Cuts day approaches

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Jason Ford

News Editor

Some of you may have been brought to this page thinking you were about to read the October 25 Monday Briefing. Well, you still can if you click here.

Briefing has adopted the brace position in anticipation of the Strategic Defence Review and Comprehensive Spending Review to be announced on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

Before that, however, comes today’s National Security Strategy announcement, in which foreign secretary William Hague and defence secretary Liam Fox are to set out Britain’s position on post-Cold War threats, highlighting the danger of cyber attacks and international terrorism.

This leads us to tomorrow’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, which will set out future MoD spending amid Treasury demands for a 10 per cent cut in the £37bn budget – which by all accounts has been whittled down to eight per cent – between 2011 and 2015.

Chancellor George Osborne, speaking on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, admitted that it would cost more to cancel two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier contracts than build them but he wouldn’t be drawn on what aircraft they would carry on operations.

Press reports speculate that the Harrier fleet may be scrapped, leaving the Royal Navy with no jet capability on its carriers until 2018 when the Joint Strike Fighter F-35s are ready to enter service.

Briefing, being in a caustic frame of mind, wonders whether the Royal Navy should make a return to the tried and tested – and cheap – Swordfish torpedo bomber? Thought not.

According to the Press Association, the army could lose 7,000 troops, RAF bases could close and the navy’s fleet of larger ships, such as frigates, may be cut from 24 to 16.

With a clear nod toward modifying Britain’s defence capability in a post Cold War world, The Guardian reports that the Nimrod MRA4, due to come into service in 2012, will likely be scrapped.

Wednesday brings us the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which will reveal the full extent of austerity measures planned for the public sector and central government departments to reduce the budget deficit.

The review, pledged by the coalition government on entering power after the 6 May general election, asked for departments to make cuts of up to 40 per cent, although the budgets for health and international development have been protected.

The TUC is reported to be staging a rally and lobby of MPs tomorrow ahead of the CSR. The rally will be opened by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, with Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman expected to be in attendance.

Away from party politics and back on the rails with news that German railway operator Deutsche Bahn is to test a high-speed bullet train from Frankfurt to London through the Channel Tunnel tomorrow, with plans for a direct service between the two cities from Dec 2013.

If the 200mph service becomes regular it is expected to push down Eurostar fares and compete with domestic flights from Frankfurt airport.

The RMT union have spoken out against the Deutsche Bahn plans, citing health and safety issues. Under current safety regulations trains running through the Channel Tunnel must be at least 375 metres long, but DB’s trains are only 200m long.

Finishing on something of a tangent, Briefing reports that the International Football Association Board is to meet on the 20th to discuss, among other things, the introduction of goal line technology.

Those of you that bothered to carry on watching England after they limped through the group stage of last summer’s World Cup will remember how a strike from Frank Lampard hit the crossbar and went over the goal line by at least a mile, only to be struck off by match officials. It didn’t matter, England were appalling and Germany would have won that match anyway.

You might be asking why Briefing has bothered to bring this to your attention, given that this week’s austerity measures are likely to the harshest since those that followed after the end of the First World War.

The answer, which should come as no surprise, is money and it is engineers that can help make sure it goes to the right team. Take the UEFA Champions League competition, in which the 2009/2010 winners received a prize pot of approximately €9m.

Not bad for 90 minutes work with a 15 minute break half-way through.