20 Oct 2010

British PM announces major defence cuts

7:50 am on 20 October 2010

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has announced major cuts in defence spending in the army, navy and air force over the next five years, although not to Britain's operations in Afghanistan.

Mr Cameron said defence spending would fall by 8% over four years, the BBC reports.

The RAF and navy will each lose 5,000 jobs, the army 7,000 and the Ministry of Defence 25,000 civilian staff.

Harrier jump jets, the Navy's flagship HMS Ark Royal and planned Nimrod spy planes are to be axed.

Mr Cameron opened his statement to the House of Commons by denying the review was simply a "cost saving exercise", saying it was a "step change in the way we protect this country's security interests".

He said Britain would still meet NATO's target of spending 2% of GDP on defence and would continue to have the fourth largest military in the world and "punch above its weight in the world".

There would be no cuts to support for troops in Afghanistan - which is funded separately from the Treasury's special reserve, the prime minister said.