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Parliamentary Monitoring w/c 17 December

Published: 21/12/2012

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond MP has argued that current work on the like-for-like replacement of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent is irreversible, despite the Liberal Democrats’ assertion that they are seeking a cheaper alternative. In a report to Parliament, Hammond laid out a string of investments that the Government has made in 2012 on the early design of a new fleet of submarines that can carry the Trident II missile, and which would start to replace the current Vanguard fleet from 2028.

The Chief of the Defence Staff has announced radical reforms to the UK’s defence model, as he confirmed that the UK’s Armed Forces would increasingly rely on allies to build coalitions, most notably France, to project military authority in parts of the world such as the Middle East and North Africa. Setting out a vision for the future of Britain’s army at the defence think-tank Royal United Services Institute, General Sir David Richards said that a new Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) would form the basis of Britain’s Armed Forces after they withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. General Richards went onto warn of growing “governance vacuums” around the world, stating that defence chiefs had to be “hard-nosed realists” about the shrinking resources available to them.

The following developments are covered in this week’s monitoring:

  • Written answers on the MDP, theft, and UK cyber-security
  • Written questions tabled on loss, and pay deductions following investigation of lost equipment
  • Oral question on Cyber-security
  • Public Service Pensions Bill
  • MDP mentioned in article on SAS interrogation tactics in Iraq
  • Defence Secretary welcomes Defence Reform annual report

Written answers on the MDP, theft, and UK Cyber-security

Labour MP Madeleine Moon received answers to several questions that she asked on behalf of the DPF.

Firstly Moon asked about the amount of detectives employed by MDP in each year since 2005. Defence Minister Mark Francois’ answer showed a net loss of 1 over the eight year period, from 148 in 2005, to 147 in 2012, however more tellingly, the figure had dropped from 189 in 2008, to 147 in 2012.

Secondly, Moon focused on the estimated value of fraud which has been a trigger for investigation for the MDP. Francois’ response was that MDP investigations were triggered when the crime impacts on defence capability, and not by a predetermined value.

Moon’s third question was broader, asking what the investigative responsibilities of the MDP were. Francois responded that the MDP has jurisdiction over all persons subject to the Armed Forces Act 1996, adding that the MDP has a concurrent jurisdiction over defence property and defence personnel, as well as it being in some cases appropriate for the MDP to deal with defence-related crime.

Moon’s fourth question was to establish how many civilian and military staff have been employed at COD Donnington and COD Bicester by Defence Equipment and Support. In this instance, Defence Minister Philip Dunne responded, and his answers demonstrated that in 2007 and 2012 respectively, the number of civilian staff employed at Donnington was 614 and then 577, whilst the figure at Bicester was 866 and then 613. Relating to military staff in 2008 and 2012 respectively, the figures stood at 14 and then 8, at Donnington, and 66 and then 40, at Bicester.

The final response encompassed three individual questions that Moon had tabled on loss at Donnington and Bicester, including the total value of loss from Defence Equipment and Support and total loss of items at Donnington, Bicester, Clyde, Portsmouth, Colchester, and Devonport. Defence Minister Philip Dunne responded that the information Moon had requested is not held centrally and will take time to collate and assured Moon that he would write to her as soon as this information is available.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP also received answers to questions focused on the role of the MDP in investigating theft from the MOD. In response, Defence Minister Mark Francois confirmed that responsibility for the enforcement of criminal law rests with local Police Forces, adding that the MDP is focused on the prevention and investigation of fraud, corruption and theft of key Defence equipment and assets.

Robertson received an answer to his question, asking what assessment the MOD has made of future manpower requirements for the MDP. Francois said that “work is currently under way” to determine future manpower requirements for the MDP.

Robertson also asked what assessment the MOD has made of the effect of reductions in MDP numbers on Scotland and how many MDP officers there were in Scotland in each of the last five years. Defence Minister Mark Francois confirmed that in 2008-9 the figures stood at 821, in 2009-10 this was 835, in 2010-11 this was 823, in 2011-12 this was 789, and finally that in 2012-13 the figures was 711. Francois went onto confirm that the reduction in strength is due to a Force-wide recruitment freeze that was introduced in August 2009 and a MOD Voluntary Early Release Scheme, which began on 1st April 2010, and which the Defence Minister confirmed is on-going until 31st March 2014.

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State Jim Murphy MP asked how many allegations of rape have been reported to the MDP in each year since 2000. Francois, again responding on behalf of the MOD, confirmed that in the year 2000 this figure stood at 13, with the tally in subsequent years being 29 in 2001, 31 in 2002, 18 in 2003, 16 in 2004, 20 in 2005, 16 in 2006, 24 in 2007, 14 in 2008, 9 in 2009, 6 in 2010, 1 in 2011 and finally 2 in 2012.

Shadow Defence Minister Alison Seabeck received an answer to a question to the MOD referencing Moon’s recent question on thefts in the MOD, asking specifically about the theft of a pony, wanting specific details on which service the animal was attached to. Defence Minister Philip Dunne confirmed that it belonged to the Royal Artillery Equestrian Centre.

Written questions tabled on loss, and pay deductions following investigation of lost equipment

Madeleine Moon MP has tabled further questions on the issue of loss following the answers received above:

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the total value of loss was from (a) COD Donnington, (b) COD Bicester, (c) HMNB Clyde, (d) HMNB Portsmouth, (e) ACIO Colchester and (f) HMNB Devonport in each year since 2010; and if he will make a statement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many (a) civilians and (b) Armed Forces personnel have had deductions from their pay following the investigation of lost equipment in each year since 2010; and if he will make a statement

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the total value was of items classified as trivial losses at (a) COD Donnington, (b) COD Bicester, (c) HMNB Clyde, (d) HMNB Portsmouth, (e) ACIO Colchester and (f) HMNB Devonport in each year since 2010; and if he will make a statement.

Oral question on cyber-security

Conservative member, Eric Ollerenshaw MP, asked the Cabinet Office during oral questions this week what recent progress it has made on the Government’s cyber-security strategy and establishing a centre for global cyber-security capacity building. Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith confirmed that the Government has made progress with the UK cyber-security capabilities, and mentioned the recent announcement from Foreign Secretary William Hague MP in which plans were announced to establish a new global cyber-security capacity building centre.

Public Service Pensions Bill

The Public Service Pensions Bill, which contains a number of measures to reduce the cost of public sector pensions, including raising the retirement age for civil servants, received its Second Reading in the House of Lords this week. Following this, the Bill will head for Committee, on the 9th January 2013.

Although the MDP were not mentioned during the debate, the main themes of the debate were the Bill linking normal pension age to state pension age for most members, as confirmed by Liberal Democrat Whip Lord Newby, as well as a provision for an employer cost cap, which will provide additional protection against unforeseen changes in the cost of public pensions. Baroness Noakes, a Conservative peer, added that the Bill should allow for total pay package for public sector workers which are comparable with those available in the private sector.

Of interest to the DPF, Labour peer Lord Davies of Oldham spoke at length regarding linking the state pension age to normal pension age, which is set to rise to 68 years, citing the exception for the Armed Forces, police and fire fighters. Davies went onto raise concerns about the insufficient flexibility in clause 9 of the Bill to allow for public sector employees, whose roles he acknowledged impose physical and mental demands “well above the ordinary”.

MDP mentioned in article on SAS interrogation tactics in Iraq

In an article in the Daily Mail, Ahmed Al-Maliki, an Iraqi policeman, is reported as claiming that he was he was strangled, beaten with a rifle butt and told he would be murdered by an undercover SAS soldier during an interrogation. He was one of nine people to make the allegations, and they are seeking damages from the Government for their physical and psychological injuries. It is mentioned in the article that Al-Maliki has pledged to co-operate with a criminal investigation, which has been launched by the MDP.

Defence Secretary welcomes Defence Reform annual report

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has welcomed Lord Levene's review of progress towards implementing the recommendations of the Defence Reform Review. Levene congratulated the MOD on what he described as “strong progress” made against the 53 recommendations since the publication of the Defence Reform Report in June 2011 and said that he believes the programme is being run with “genuine urgency “. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond welcomed Levene’s comments and expressed confidence that the MOD can deliver a transition to a new operating model in April 2013.

Hammond went onto announce that some of the key changes of Defence Reform are already complete, including top-level decision-making and the focus on strategic direction from a newly-constituted Defence Board. In addition, Hammond acknowledged that The Joint Forces Command has been established and its first Commander appointed.

The Defence Secretary also stated that other recommendations are on track for delivery by April 2013, including the delegation of financial and military capability management to give the Service Chiefs greater accountability, and freedom to manage their resources and plan for future capability. Hammond did however acknowledge that a few recommendations will take longer to complete, including the e-delivery of improved Management Information.

Eamon Keating

National Chairman

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