Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy has responded to the government announcing it is reconsidering the defence review, saying:
“This seems to be more about politics than defence. I worry it’s smoke and mirrors. They say they are reconsidering the review, but we could still end up with more cuts to defence capability.”
Murphy has also written to defence secretary Liam Fox, which you can see below:
Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP
Secretary of State for Defence
Ministry of Defence
05 April 2011
I am writing to request that you reopen the Strategic Defence and Security Review. There is growing disquiet that the Review has not survived its first contact with world events.
In the week that the Air Chief Marshall has said that ongoing operations overseas â€œbring you nearer the point that you have just about exhausted the bagâ€ and when the MoD plans to remove a further Â£1bn from the budget, this situation is becoming increasingly acute.
It is clear that the majority of the defence community believe that events in North Africa and the Middle East have fundamentally changed the security landscape. No-one foresaw the dawn of the Arab Spring, but now that it is upon us it is right that the Government considers its implications on defence policy, and in turn the long-term military capabilities we require, and reopens the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The assumptions on which the Review was based now look out of date and it is clear that many of the capabilities deemed to be unnecessary at the time of the SDSR are central to operational requirements in Libya.
As you know current operations in Libya are reliant, for example, on HMS Cumberland, which was due to be decommissioned last week as part of the reduction of frigate numbers.
The Government have extended the life of two Nimrod R1s, despite repeated assurances that the surveillance capability of the R1s and the now scrapped successor MRA4s could be covered in other ways.
Operations in Libya have involved Tornado jets, whose fleet is set to be reduced, while there are reports that there are not enough trained Tornado pilots to replace all of those currently on operations when the squadron has to rotate.
The decision to scrap Ark Royal and the Harrier fleet means Britain does not have carrier strike capability for a decade.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has said current events are as significant as September 11th. It is worth considering how the previous government responded to 9/11. A new chapter was added to the defence review in 2002. In the first budget after the September 11th attacks the Government announced an additional Â£50 million for domestic security and Â£950 million for defence.
The Prime Minister said on March 23rd of the SDSR, â€œif there are further lessons to learn of course we should learn themâ€. This was welcome. The Government should learn the lesson from the previous Governments. Before the end of 1982, as a result of the Falklands Conflict, the Conservatives reconsidered the Nott Defence Review and restored some of the proposed cuts to the Navy, including retaining an aircraft carrier and a larger fleet of destroyers and frigates.
In different and specific circumstances those Governments rightly took the decision to think afresh and came to conclusions that were right for that time. In light of todayâ€™s fast-changing world events, this Government should test the logic of its decisions against the new security landscape.
I know that the Government recognises the severity of the events we are living through, but appears set on a trajectory designed for another era. The SDSR did not mention Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. I do not believe that we can achieve this yearâ€™s level of foreign and defence policy ambition on last yearâ€™s SDSR assumptions.
It would be the sign of a confident Government today to look again at the Review.
Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence