- 11 updates
The Defence Secretary came out fighting for his department today, provoking open splits in the coalition over further spending cuts. Philip Hammond warned the capability of the armed forces is at risk and cuts to welfare would be more appropriate.
ITV News' political correspondent Romilly Weeks reports:
Former defence secretary Liam Fox has endorsed his successor Philip Hammond's call to protect the armed forces from further spending cuts.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond spoke out against prospective cuts to the armed forces following comments by Lib Dem ministers Danny Alexander and Vince Cable, a Whitehall source has said.
Their calls for welfare to be protected and defence to be cut apparently prompted their Conservative Cabinet colleague to go public.
"There is a real concern that the Lib Dems wants to protect the benefits culture at the expense of the armed forces," the source said.
Jim Murphy MP, Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary, has responded to Philip Hammond's comments on the Ministry of Defence budget.
"There is a gulf between the Government's rhetoric and reality.
"The country now has an aircraft carrier with no planes to fly from for years as well as the smallest army since the Boer War.
"Even then Defence Secretary has failed to balance the defence budget. We will judge the Defence Secretary on the cold reality of his actions rather than today's warm words."
Tory backbencher Mark Pritchard has said that Philip Hammond could expect strong support from Conservative MPs over his stance to curb cuts to defence.
"Defence cuts have gone far enough," he said.
"There will be zero political support from Conservative backbenchers for any additional cuts beyond those already announced in the SDSR.
"The Treasury needs to look elsewhere for additional savings."
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell has welcomed Philip Hammond's views on cuts to defence:
Philip Hammond has told the BBC that he will not be able to make further cuts "without eroding military capability."
The leader of a prominent defence and security think thank has said that the approach to defence cuts is one of risk analysis.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Professor Michael Clarke, director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, said:
Philip Hammond has said that Nick Clegg does not view defence as an important area.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the Secretary of State for Defence, said:
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said there was a "body of opinion within Cabinet who believes that we have to look at the welfare budget again", and that "we should be seeing welfare spending falling" as a result of rising employment levels.
He said the "first priority" for the Government should be "defending the country and maintaining law and order" and that further defence cuts were not possible while meeting stated security objectives.