Here we go again - but we're starting to hear from the people within the MoD now....... Forces face 'ruthless' cuts as MoD seeks to save £1bn By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent (Filed: 13/05/2004) The Ministry of Defence's most senior civil servant admitted yesterday that the Armed Forces faced major cuts because of Treasury spending restrictions. Sir Kevin Tebbit, the MoD's permanent secretary, confirmed last month's disclosures in The Telegraph that 16 MoD committees, known as "work-strands", were looking to save more than £1 billion. His admission to the Commons defence select committee came as the First Sea Lord, Adml Sir Alan West, conceded that the Royal Navy would have to lose a number of destroyers and frigates. The loss of up to a fifth of the Navy's surface vessels, originally reported in The Telegraph in January, would leave it smaller than the French navy for the first time since the 17th century. Confirming that he expected "ruthless" cuts, Adml West said in an interview published yesterday that "there'll be a hit on the destroyer/frigate force". "We're trying to fit the programme to the cash we've got," he said. "There are going to be some hard choices and ministers will have to review all the implications, including industrial ones." That implied the threat of job losses and Sir Kevin's admissions to MPs were seen as a joint MoD campaign to put pressure on the Treasury to secure a better deal in the July spending round. Sir Kevin told the defence committee that, despite the increased demands on the Armed Forces by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Treasury had ordered the MoD to cut its spending over the past year. The MoD's overall budget remained unchanged, but he admitted that it was under pressure and he had been told by the Treasury to "constrain those activities which generated a cash spend". The combined attack provoked an angry response from the Treasury, which denied that it was forcing the MoD into defence cuts. "Far from cuts, the 2002 spending review is delivering the biggest sustained increase for 20 years," it said. But Sir Kevin pre-empted that claim by telling the defence committee that Treasury claims about the improvement in the budget were "more a reflection of how small the increases had been over the years". The Treasury also claimed yesterday that it was funding the cost of successive campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sierra Leone in full. But defence sources pointed out that the fact that the Treasury was referring to the campaign in Kosovo, five years after the event, was a reflection of how hard it was to recoup anything like the real costs of military operations. "Tony Blair wants us to do all these things that allow him to strut the world stage and we are very happy to do them," one source said. "Gordon Brown always promises in public that he will fund it all in full. "But then he goes through the list of expenditure saying that most of it we would have spent anyway and refuses to pay, not taking into account that we still have to fund all our normal activities as well as fight a war." Both the Royal Navy and the RAF are expected to take savage cuts in their strength in order to pay for expensive new projects and in particular the Royal Navy's two new carriers and the RAF's Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft. The "work-strands" have been told that in particular that they must find ways of closing bases. This is because a new Treasury accounting system known as resource account budgeting penalises departments that hold large amounts of land, something the MoD cannot avoid. Under proposals put forward by the "work-strands", the RAF would lose all of its 141 Jaguar and Harrier ground attack aircraft, its 39 Puma helicopters and a number of bases. The Army would lose 50 Challenger II tanks, 50 Warrior armoured personnel carriers, 120 helicopters and a number of bases. But by far the most controversial of the proposals was the suggestion that two Royal Navy aircraft carriers - Illustrious and Invincible - be laid up and only two frigates sold. Adml West is committed to the new carriers and has infuriated some colleagues by his willingness to sacrifice frigates and destroyers. Adml West said three Type 42 destroyers and a number of the relatively new Type 23 frigates were likely to be axed. But this was seen as a minimum. It is far more likely that unless the carriers are laid up, all four of the Type 42 destroyers will go, along with a significant number of frigates.