Government told it invented black hole in budget

Leading WEM Phil Phillips, from Fareham, waves to his wife, Lynne, in the crowd as HMS Liverpool returns home after seven months on duty

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THE Government has been accused of inventing a £38bn ‘black hole’ in the defence budget to justify sweeping cuts to the armed forces.

As part of a Labour-led House of Commons debate on defence reform yesterday shadow defence minister Kevan Jones claimed the coalition made up the deficit to justify redundancies.

As part of the government’s cost-cutting Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010, HMS Ark Royal and 10 other navy ships were axed.

Two weeks ago the navy cut 170 jobs and 2,900 soldiers were made redundant in the latest wave of job losses. The Royal Air Force also cut 730 posts.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond recently announced the cost-cutting measures had balanced the books.

Mr Jones said: ‘It’s gone into folklore but there is no evidence this government has produced to justify it.

‘Ministers will have to offer this House the information it needs to take this claim seriously. It’s becoming clear to many that the Secretary of State has balanced the budget on the backs of our brave servicemen and women.’

But Defence Minister Nick Harvey said Labour had left the armed forces ‘over-stretched, under-funded and under-equipped for the tasks they were set’.