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The Houses of Parliament prorogued last Wednesday, meaning Parliament is currently not sitting. Parliamentary business will not resume until the Queen’s speech on 4 June.
The MOD reports that Britain’s third £1 billion Astute Class nuclear submarine, Artful, was lowered into the water at Barrow-in-Furness on Saturday. Artful is the third of seven highly complex Astute Class submarines being built for the Royal Navy. Two of the submarines, HMS Astute and HMS Ambush, have already been handed over to the Royal Navy, and the construction of the remaining five continues. Now in the water, Artful will begin the next phase of her test and commissioning process ahead of sea trials next year.
· Home Secretary tells Police Federation to reform and announces withdrawal of public funding
· MOD to publish report on radioactive contamination
· Defence expert says Scottish independence could be worse than Suez crisis for British defence and foreign policy
· Departure of British trainers prompts concerns over British relationship with Gulf States
The BBC reports this week from the Police Federation’s annual conference in Bournemouth that the Home Secretary Theresa May has urged the Police Federation of England and Wales to reform, or face reform from above. In what the BBC described as a “most uncompromising” speech, the Home Secretary said the Home Office would use its powers to inspect the Federation’s accounts, and announced that she would be bringing forward proposals to make the organisation subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Ms May also announced that the Federation would have its public funding withdrawn from August, with the money being spent on a new scheme called Police First, aimed at attracting university graduates to the police force. She also said that from now on, officers would no longer automatically become members of the Federation, but would have to opt in.
A motion for reform was passed at the Federation’s annual conference after Mrs May’s speech. Outgoing chairman Steve Williams told the BBC the Federation would “work hard” to make sure the reforms were carried out. Federation chairman Steve Williams said he was proud his colleagues were “embracing the reforms”.
The moves come as the Home Affairs Select Committee recently said that the Police Federation needed urgent reform to address issues surrounding transparency in its accounts. The Committee also highlighted that there had been accusations of bullying and intimidation amongst its leadership, and criticised the way the “plebgate” affair, which led to the resignation of former government chief whip Andrew Mitchell, was handled.
A leading defence expert has claimed that Scottish independence would be a “more seismic event” for British defence and foreign policy than the 1957 Suez crisis, which effectively ended the UK’s status as a world imperial power. In an article in the Chatham House Journal, Professor Andrew Dorman claims the rest of the UK’s spending power on defence would drop by at least a twelfth without Scotland. He also criticises the Scottish Government White Paper on independence for containing few details on defence and failing to identify the foreign policy objectives on which a defence policy needs to be built.
The Herald reports that in response to the article, SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson has dismissed the concerns raised. However, Labour’s shadow defence minister Gemma Doyle said this was “yet another intervention from an expert which made clear the failure of the nationalists to provide credible policies on defence in a separate Scotland.”
According to The Guardian, the MOD is to shortly publish a report which warns radioactive contamination of military sites could pose a public health risk. The report was originally submitted for publication last October by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation (COMARE) in the Environment (Comare), but was blocked by the MOD. It is understood that the Department has taken the decision to publish it, because the report had already been leaked to The Guardian newspaper. It is expected to reveal that the COMARE is concerned at radium contamination from WW2 at Dalgety Bay in Fife and at least 25 other sites.
COMARE is demanding authority from the government to force the MOD to draw up a full list of potentially contaminated sites. Last month, the Scottish government’s public health minister, Michael Matheson MSP, wrote to the UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, saying he was “deeply concerned” about the failure to publish the report.
The Financial Times reports that the United Arab Emirates has stopped using dozens of British nationals as trainers in its armed forces, as it increases pressure on the UK’s response to the Arab uprisings. The removal of around 80 British officers working under a long-standing programme in which former British former officers train UAE forces is prompting some British officials to push for stronger military ties to reassure the UAE and other Gulf allies about the UK’s commitment to regional security. An ongoing UK review of Gulf strategy is set to come with conclusions on a broad set of policies, including military deployments.