UK MoD Under Fire Over Equipment Spending Cuts

19 February 2008 (Last Updated February 19th, 2008 04:16)

A senior UK defence official says defence spending has been so severely cut that vitally needed equipment is unaffordable. In a confidential presentation to colleagues at a Ministry of Defence (MoD) meeting to discuss budget cuts, the official warned against "mortgaging the future" of n

A senior UK defence official says defence spending has been so severely cut that vitally needed equipment is unaffordable.

In a confidential presentation to colleagues at a Ministry of Defence (MoD) meeting to discuss budget cuts, the official warned against "mortgaging the future" of national defence, The Sunday Times reports.

The meeting, one of a series to determine how to pay for equipment needed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, was also told that the Treasury has exaggerated the increase in the military budget.

Officially, it will rise by 1.5 percent this year but in cash terms it will only increase 0.6 percent, leaving a black hole of hundreds of millions of pounds.

Last week, coroners investigating the deaths of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan attacked the MoD, saying it is "unforgivable" that soldiers are ill-equipped.

Lance Sergeant Chris Casey, 27, and Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, 22, of the Irish Guards were killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

They were travelling in an armoured Snatch Land Rover, as there were not enough superior Mastiff heavily armoured vehicles available.

Wiltshire coroner David Masters recorded a verdict of unlawful killing and called for a review of defence equipment spending.

Captain James Phillipson, 29, of 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, was killed by a gunshot wound to the head in Afghanistan.

His colleagues told an inquest they lacked basic equipment, including Minimi machine guns, rifles with underslung grenades and night vision kits.

Oxfordshire coroner Andrew Walker says the MoD's failure to provide equipment was "unforgivable and inexcusable".

Walker says soldiers are not being defeated by the Taliban but "by the lack of basic equipment".

By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh