The Sunday shows have been dominated today by the aftermath of George Entwistle’s resignation. But Phillip Hammond gave a significant and combative interview on the Sunday Politics.
Pressed by Andrew Neil on Michael Portillo’s criticisms of renewing Trident, Hammond dismissed them with the line that the former Defence Secretary ‘doesn’t have access to the information that would allow him to make that judgement on a sound basis.’ He then went on to argue that Trident is a necessary insurance policy in a world that will see an ‘an arms race in the Middle East’ if Iran does get the bomb.
Iran, and the dangers it poses, was also Hammond’s justification for selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Though as Andrew Neil pointed out, it is hard to see what use rifles and the like would be against an Iranian bomb.
In a sign of how much the situation in Syria is worrying the government, Hammond would not rule out military assistance to the anti-government forces in Syria if a legal basis could be found for it. But a UN resolution authroising this remains a distant prospect.
In the last few days, Hammond has confirmed his desire to increase the size of the reserves in an attempt to make up for the regular army shrinking in size by 20,000. When pushed on how he would persuade firms to allow more of their staff to sign up he opened the door to the government paying the employer’s national insurance for reservists who work for small firms. He also didn’t rule out legislation to bar companies from discriminating against reservists when hiring.