Recent events in Algeria, Mali and Libya undermine the defence review which provoked Army redundancies announced today and the plans should be reopened, Labour has said.
Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said none of the North African countries had even been mentioned in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, which was carried out in 2010.
But Defence Personnel Minister Mark Francois defended the plans, insisting they were necessary to meet a defence spending deficit. He pledged the Ministry of Defence would seek volunteers where possible and give support to those leaving the forces.
Under a third tranche of redundancies confirmed today, up to 5,300 people will leave the Army under plans first announced in October 2010. The goal is to reduce the Army to 82,000 personnel while reinforcing the reserves.
Asking an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Murphy said: “The Government’s defence review committed the UK to an Army of 95,000 but didn’t even mention Mali, Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria or even Libya.
“The threats have increased and yet the Army is being cut to just 82,000, well below the previous promise.
“Will you now finally agree to reopen the defence review, which once again has had its flaws exposed by world events.
“Yesterday, the Prime Minister rightly spoke of the urgency of the Islamist terror threat to the UK from North Africa. But in a Carry On Regardless strategy, the very next day the Ministry of Defence announces 5,000 Army redundancies.
“Unless ministers have answers, there will be a growing sense in the country ministers are unprepared for the emerging threats in North Africa and beyond.”
Mr Francois said: “The reason we are having to conduct a redundancy programme is due ultimately to the size of the defence deficit this Government inherited and the consequent scale of downsizing required in the Army.
“The question is can we get to that number of (reservists). I served in the reservists as an infantry officer in the 1980s.
“In those days, the Territorial Army had a trained strength of 75,000 men. We are now aiming to get to 30,000 by 2018. We are going to succeed.”