Cutting the Army by 10,000 would be ‘bonkers’, warns ex-minister

Trevor Mason and Nick Lester
Soldiers and private contractors help to prepare the ExCel centre, London, as it was being made into the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Soldiers and private contractors help to prepare the ExCel centre, London, as it was being made into the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

A former defence minister has warned that to cut the Army by 10,000 would be “completely bonkers”.

Lord Robathan said he feared press reports that there were plans to cut the Army to a “ceiling” of 72,000 were true.

“This is nuts. It’s completely bonkers,” he told the Lords, in a debate on the Armed Forces Act.

Lord Robathan said the current coronavirus crisis had shown the need for armed forces manpower, helping with vaccines and construction of the Nightingale hospitals.

He said a “disciplined force” was needed to cope with the unexpected, adding: “We are about to face rocketing unemployment levels so recruitment should come easier and we don’t want to add to unemployment.”

The former minister said China was “flexing its muscles” with cyber attacks and President Vladimir Putin was still thinking in “Cold War terms” and wanted to make Russia great again.

The Government needed to acknowledge these threats, he said.

“We fondly imagined the world was getting safer.

“We may not like it but it’s actually getting more dangerous.”

He warned that the UK would “not be taken seriously by our allies, nor by the rest of the world” if it cut the Army by 10,000 soldiers.

The armed forces needed new technology but also “boots on the ground” to defend the country and its interests.

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