Defence Sec: MoD books have been balanced

The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says his ministry's books are now balanced Photo:

The Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, has just announced that he has balanced the books at the Ministry of Defence and filled what was a £38 billion black hole.

The financial gap was the difference between the equipment ordered by military chiefs and the money available to pay for it.

But the Secretary of State has not offered any evidence of his financial plans – we are instead told to take his word for the new balance sheet (the figures are militarily and commercially sensitive)

The books are in balance after the Treasury committed to a 1% terms increase in the equipment budget.

Mr Hammond told defence and political journalists at a briefing that his department will spend £152 billion over the next ten years on equipment.

The projects that will go ahead include 14 new Chinook helicopters, the life extension of the Apache, the upgrade of the Puma, £4.5 billion on new armoured fighting vehicles including the upgrade of the Warrior.

For the Royal Navy the money will stretch to the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier (for which a U-turn was made on her jets last week) and the remaining Type 45 destroyers and Type 26 frigates.

The RAF will also get is new A400M air transporters and an additional C17 transport plane along with investments in the Typhoon and F-35 jets.

Once a project is in the equipment programme, it is now real and funded and will be delivered

– Defence Secretary Philip Hammond

The briefing was delivered alongside the Chief of the Defence Staff - UK’s most senior military officer.

Knowing what we can afford is essential to our future success.

– General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff

The MoD says that there will be no further cuts in armed forces personnel above those already announced.

Those cuts include 17,000 fewer posts in the Army, 5,000 fewer in the RAF and 5,000 fewer in the Royal Navy.

Many of those redundancies have still not been made.

Many thousands of personnel are still yet to be sacked.

– Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy

The uncertainly for many soldiers, sailors and airmen will therefore continue.

While the Defence Secretary cannot submit his accounts for public scrutiny, he has promised to pass the sensitive information to the National Audit Office so officials there can pour over it.

We do know, however, that the budget for the armoured fighting vehicle programme is £5.5 billion smaller than planned. More vehicles which had been bought specifically for Afghanistan operations will be recycled into the core equipment programme.