HC Deb 01 March 2004 vol 418 cc612-3
17. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/ Co-op)

What recent submissions he has received about the potential for efficiency-driven savings in the defence budget; and if he will make a statement. [156745]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence(Mr. Adam Ingram)

As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Ministry of Defence spending review 2002 settlement represented the largest sustained increase in defence spending plans for 20 years. That means there will be year-on-year real increases in defence spending plans until at least 2005–06. Nevertheless, the MOD continuously seeks to increase its efficiency. We regularly receive advice, suggestions and submissions on how we might do that, from both within and outside Government.

David Taylor

When gimlet-eyed management consultants have been tasked by the Government to seek efficiency-driven savings elsewhere in the public sector, their recommendations have often been deeply harmful to the quality of service provided. Will the Minister reassure the House that he will never listen to the siren voices of those who would jeopardise the efficiency and quality of our armed forces by implementing cuts that would aggregate to more than £4 million a day?

Mr. Ingram

I echo that sentiment entirely.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab)

As an ex-Royal Marine, may I ask whether my hon. Friend agrees that multi-functional forces such as the Royal Marines provide best value and that their future will be safeguarded by this Government in the years ahead?

Mr. Ingram

Last week, I was with the Royal Marines in Norway and saw at first hand the tremendous cold-weather training undertaken by those exceptional soldiers. Some 2,300 Royal Marines are there, 1,500 of whom have never experienced cold-weather training. At the end of their eight-week training period, they will be fighting fit to carry on their tremendous recent work in Afghanistan and Iraq—there is no threat to their future.

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