unless the necessary money was committed to deliver the future armed forces envisaged for 2020 and beyond.
October’s Strategic Defence and Security Review outlined plans to reduce the Army by 7,000 and the Royal Navy and RAF by 5,000 each as part of a cost-cutting exercise which also saw the cancellation of equipment including Nimrod MRA4 reconnaissance planes and the early withdrawal of HMS Ark Royal and Harrier jump-jets.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced last month that spending on equipment will increase by 1% above inflation each year after 2015 to pave the way for the so-called Future Force 2020.
But the Defence Committee said it was “not convinced that, given the current financial climate and the drawdown of capabilities arising from the SDSR, UK armed forces will be able do what is asked of them after 2015”.
The report noted “mounting concern” that the military was falling below the minimum capacity needed to fulfil current commitments, let alone tasks it may face between 2015 and 2020, when ministers acknowledge that there will be “capability gaps”.
Plans to increase funding after 2015 were merely “government aspiration, not government policy”, said the MPs.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the previous Labour government’s failure over 12 years to hold a defence review had left the MoD with a multibillion-pound deficit requiring “tough but necessary decisions”.
“As the committee rightly acknowledges, dealing with the deficit was a national security imperative,” said the Defence Secretary.
“The committee is also right to say that Future Force 2020 is only achievable with extra funding. That is why I announced two weeks ago that the military equipment budget will rise in real terms by over £3 billion between 2015 and 2020, with new helicopters being ordered, new money for our armoured vehicles, the carrier programme and guaranteed spending on the Joint Strike Fighter.
“Our future equipment programme is no longer an unfunded aspiration but one that provides real money for real equipment.”
He added: “We continue to have the fourth largest military budget in the world and the SDSR has put defence back on a stable footing with highly capable armed forces and certainty for our personnel and their families.
“I am pushing through radical reform to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.”