National defence
is the most important job in the military and is nearly impossible to keep a
perfect balance with budget cost and manpower. This is what the British House
of commons discusses a great deal from 1957-1981. One of the leading problems
of this is the increasing development of military weapons and tactics so, to
keep up with the development the government had to decide to fund this part of
the military and make cutbacks elsewhere in the military. They concluded to cut
back in the military by slowly withdrawing their troops in the colonies they
had around the world and as well as making millions of pounds in cuts to the
military by releasing units. All the British defence policy was doing
throughout the years is decreasing the amount of money funds, reducing costs so
that the British can focus on the development of new military technology and
making partners with N.A.T.O. Doing all these things came at a cost, the
imperial empire that the British had spent centuries building up was now slowly
disappearing. All because the British government was more concerned about the
economy in Britain. Cuts had to be made, they took them from the military. All
of these cuts that the government made had to be done. With these cuts, they
had less soldiers yes, however, they had better trained soldiers and more
advanced weapons in the process.

In April 1957, the British House of Commons met to discuss the defence
outline of future policy. They were looking for a new defence policy because
the current defence forces were shaped from the rearmament program program in
the 1950’s for the Korean war. For three years, if the war had continued, the
budget would have been 470 million pounds which was more than they could handle
so they spread it out and slowed down the budget to balance the cost.1
The British needed a new approach because the communist threat remained but it’s
nature had changed on both military and economic grounds. When creating a
defence outline they needed to be flexible with it because changing it
frequently can cause some confusion among the men serving. This became a challenge
for the government because of how fast the technology in the military as well
as in the world was changing. The increasing development of ballistic missiles
and rockets had to be accounted for. One problem that the defence will face is
dealing with nuclear weapons and the alarming rate at which they are being
manufactured. After the United States had produced the first Atomic bomb over
Japan in the ending weeks for World War II, all the major global powers had to
catch up to them. When making a new defence policy, they first had to determine
what the responsibilities of the military were. The military had two
responsibilities. The first being, play their part with the forces of Allied
countries in deterring and resisting aggression. Secondly, to defend the
British colonies and protected territories against local attack and take part in
overseas emergencies. The British had colonies around the world. The sun never
set in The British Empire because of their colonies around the world that the defence
policy had to take into account of. They also have to take into consideration The
Suez Canal which is the gateway to their colonies in the Middle East and Asia.
In the new defence policy, in the three forces the man power will go from 690
000 personal to 625 000, and by the end of 1962 have that number of personal
will go down to 375 000.2
With the amount of men being sent to the reserve, they can be used for the home
defence. However, with fewer men in the force, they will be highly trained and
be ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.

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            During the discussions in 1966, of
Part I the defence review, the government decided to take a look at the
nation’s defence needs for the next decade, with two objectives. The first
being to relax the strain imposed on the British economy by the defence program
which it had inherited, and to shape a new defence posture for the 1970s. The
government had set a financial target of 2000 million pounds, this should be
reached in 1969-70 if everything went to plan3.
The challenge that they faced was yet again to cut back costs for the military
without reducing their ability to carry out the scale of military events. The
cuts in the military budget as also see the recruiting and re-engagement
numbers have fallen from the targets that had been set out. With the low
numbers they have, the military is over stretched around the world and has consequences
to the defence policy. With still being over budget as well, they are forced to
relinquish or share some of their commitments overseas. The military at this
point in time still has to be doing research and development in weapons and
technology because of the changing of military tactics, so they are planning to
plan the main features of their defence policy ten years in advance. However,
they have concluded that the British armed forces will participate in a reduced
number of tasks, as well as the defence review must be a continuing process and
a permanent part of the British policy making. In the new defence policy
England will partake in the events happening in Europe, while pulling out of
places such as Libya and relying on other Commonwealth partners to aid in the
Far East. With the British forces in Europe, Britain can now fully support the
strategies with N.A.T.O. Also included in the new plan, we see that the new
nuclear power submarines and the Type 82 destroyers are now among the most
advanced military equipment of their time because of the new research and
development in the armed forces. This part of the British defence policy was
just to conserve budget money while exchanging it for a small reduction in the

            The new British defence policy put
in place in 1968 takes a look at how it is possible for yet again to cut back
on the military budget by a further 210-260 million British Pounds. Also, to
cut back on the cost so much, they will have to reduce the number of men in the
military by 20%. Which means that seventeen major units will be gone by April
1970 and another nine units gone by September 1982.4
While making this new policy, the British House of Commons felt that the other
territories like Hong Kong should come to an end by 1971.5
This did not happen until later in 1997, as well to be concentrated by the
government was four areas of the defence policy affected by the January 1968
policy change. The four areas they were talking about were withdrawing troops
from the bases in the Persian Gulf and South-East Asia, improvements to
Britain’s contribution to N.A.T.O, as well as having more detailed program for origination
and equipment for the forces up to 1972-73 and lastly making progress in
defining the character the forces in Europe when the withdrawal is complete.6

            During the Parliamentary discussion about
the defence policy in 1975, the House of Commons takes a look at reviewing the
defence policy. Within N.A.T.O. Britain was the only European member to
contribute to all the major areas of the alliance, from the Central Region in
Europe, to the Eastern Atlantic, Channel Command Areas and to the Mediterranean.
One reason why the defence budget was cut was stated here because the British
economy was behind France and the Federal Republic of Germany.7
Another reason why the British House of Commons decided to cut back was because
of the stagflation that England was going through in the 1970s. The discussion
also talks about the man power and the conditions of service by taking a look
at the recruitment part and the women’s, defence medical services and pay/pensions.
With also an important look at yet again the research and development of the
military and as well as the education and the trainings that the soldiers are receiving.
The increasing number of highly skilled soldiers being produced by the military
was a major priority for the discussion in the House of Commons.

            In the discussion in 1981, the House
of Commons was figuring out how to deal with the Soviets still. The top priority
for the British Government was with the North Atlantic Alliance. This remained
vital to them and the fact that the Soviet military size continued to grow
while demonstrating their readiness to brutally.8
They discuss how there was no way to cut the defence effort, through the
defence budget was a heavy burden on the British people. The government is
determined to spend the money the most efficient way possible and still have
good home defence. The decided that the cost of growth and expansion was too
much and the technological advancement was hard to keep up with during this
time. Within the new defence policy, Britain has four main roles. An
independent element of strategic and theatre nuclear forces committed to the
alliance, the direct defence of the United Kingdom homeland, major land and air
contribution on the European mainland and a major maritime effort in the
Eastern Atlantic and Channel.9
The Nuclear forces started to plan for the Trident, which was a big improvement
over Polaris. Trident was the new version of ballistic missiles for the British
military to use during the cold war to try to penetrate the defences in Moscow,
if needed. This discussion takes a look at the equipment and personal a great
deal, while still preparing for the future, as seen with the Trident plan.

            During the discussions in the House
of Commons, we see a common theme. The common theme is how to cut the budget of
the military and manpower, while upping the life in the service to have more
career soldiers instead of three year engagements. Also throughout the white
paper defence policy, we see that The British Empire was slowly decreasing in
size because of the number of budget cuts that the House of Commons had made
within the military. One other important theme throughout the entire
discussions, is we see how the British military equipment had been behind in
the post-World War II era. However, within the few decades while discussing the
British defence policy, it is clear that they did tale a major priority with
developing the newest and latest technology that the military can offer. The
House of Commons had to deal with a complex situation. In the last British
defence policy in 1981, this is discussed as it states that there are no easy
or painless solutions available. “The change within all these policies was
necessary, the government has taken hard decisions. These reflect our resolve
to give defence the resources Britain’s security demands, but equal to resolve
to see that these resources, which the nation cannot spare without much penalty
elsewhere, are put to work in accordance with realistic, un sentimental and
up-to-date judgement of what will be most relevant and effective in future

            In conclusion, it is clear that the
British Government had to do some major changes within British military but the
society as well. Giving how every few years when the defence budget was brought
up there was always budget cuts. The British economy was going through a hard
time with all the stagflation in Britain during this time. The House of Commons
had to make hard choices and those choices came at a cost of losing their
imperial empire that they have had for centuries, as well as cut backs on
military operations and expenses. Did this pay off for the British government? Yes,
it did, the safety and the defence of their country was still at the foremost
priority which meant that sacrifices had to be taken to protect the United
Kingdom. With all of the cuts that the government had made, it was benefited to
the military in the long run with the development of elite soldiers and only
the best weapons for them to use on the battlefield.

1 Defence: Outline of Future Policy, Cmd.
124 (1957) p.1.

2 Defence: Outline of Future Policy, Cmd.
124 (1957) p. 7.

3 Statement on the Defence Estimates Part I.
The Defence Review, Cmd. 2901 (1966) p. 1.

4 Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy,
Cmd. 3701 (1968) p. 1.

5 Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy,
Cmd. 2701 (1968) p.1.

6 Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy, Cmd. 3701 (1968)
p. 2.

7 Statement on the Defence Estimates, Cmd. 5976 (1975)
p. 2.

8 The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The
Way Forward, Cmd. 8288 (1981) p. 1.

9 The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The
Way Forward, Cmd. 8288 (1981) p. 5.

10 The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The
Way Forward, Cmd. 8288 (1981) p. 14.

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