Libya action may cost UK 'hundreds of millions'

The cost of Britain's military operations in Libya could run "into the hundreds of millions", according to Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander.

Mr Alexander said the campaign was currently costing the taxpayer "tens of millions" but spending would rise as operations continued.

When military strikes against Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's forces began in March, Chancellor George Osborne told the House of Commons that the UK's involvement would cost "in the order of tens of millions of pounds, not hundreds of millions".

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Mr Alexander said yesterday: "The campaign is costing tens of millions, potentially into the hundreds of millions as it goes on, but that money is coming from the reserve that we have set aside, precisely for contingencies such as this.

"It doesn't have an effect on any other spending, on any other public services. Of course there is a very powerful moral case for the action we are taking in Libya, it's right that we find those resources precisely from the contingency reserve."

He added: "It's right that the United Kingdom is playing a leading role to protect Libyan civilians from the appalling activities of the Libyan government and to take that country, we hope, to a better future."

Pressed on the exact cost of operations in Libya, Mr Alexander said: "I don't have the precise figures to hand for this interview. I'm saying tens of millions potentially going into the hundreds of millions and that is money we have set aside in the contingency reserve."

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "It is worrying that Danny Alexander seems to be guessing about current costs, which are dramatically more than George Osborne originally predicted.

"We support the mission in Libya but the government need to be clearer on the costs."

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