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.
Responding for the Government, Defence Minister Baroness Goldie pointed out that, according to Nato criteria, the UK was “the highest defence spender in Europe”.
She said a major review of Britain’s military and security policy, due to be published in March following delays, “will detail the forward shape of our whole defence capability as we look to a new age of threats”.
Lady Goldie added: “Any speculation about Army force structure at the moment is purely that.
“But I would wish to reassure peers that we are confident that we have the numbers and the capabilities to do the job.
“We have discharged our core obligations to protect and secure the nation against threat, despite the challenges of Covid.
“That again has been entirely down to the professionalism, the competence and the commitment of our armed forces personnel.”