Agreement on defence budget urged by peer

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PRIME minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband should come to a joint agreement that defence spending will stay above 2 per cent of GDP, a former head of the Royal Navy has said.

Admiral Lord West of Spithead called for a cross-party deal on the issue in the wake of criticism from the head of the United States army.

US chief of staff General Raymond Odierno said this week he was ‘very concerned’ about the falling proportion of national wealth devoted to the military and warned it could result in British units being forced to operate within US ranks rather than alongside them.

Lord West, a Labour peer and former security minister, said the government was ‘horrifyingly complacent’.

He told peers at question time in the House of Lords: ‘For over three years now through the back channels, the Americans have been expressing concern about our spend and its reductions.

‘There is a generation of leaders who think peace is the natural order of things, that wars are inconceivable and yet war drums are beating in Eastern Europe.

‘I think it’s time we sent a strong message in terms of deterrence, because military forces deter, in terms of our military capability.’