The impact on Defence of the Chancellor’s spending announcement yesterday is carried in several outlets, while the Brecon Beacons inquest and tension in Ukraine feature again.
Several papers report yesterday’s announcement that the MOD will make around £500m of savings this year to help the Government reduce the deficit. The Sun (p2) reports that George Osborne has been criticised by fellow Conservatives for reducing the defence budget while overseas aid is not reduced and also suggests that further cuts put Britain at risk of dropping below the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence. The MOD has said the £500 million is money not spent in the past two years. In the Guardian, the Treasury insist that cuts to the Defence budget did not mean the UK would fall below the 2% NATO target.
The Daily Mail features comments by Admiral Lord West, who criticised the savings and Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin told the BBC he was concerned that the Defence budget was being cut at a time of increasing turmoil in the Middle East and mounting Russian aggression, an argument which The Telegraph references in a leader.
Our statement is here:
You would expect MOD to play a part in the Government’s ongoing commitment to reduce the deficit. As part of the Chancellor’s announcement, we have agreed to make a further £500M of savings and adjustments in this financial year. This amounts to 1.5% of the overall defence budget. This agreement will not impact on the baseline defence budget, manpower numbers or current operations. The UK will continue to spend 2% GDP on defence in this financial year.
Brecon Beacons Inquest
The Guardian reports today from the inquest into the death of three soldiers on SAS selection. An experienced instructor involved in directing the exercise march said he was not aware of official guidance that an exercise should be halted if a participant suffered a heat illness. The instructor said he accepted that it would have been better if the men who took part in the test had access to hot weather clothes rather than standard issue kit. ITV Wales reports that a fellow reservist attempted to revive one of the men 500 metres from the end of the route.
The BBC, Telegraph and Guardian report on warnings from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that a Russian offensive may be imminent. After several months of shaky ceasefire, east Ukraine has seen the first bout of serious fighting since February, with clashes this week leaving up to 21 dead and prompting fears of a resumption of full-blown conflict in the region. Mr Poroshenko says in an address to the Ukrainian parliament: "The military must be ready as much for a renewal of an offensive by the enemy in the [eastern region of] Donbass as they are for a full-scale invasion along the whole length of the border with Russia. We must be truly ready for this."