Monday, April 4, 2011

2,600 to lose jobs in first round of Navy and Army cuts

2,600 to lose jobs in first round of Navy and Army cuts

Sir Stephen Dalton expects operations over Libya to last months, rather than weeks
Some 1,600 Navy personnel and 1,000 soldiers are to be laid off in the first tranche of redundancies from the Armed Forces, the government says.

Personnel, including 150 Gurkhas, will be told in September, but no one currently involved in Afghanistan or Libya will face compulsory redundancy.

Defence Minister Andrew Robathan said the move - part of £5bn defence review cuts - would help reduce the deficit.

The RAF earlier announced plans to lay off an initial 1,000 staff.

In total, 11,000 serving personnel will lose their jobs over four years.

Mr Robathan said UK military operations in Libya and Afghanistan will not be impacted "adversely" by the redundancies from the armed forces.

He told the Commons that voluntary redundancies were being sought, which could include personnel currently on operations.

The announcement comes as Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton has warned that the RAF would need "genuine increases" in its budget to run the range of operations which ministers demand.

He told the Guardian that without more investment, the RAF would struggle to maintain levels of capabilities.

Libyan mission

Sir Stephen said his assumption was that the RAF's warplanes and surveillance aircraft would be needed over Libya for a number of months, rather than weeks.

"In general terms [we] are now planning on the basis of at least six months, and we'll see where we go from there," he said.

A poll for BBC News on Sunday suggested that two-thirds of people believed Britain's military involvement in Libya would go on for some time.

Of 2,000 people asked, 65% said the UK's involvement in Libya "will last for some time", while just 14% chose the option "will be over pretty quickly", and 20% did not know.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Sunday that the military intervention in Libya would not lead to a stalemate between pro-Gaddafi forces and rebels.

He said Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime had no future because it was isolated and could not sell any oil.

Meanwhile, Scottish police and prosecutors are due to meet Foreign Office officials on Monday to try to gain access to former Libyan foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, who arrived in the UK last week.

They want to talk to Mr Koussa about the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people died.
'National security'

Sir Stephen issued a warning that the RAF would need an increase in spending from the next Comprehensive Spending Review in 2014.

Without "genuine increases", he said the RAF would find it "very difficult" to maintain its current levels of capability - with operations in Afghanistan, the Falklands and Libya.

"The key factor is that if we are to meet the requirements laid upon us, there is no question that more investment will be needed to achieve that," he said.

"What I am seeking to do is maintain core competencies and bricks on which we can then build the future."

Commenting on Sir Stephen's interview, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said forces' families would want to know that those "serving on crucial operations in Libya will not be sacked on their return".

"On the day the air chief marshal warns about the pressures being placed on the RAF, and when our forces are being asked to do more overseas, the country will want the Tory-led government to explain the impact of their actions," he said.

"Our forces deserve better. The government should pause, think again and reopen their rushed defence review."

Soldiers and sailors in the groups targeted for job losses will be seen by their commanding officers on Tuesday.

Under the plans, the Ministry of Defence will also lose 25,000 civilian staff.

Unveiling the strategic defence and security review in October, Prime Minister David Cameron said defence spending would fall by 8% over four years.

He said the UK 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".

But he said the country had to be "more thoughtful, more strategic and more co-ordinated in the way we advance our interests and protect our national security".

In February, the Army apologised to 38 soldiers who learned they were losing their jobs by e-mail.

The men - all long-serving warrant officers and including one working in Afghanistan - were told they were victims of the defence cuts.