Published On: Tue, Jan 30th, 2024

A civil defence force would make Britain ‘most resilient nation on earth’, minister says | Politics | News

Britain should develop a civil defence force to “take pressure off our armed forces”, a Cabinet minister has admitted.

Penny Mordaunt said she wants “us to be the most resilient nation on earth” as the threat from Russia, China and Iran intensifies.

Ms Mordaunt’s comments come after the head of the British Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders said civilians would need to be trained to fight in the event of a major war.

He said “regular armies start wars, citizen armies win them”, adding that the people of the UK are part of a “pre-war generation”.

Ms Mordaunt, the Leader of the House of Commons and a Royal Navy Reservist, said: “We need to be a resilient nation and that doesn’t mean stepping up to pick up a rifle.

“What it means is that on anything that might happen to us in the future, we want our communities to be able to respond to that.

“When I re-wrote this nation’s resilience strategy, standing up a civil defence force to be able to deal with some of the things that we currently ask our armed forces to do was part of that suggestion.

“We can take pressure off our armed forces by becoming more resilient ourselves and that is something important that we should do.”

Asked if ordinary Britons should expect a call to defend Britain as part of a civilian force, Ms Mordaunt told GB News: “No, I don’t think that is on the cards. But we already do a huge amount in our communities to help us as a nation be more resilient.

“And we need to think about things, you know, if people were going to take out our communications network, for example, how would we respond to that?

“These are things that the Cabinet Office thinks about all the time, and I would love us to be the most resilient nation on earth.”

General Sanders is concerned the British Army has been cut too far, warning the number of troops has shrunk by 28 per cent over the past 12 years.

There are also mounting fears Britain does not have enough tanks, artillery, frigates and destroyers or fighter jets.

Britain’s nuclear deterrent is projected to account for 34 per cent of the entire equipment budget over the ten years – £289bn.

The British Army is being cut to just 72,500 troops despite growing instability around the World.

And generals will have only 148 upgraded Challenger 3 main battle tanks to deploy if a land war broke out.

Defence minister the Earl of Minto even admitted “everybody knows” that the UK navy’s current number of frigates and destroyers is too small.

Labour peer Lord West of Spithead, a former first sea lord and chief of naval staff, told the upper chamber of Parliament: “45 years ago I did the study into whether women should serve at sea in the Royal Navy, and I said they should, and I think it has worked in fact very, very well, although there were often people against it at the time.

“When I did that we had 55 destroyers and frigates, we now have 16. Does the minister feel that that is too few?” The Earl of Minto responded: “Yes, I do think that is too few. I think everybody knows that.”

Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell assured MPs that Navy assault ships HMS Albion and Bulwark would remain in service until their planned retirement dates in the mid-2030s.

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