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During the last month the Ministry of Defence has faced questions over whether it would be possible to meet its commitments over the coming years. This is after it emerged that the Department is facing barriers to its planned expansion of the Territorial Army, which Secretary of State Philip Hammond anticipates being a cornerstone of his ‘Future Force’ plans. The MoD is expected to rely more heavily on the TA, or Reserve Force, as the number of full-time service personnel is reduced. However, questions have been raised as to how the additional commitments of TA personnel will be reconciled with their permanent employment.
The Government has also been publicly advised by former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown to withdraw from Afghanistan ahead of schedule to avoid additional casualties.
In the last month, the Defence Police Federation has continued its high level of communication with the MoD as part of the Department’s consultation process into future security complements at establishments and the role of the MDP. We are in the process of finalising a formal response to this consultation, which will be submitted to Departmental officials shortly.
We have also been communicating very closely with key Parliamentary supporters and decision makers in order to ensure Parliament remains fully informed of the MoD’s plans and the Federation’s concerns. Over the coming weeks we will be continuing these meetings, which will include a briefing to the Defence Select Committee and officials at Downing Street.
The political approach
During the last month we have sought and received clarification on the Ministry of Defence’s position, following suggestions that the Department might expect reductions to the headcount of the MDP despite financial targets being met; this would contradict a commitment made to us by former Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox MP.
We have now received confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that reductions to headcount will not be expected if financial targets are met. We will clearly be continuing to monitor this closely and will respond robustly if there is any suggestion of the Department reconsidering its position.
We have also met with Mark Francois MP, who succeeded Andrew Robathan MP as Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans in September. Our first meeting with Mr Francois provided an opportunity for the Federation to highlight its concerns regarding options being considered by the Department. We were also able to make constructive suggestions in regards to making the best possible use of the MDP and both meet security needs and minimise the MoD’s exposure to financial loss.
We have also engaged in very productive meetings during the last month with Defence Select Committee member Madeline Moon MP, Oliver Colvile MP, Eilidh Whiteford MP, Alison Seabeck MP, and Angus Roberston MP. We updated them on our engagement with the MoD and relayed our concerns about the effect of Departmental policy on the MDP’s role in securing the defence estate and, particularly, in providing an effective deterrent to financial loss or theft.
Separately, Sir Bob Russell MP submitted a Parliamentary Question to the Minister regarding the future of the MDP. While Mr Francois was unable to respond in detail, due to the MoD’s ongoing consultation, the question was valuable in maintaining parliamentary attention on the MDP and security of the defence estate and assets (including their protection from theft or loss). We remain extremely grateful to Sir Bob for his longstanding support.
In the coming weeks we will be meeting with the Defence Select Committee and officials in Downing Street. We will also be updating Sir Bob Russell on our discussion with the Department.
In light of our on-going sensitive discussions with the MoD and key Parliamentary supporters, we have refrained from updating contacts in the media on our engagement and concerns. We will be following up with a number of journalist contacts following the submission of our response to the Department’s consultation.
We remain grateful to all those members who have taken the time to contact their local MP.
Given that we will be formally responding to the Department’s consultation imminently, we would suggest that members refrain from contacting their local representatives until this response has been submitted. We will be summarising any concerns set out in this response in the next newsletter, at which point we can better advise members on any issues they may wish to bring to their MPs’ attention.
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