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BROWN FIGHTS BACK OVER ARMY CASH JIBE; PM's fury at Tory equipment claims.

Byline: Torcuil Crichton

GORDON BROWN has denied sending troops to Afghanistan without proper equipment after claims the defence budgets were "guillotined" when he was Chancellor In angry Commons question time exchanges yesterday, Tory leader David Cameron aimed low by accusing thePMof "ignoring the welfare" of the Armed Forces.

A furious Brown accused Cameron of undermining the troops on the frontline.

Brownsaid: "I have always taken seriously the need to properly fund our defence forces. They are properly equipped for the job they are doing."

Brown said it was not fair to troops in Afghanistan to suggest otherwise.

He added: "You must know that defence spending rose every year and they were the fastest rises for 20 years - and that Iraq and Afghanistan received pounds 14billion from the contingency reserve to enable the fighting there to take place.

"Not only did we prepare the Army, Navy and Air Force with proper funding but we funded every urgent operational requirement that was made."

Over at the Iraq inquiry, a former top civil servant had said the MoD had to make a "major savings exercise" to meet the Treasury's "arbitrary" cuts.

Sir Kevin Tebbit said the armed forces faced "a complete guillotine on our settlement" after the Iraq operation in 2003.

Projects affected included helicopters, Nimrod spy planes, Royal Navy vessels, Challenger tanks, AS90 artillery and Jaguar aircraft.

The MoD also had to reduce numbers of forces personnel and civil servants but Tebbit, who was MoD permanent secretary from 1998 to 2005, added that defence chiefs ringfenced resources for Iraq.

Scottish MP John Reid, who was defence secretary when troops were sent to Helmand in 2006, recalled that the military could cope financially.

He told the inquiry yesterday : "I think we were stretched, we were taut. But my military advice is we're not overstretched."

Reid also attacked Clare Short, who quit the Cabinet after the Iraq invasion. She had claimed that she and the rest of government had been misled over the war.

Reid dismissed Short's allegations that the Cabinet were not allowed to question attorney general Lord Goldsmith about his advice that the war was legal.

Reid said: "Everyone was allowed to speak at these meetings."

He added that the families of the 179 British personnel who died in the war would find no comfort if they thought that ministers lied about the reasons for the war.

He said: "I am content with my conscience that I made a judgment in good faith and in truth."

CAPTION(S):

RAGING: Brown yesterday
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 4, 2010
Words:419
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