0

By Ray Fleming

GORDON Brown is not stupid, so it is extremely unlikely that he would have made statements about defence funding to the Chilcot inquiry on Iraq, and repeated them in the House of Commons, if he knew the figures to be wrong or misleading. Nonetheless he has now admitted his claim that defence expenditure rose annually during the time that he was Chancellor of the Exchequer was wrong. In fact it fell between 1998-2000 and again in 2002 and 2007.

It is the figures for the last two years, when British forces were involved in Afghanistan and Iraq, that will be seized on by critics who claim that shortage of funds has led directly to British casualties. The Treasury has pointed out that the cost of military operations in those countries was paid for from the government's contingency reserve rather than from the annual defence budge.

Lord Guthrie, who led Britain's military between 1997 to 2001 and has subsequently led the attacks on Mr Brown for his “antipathy” to the armed forces, immediately claimed that the prime minister's statement proved he had been “absolutely right” and those who had criticised him had been “wrong, intemperate and cheap”. It is not that simple. It is the responsibility of generals and admirals to use the money they are given in the most efficient way possible, rather than complain that they have not got everything they wanted.