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Chilcot hears Brown guillotined defence funds

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 03 February 2010

Kevin Tebbit, the former top civil servant at the MoD, tells the Chilcot inquiry Gordon Brown "guillotined" the defence budget when he was chancellor. Gary Gibbon reports.

Gordon Brown (picture: Reuters)

In three days of the Iraq war hearing a dramatic shift of focus from Blair to Brown.

If the prime minister had hoped that by calling the inquiry he would distance himself from it all, today the former top civil servant in the Ministry of Defence saw to it that he stayed in the very heart of it.

Sir Kevin Tebbit has told how the then chancellor guillotined his budget, forcing sudden and difficult cuts in army spending.

He told the inquiry that Brown cut £1bn out of the defence budget just six months after British boots hit the Iraqi ground.

Sir Kevin Tebbit said the MoD had to launch an "across-the-board major savings exercise" to meet the Treasury's "arbitrary" cuts.

He told the inquiry projects affected also included Royal Navy destroyers, frigates, minesweepers and patrol vessels, Challenger tanks, AS90 artillery and Jaguar aircraft.

The MoD also had to reduce numbers of armed forces personnel and civil servants.

Mr Brown has angrily denied the allegation, saying British forces were always “properly funded”.

Sir Kevin, who was MoD permanent secretary from 1998 to 2005, stressed that defence chiefs saved resources needed for Iraq but admitted the cuts had a long-term impact.

He said: "I was running essentially a crisis budget rather than one with sufficient resources to be able to plan as coherently, as well for the long term, as we would have liked."

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