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The UK's Met Office may receive far less cash - or none at all - from the Ministry of Defence under a Tory future government, the shadow defence minister has said.

The BBC reports today that Liam Fox, Conservative spokesman on Defence, has said that funding for the Met Office may fall a victim to the need for cost-cutting at the MoD if the Tories take power next year.

"There's a very strong case to look at the assets of the MoD and say do these deliver anything for the front line?" Fox told the Beeb over the weekend.

"We can't afford to have 16 per cent of the whole civil service in the MoD," he added. The MoD is currently responsible for approximately five per cent of government spending.

The Met Office has been part of the MoD and its predecessors for most of its history, and today receives a majority of its funding out of the Defence budget. However the MoD has already declined to keep paying for the Office's global warming research, having cut funding for the Hadley Centre for Climate Change this summer.

If the Met Office's Defence funding were further cut, it would either have to shrink or find more private-sector clients. The Hadley Centre was intended to make the Office more self-supporting by gleaning revenue from business on how to cope with the effects of global warming.

Thus far, though, most of the Office's cash still comes from the taxpayers. The Hadley Centre's slow start in the private sector may have followed from the fact that there has actually been a slight global cooling in the past couple of years (though not enough to offset past temperature rises); and perhaps the non-appearance for the third year in a row of a predicted scorching summer. ®

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