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Malaysian minister speaks to Hammond about search

The Malaysian transport minister's communications team has posted an image of him talking on the phone - in his dressing gown - to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond about the Royal Navy submarine arriving to help search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight:

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0630AM Hawaii, on the phone w/ Sec. Hammond of UK. Just got word - HMS Tireless sub is joining search for #MH370 http://t.co/oLR3SlwfJ6

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Hammond: Russia 'using crude & very blunt instrument'

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said Russia has been using a "crude and very blunt instrument" by amassing troops on the Ukraine border.

Mr Hammond told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We're concerned that there might be a further incursion in the territory of a sovereign nation.

A Ukrainian border guard and Russian guards stand at the border crossing between Ukraine and Russia in Vyselki, eastern Ukraine.
A Ukrainian border guard and Russian guards stand at the border crossing between Ukraine and Russia in Vyselki, eastern Ukraine. Credit: AP Photo/Sergei Grits

"But whether there is or there isn't, we all ought to be concerned about the use of this crude and very blunt instrument to try to influence other nations and their behaviour".

Read: Kerry and Lavrov to meet amid 'isolation' warning to Russia

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Hammond dismisses Army cuts criticism as 'nonsense'

The Defence Secretary has dismissed much of the criticism levelled against the Government on Army cuts as "nonsense".

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Philip Hammond said: "We still have the fourth largest defence budget in the world.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond on The Andrew Marr Show.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond on The Andrew Marr Show. Credit: BBC/The Andrew Marr Show

"I was in the Pentagon just this week past, I heard my US counterpart talk about Britain as a credible, capable and reliable ally and that's what we intend to remain.

"Of course we've had to make savings, of course we've had to make some very tough decisions, ... but we're looking to the future not the past."

Mr Hammond's comments followed General Sir Richard Shirreff's comments that the restructuring of the Army is "one hell of a risk" that will weaken the armed forces around the world.

Hammond: UK to offer Typhoon aircraft to Nato

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the Government will offer Typhoon aircraft to Nato from late April to assist with the Nato-Baltic air policing mission.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond during Defence Questions today.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond during Defence Questions today. Credit: ITV News

Mr Hammond told MPs, "I hope that will provide reassurance to our Nato allies" following the Crimea referendum result and the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

Hammond: Scottish independence 'threat to security'

Independence poses a threat to both levels of safety and security and the future of defence jobs in Scotland, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has told the Conservative Party conference.

Addressing the party's Scottish conference in Edinburgh, with just over six months to go until the referendum, Mr Hammond said the Scottish Government's defence plans under independence are not credible.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond addresses the 2014 Scottish Conservative party conference in Edinburgh Credit: PA

"A separate Scotland could not hope to develop the same level of protection and resilience," Mr Hammond said.

"Whether it's the range of military capabilities; the strength of our geopolitical influence; or the number of domestic defence jobs we are able to sustain, it is absolutely clear that replicating the UK's level of safety and security [...] under a separate Scotland is probably impossible."

Read: Scots could gain tax powers if it rejects independence

Hammond: Must be shift in balance of defence spending

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has accused a committee of MPs of failing to recognise the need to counter evolving threats, such as potential cyber-attacks, meant there had to be a shift in the balance of defence spending.

Mr Hammond said:

It is not possible to maintain traditional regular forces at historic levels while also investing in countering the threats of tomorrow.

The Army 2020 structure is not simply about a reduction in size; it is a complete overhaul of how the Army works to deliver a fully-integrated force, using a better mix of regulars, reserves and contractors to get the maximum defence effect from the budget.

MPs warn Army cuts 'have not been thought through'

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Hammond: Army 'could have been deployed sooner'

The military could have been brought in earlier to help deal with the winter storms that have been wracking Britain, a Cabinet minister has admitted.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond defended the Government's handling of the crisis.

He said Royal Engineers were now being tasked to carry out a high-speed assessment of "serious" damage to the UK's flood defence infrastructure.

Army help to create a safe access route by the River Parrett, in Burrowbridge, Somerset, last week.
Army help to create a safe access route by the River Parrett, in Burrowbridge, Somerset, last week. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

But Mr Hammond conceded that in future the Government would involve the military earlier in the process, and be more "aggressive" in urging local authorities to use troops.

Mr Hammond said more than 3,000 troops were currently deployed to help and 5,000 more were available if needed.

Hammond: 'Flood resilience is not the only issue'

Philip Hammond has defended the decision to build on flood plains after it was revealed that Local authorities are planning to build hundreds of homes on land that is currently under water.

The Defence Secretary told Andrew Marr on the BBC:

"The whole of the Thames Valley is a flood plain, there has to be a proper balance. We need to avoid the highest risk areas when we do build in lower flood risk areas that properties are built in way that minimises the risk of flooding.

"Like everything in the real world a balance needs to be struck, it's very easy to say today, because we're in the middle of this crisis flood resilience is not the only issue. It's a very important issue but it isn't the only issue."

Read more: Councils plan for new homes in flood hit areas

Philip Hammond confronted by emotional flood warden

A flood warden in the village of Wraysbury has confronted Defence Secretary Philip Hammond on live TV to request more "manpower" to help with the crisis.

Su Burrows told him: "I'm sorry I am going to get emotional ... We have been working for 48 hours evacuating people, risking our lives, going into waters that would be over my head".

"What will it take for you to understand [that] we are seriously in need?" she asked him.

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Flood warden Su Burrows to Philip Hammond: "What will it take for you to understand?" http://t.co/ZmhSeiCdpR http://t.co/1GTOJTui40

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Live on Sky News, Ms Burrows said there were around 100 volunteers coordinating the rescue effort in the village, and "not one Environment Agency officer."

Initially taken aback by the warden's outburst, Mr Hammond said he was surprised that a team of solders and police had not delivered sandbags to the village yet. He offered to arrange a meeting with the local gold commander and Ms Burrows later today.

Hammond: UK and France 'natural partners' in defence

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain and France are "natural partners for defence co-operation" after the Prime Minister announced a series of deals.

Mr Hammond said in a statement:

We have made substantial progress since the Lancaster House Treaty was signed in 2010 and today we have committed ourselves to go further still.

The agreements we have reached at this Summit will improve the inter-operability of our forces, enhance our joint equipment procurement and build on our capacity to support security and stability in places such as Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.

Read: PM and Hollande agree defence and nuclear deals

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