Is the defence budget safe from more cuts?

The prime minister does "not resile" from his commitment to increase defence spending after the next election, reporters on his trip to Africa were told yesterday.

In October 2010 David Cameron signalled that after five years of cuts, defence spending would start rising again from 2015 onwards.

How is that possible given that the Treasury has extended the age of austerity and is now negotiating with government departments for further cuts for the year 2015-6 ?

No deals have been done yet. No final decisions taken. But I am told that the Treasury knows that it cannot make the prime minister eat his words. However, what they can do is some creative accounting.

There will be cash released by the drawdown of British troops from Afghanistan. There is a fund separate from the defence budget called "the reserve" which could be raided. There are, no doubt, other wheezes.

A way will be found to keep the PM's promise but the Treasury will want to do it without raiding other governing budgets if possible.

All this is being haggled over now ahead of future announcements by the chancellor. Before then stand by for numerous campaigns on behalf of this or that lobby group.

The armed forces know how to play the Whitehall game.

Inside No 10 they joke that the annual scare story about scrapping the Red Arrows or the Trooping of the Colour will surely follow soon.