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Parliamentary Report w/c 16th June

Published: 20/06/2014

The Herald reports that a British Social Attitudes Survey shows that most people in Scotland would want to retain Trident if the country became independent. Forty-one per cent of respondents said they wanted to keep the deterrent while 37% said they wanted to remove it. However, this is despite the fact that research shows 46% of Scots oppose the principle of retaining nuclear weapons, with only 37% in favour. The research also showed that only 26% of people in England and Wales would want Trident to remain in an independent Scotland while 63% feel it should be removed elsewhere.

The Herald says that this research will come as a blow to the SNP Government, whose flagship policy for independence is to have nuclear weapons removed from a new Scottish state by the end of the first parliamentary term in 2021. The split on Trident comes as the SNP administration published its draft Independence Bill, setting out proposals for an interim constitution, which would include the safe and speedy removal of nuclear weapons from the Clyde and a permanent ban on them being based in Scotland.

Contents

·      Answers to written questions

·      Defence spending will soon fall below target set by NATO

·      Military Police criticised over handling of rape allegations

·      Counter-Terrorism chief defends social media intelligence gathering

·      UK offers counter-terrorism expertise to Iraq

Answers to written questions

·      Shadow Defence Minister Alison Seabeck asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans he has to publish a white paper in advance of the next strategic defence and security review.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin said the next strategic defence and security review will span the period of the next election. A decision is yet to be taken on the final approach.

·      On the issue of defence procurement, Alison Seabeck asked the Secretary of State for Defence what the final costs are of establishing a GOCO and running the tendering process. Her question followed the passing of the Defence Reform Act, which established provisions for government to introduce a ‘Government-owned, contractor-operated’ model to defence procurement, under which private sector companies could be retained to manage procurement in an effort to generate financial savings and efficiencies.

Defence Minister Philip Dunne said the final cost of support work on the GOCO competition is £7.4 million. He said this investment has provided valuable insight into the challenges involved in establishing a successful GOCO. The outputs from this work will be retained to inform any future GOCO competition should a decision be taken to re-examine this model as part of the continuing transformation of Defence Equipment and Support.

Defence spending will soon fall below target set by NATO

The Financial Times reports that Britain’s defence spending will soon fall below the target set by NATO, according to an analysis commissioned by senior military personnel. Figures drawn up by an independent consultancy and seen by the Financial Times show the UK’s military expenditure will hit 1.9% of the size of the country’s economy by 2017, below NATO’s target of two per cent. The analysis has been commissioned from within the British Armed Forces, and the FT says it will be used to bolster the case made by many of its senior figures that cuts in the defence budget will endanger the close UK-US military partnership.

Britain and the US are the only NATO members to meet the two per cent target and senior US figures have already expressed concern about UK defence cuts. The MOD said that it did not recognise the figures and said that it had no doubt that on current plans spending will be above the two per cent target both this year and next. The Department said that decisions on spending after the financial year 2015-16 are for the next spending review. The Treasury has already guaranteed that the defence equipment bill will rise at one per cent over inflation from 2015 to 2020.

Military Police criticised over handling of rape allegations

The Times reports that investigations by military police into about 60 rape allegations over the past two and a half years appear to have resulted in no convictions, according to official figures. Military police inquiries into some further 110 alleged sexual assaults on soldiers, sailors and air personnel over the same period produced a maximum of five convictions, according to figures released by the MOD after a FOI request.

The Times says that the figures have prompted calls for the police services of the Army, Royal Navy and RAF to lose the power to investigate rape and sexual assault. Madeline Moon, who has campaigned to improve the military justice system, said she thought the civilian police would be better at handling investigations into rape. With certain sexual assaults, it is up to the commanding officer to choose whether military or civilian police should investigate the allegations. Fears have repeatedly been raised about the ability of the Royal Military Police, the Royal Navy Police and the RAF Police to investigate a crime as serious as rape when the alleged victim and perpetrator are serving members of the armed forces.

The MOD figures showed that about 100 alleged rapes took place between October 2009 and April 2014. The MOD said that it had no data for any earlier offences. Information indicated that a handful of rape convictions occurred between 2009 and 211 but an exact number was not given. Madeleine Moon has called on the Government to strengthen an order that gives civilian police primacy over military police in the investigation of crimes committed in Britain.

Counter-Terrorism chief defends social media intelligence gathering

The Financial Times reports that Charles Farr, Director-General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, has defended the Government’s right to gather intelligence through social media networks. Speaking of behalf of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6, Farr said the Government had determined these platforms were exempt from the legal protection granted to regular domestic communications. Details of the policy were outlined by Farr in a 162-point defence of the UK intelligence activities, submitted in a legal case brought against Britain’s spy agencies by advocacy groups including Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty.

UK offers counter-terrorism expertise to Iraq

The Times reports that the UK has offered to lend counterterrorism experts to Iraq to help in the effort to repel Islamic militants. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has seized large parts of the country this week, although the Foreign Secretary ruled out the prospect of UK military support. A Foreign Office source told the newspaper that “a handful” of security experts had been offered to advise the Iraqi government on the best approach to tackling ISIS. The Times says that British Defence Ministers are conscious of public war-weariness after previous invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan and have made clear that they have no plans for Britain to intervene military in Iraq. 

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