THE chair of the defence select committee and Bournemouth East MP, Tobias Ellwood, has urged the government not to reduce the number of army troops.

It is believed defence secretary Ben Wallace is considering allowing troop numbers to fall from 82,000 to 72,500 as part of the forthcoming defence review.

This could free up funds to invest in drones and other cyber warfare capabilities.

However, it is a move not backed by MP and former soldier Mr Ellwood.

“We are very proud of our armed forces,” he told the Daily Echo.

“They are the most professional in the world, if we keep reducing its size, we will not be able to step forward and do more than defend British interests.

“The world is getting more dangerous, we have had the resolve to confront challenges beyond our shores.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything it is the need for resilience, to have that backup in our back pocket.

“It is such a statement as to who we are and what we week to do on the international stage.

“The final decision is with the prime minister, our recommendations have been put forward, the purpose of the committee and other MPs making noise is to hopefully prevent this from happening.”

Reports suggest officials believe the savings could be used to buy cutting edge technology like drones.

But Mr Ellwood said soldiers were needed to build relationships.

He continued: “I think we kid ourselves that we are building up to a high tech, fifth generation war. It is more stabilisation, providing assurance.

“You just don’t know what is coming round the corner. The versatility of our armed forces has been shown in the pandemic, you don’t get that with drones.

“Drones can provide a bit of aggression, they can’t do the relationship building, they can’t support other Whitehall departments in times of emergency, whether it be terror attacks, backing up the police or tackling a pandemic.

“Cutting 10,000 troops takes us in the wrong direction. It sends the wrong signal to our allies that we want to do anything other than defend our shores.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “Last November the prime minister announced the biggest increase to defence spending since the Cold War. This will underpin the modernisation of the armed forces following the conclusions of the integrated review, cement our place as a leader in NATO and bring jobs and prosperity to every part of the UK.

“The integrated review is not yet complete, so this speculation is not just inaccurate but deliberately misleading.

“The army will continue to have the numbers and capability required to protect the UK. As the threat changes our armed forces must change. Following the record financial settlement, they are being redesigned to confront future threats, not re-fight old wars.”