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Labour Says It Can’t Commit to Reversing U.K. Defense Cuts

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s opposition Labour Party said it can’t commit to reversing Prime Minister David Cameron’s defense-spending cuts, as it put aircraft carriers, unmanned drones and fighter planes at the heart of its strategy for 2015.

Jim Murphy, the party’s defense spokesman, will use a speech today to call for British workers to be at the center of procurement planning as he starts to flesh out Labour’s position for the general election in 2 1/2 years. The opposition party is leading Cameron’s Conservatives in opinion polls.

“Labour cannot make commitments now to reversing any cuts in defense spending,” Murphy will say in the speech to the Reform research institute in London, according to extracts released in advance by his office. “Not knowing the state of the books in 2015 means we cannot guarantee which, if indeed any, of the current government cuts we could reverse, other than through switching existing spending or freeing up resources through reform.”

Murphy will say that some cuts in equipment programs can’t be reversed, such as the cancellation of an order for BAE Systems Plc’s Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft. He will also say he agrees with some government moves such as overhauling defense-ministry structures and selling assets. The Labour spokesman will attempt to focus on the U.K.’s needs in the reviews of military capability that will follow the next election due in May 2015.

“Carrier strike and improved ISTAR are vital,” Murphy will say, referring to the military equipment that links battlefield functions. “Two state-of-the-art fighter fleets, advanced unmanned vehicles supporting all three services and strategic airlift are also key components.”

Cameron’s administration has said it will buy equipment off-the-shelf to lower costs, even when that means not buying from British suppliers. Murphy will say that a future Labour government will insist that if the defense ministry buys ready-made equipment in future, there will be a requirement that it must be capable of being upgraded by U.K. workers, to protect skills.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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