Defence budget cuts have meant the Royal Navy is suffering from crew and equipment shortages which have affected its response to Hurricane Irma leaving it a "laughing stock", it has been reported.

The Navy's flagship HMS Ocean has been delayed in its mission to support British overseas territories in the Caribbean due to engine problems while a lack of crew and resources have meant 13 of the Navy's 19 fleet of Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers cannot go to sea, the Telegraph reported.

A military source told the paper: "The Armed Forces have now been reduced to a level where they struggle to protect British citizens.

"Our lacklustre response to Hurricane Irma makes Britain a laughing stock and is the direct result of the government's cuts to the defence budget."

The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review saw the Navy lose about 4,000 personnel and military sources are concerned that there could be more cuts in the Government's November budget.

HMS Dauntless, a £1bn destroyer for instance is being used as a training ship because there is not the crew for it with a particularly acute shortage of highly-skilled engineers.

Julian Lewis, the chairman of the House of Commons defence committee, told the Telegraph that the commitment to spend 2% of the budget on defence was too low.

He said that defence "is far too far down the scale of our national priorities so obviously the fact that we have allowed the size of our Armed Forces to be progressively cut to unsustainably low levels is bound to have an effect on the size of our footprint and our ability to react at scale to crises as they arise".

There was criticism at Britain's response to helping its overseas territories in the wake of the hurricane especially after engine problems delayed HMS Ocean by a week. The Navy has been unable to send a replacement ship as it can only put five of its 19-strong fleet of Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers to sea at any one time.

A Royal Navy spokesman said HMS Ocean was undergoing "working repairs" in Gibraltar which had not affected its operational readiness. He added that the Navy was able to meet its commitments.

Hurricane Irma Caribbean response
The Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean is pictured in Gibraltar before crossing the Atlantic to provide humanitarian assistance and vital aid to British territories in the Caribbean Jorge Guerrero/AFP