Former navy boss calls for more cash in defence after NAO report

Portsmouth churches back military pledge

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BRITAIN’S former top sailor has hit out after an investigation revealed the Royal Navy was stripping more parts from warships to maintain its fleet.

The National Audit Office this morning revealed there had been a surge in the number of instances of ‘equipment cannibalisation’ over the past five years.

Now, Admiral Lord Alan West has demanded Whitehall increases its spending on defence, highlighting the NAO’s report as a ‘shocking sign’ of how reining in the purse strings can impact the military.

The retired First Sea Lord said: ‘The MoD can’t go on pretending there’s sufficient money for defence because there just isn’t. This is exactly what we have been warning about for years.

‘What this represents to me is the dreadful hollowing out that is going on in defence.’

As previously reported, between April 2012 and March 2017 there were 3,230 instances of equipment ‘cannibalisation’ involving 6,378 parts, with 795 instances in 2016-17 alone — the equivalent of 66 a month, up from 30 a month in 2005.

The spending watchdog’s report also claimed that this practice of reusing parts could lead to programme delays, added engineering risks and a dip in morale.

A navy spokesman said: ‘Less than half a per cent of parts we use come from swapping components, and we only do this when it’s absolutely necessary to get ships out of port and back onto operations more quickly.

‘We continue to make improvements to how we manage this long-established practice.’