Britain’s Armed Forces are in danger of being reduced to a “gendarmerie” incapable of defending the country’s interests, the former head of the Royal Navy warned.
Admiral Sir Alan West, who retired as First Sea Lord earlier this year, accused the Ministry of Defence of acting like “these tinpot countries” which failed to invest in major military equipment programmes.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph he warned that the reshaping of the Armed Forces to wage anti-terror operations in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan could be jeopardising Britain’s long term security.
“That way is a recipe for disaster for a defence force that has to do all the things that Britain may have to do in the next 50 years,” he said.
In ten years time, he said, the country could find itself confronted by a threat “far more dangerous than terrorism in central Asia”.
“All we could be left with are an Armed Forces that are effectively a gendarmerie. And I suppose we would retire to our island and hope no one gets to us,” he said.
More young people are out of work now than when Labour won power in 1997 by promising to cut youth unemployment, official figures obtained by The Times reveal.
There are now 37,000 more unemployed people aged 16 to 24 than in May 1997, with the total rising from 665,000 to 702,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The unemployment rate has risen to 14.5 per cent among young people, overtaking the 14.4 per cent rate Labour inherited from the Conservative Government.
The figures are acutely embarrassing for the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who in 1997 described the youth unemployment he inherited as a “human tragedy”, “sickening” and “an economic disaster”.
Patients in some areas who need hip replacements and other orthopaedic operations are still having to wait more than two years for NHS treatment, figures show.
Almost one in four waits longer than 12 months for an operation after referral by their GP.
For 3 per cent, the delay is twice that.
The average wait is 40 weeks – ten weeks longer than across all specialties.
The figures on Health Service performance were published as part of a progress report on the Government’s pledge to treat all patients in 18 weeks.
Just 35 per cent of those needing hospital admission hit this target, according to estimates for the first three months of this year.
General Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the Army, has criticised the way in which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) runs the armed forces.
Speaking at the annual Dimbleby Lecture, he said soldiers’ wages were “hardly impressive” and “some accommodation” was “frankly shaming”.
The country’s biggest union is calling on the government to give more money to the NHS, amid fresh protests across the UK against plans to cut services.
Unison says the chancellor should use next week’s pre-Budget report to help NHS trusts tackle financial deficits.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) head Beverley Malone said she hoped changes to the service would be made for clinical, not just financial, reasons.
Protests are taking place against cuts in various UK locations.
Twenty-nine accident and emergency departments are under threat as NHS trusts struggle with crippling debt, the Conservatives have claimed.
They released an analysis of the NHS which showed that managers in 29 trusts had launched reviews of casualty services or warned that departments faced downgrading or closure.
Three-quarters had large deficits at the end of last year, but the Tories said another factor was the impact of the European working time directive, which will cut the number of hours that junior doctors could work from 2009.
Thrifty shoppers who rely on economy range supermarket products could be getting unhealthier food, a report warned yesterday.
Most low-cost food surveyed contained “significantly” more salt than standard own-brand products, the National Consumer Council (NCC) said.
Some economy supermarket products also had more sugar than standard versions.
The NCC’s Short Changed on Health? report accuses some retailers of contributing to inequalities in diet and health