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With both Houses of Parliament having prorogued on Wednesday 14 May in anticipation of the State Opening of Parliament and Queen’s Speech on Wednesday 4 June, neither the House of Commons nor House of Lords have been sitting this week.
While MPs and Peers have been absent from Westminster, attention has been focused on the outcome of local and European elections that have been widely reported in the media. UKIP were the big winners in both elections, with Labour coming second and the Conservatives third. The Liberal Democrats, who had expected poor electoral results, lost all bar one of their MEPs (Member of the European Parliament). The electoral results have sparked speculation as to the futures of both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband as leaders of the Liberal Democrats and Labour respectively. However, it appears likely both will remain in post until the General Election.
· Hundreds of police fail fitness test due to become compulsory this year
· Daily Telegraph calls for end to Armed Forces cuts
· Publication of Chilcot Report edges closer
The Daily Mail reports that more than 800 Home Office police officers have failed a new fitness test that will become mandatory later this year. More than 200 (253) of 22,078 male officers and 598 of 7,969 female officers across 39 constabularies who participated in the 15-metre ‘bleep’ shuttle run test failed, with the worst results seen in Suffolk, the West Midlands, West Mercia/Warwickshire and Gwent. Data from the Metropolitan Police is still to be published.
The fitness tests are to be introduced following recommendations in the Windsor Report that all members of the police should be made to take an annual ‘bleep’ test, with participants having to complete a 15-metre shuttle run in shorter and shorter periods. However, interim results given to the College of Policing showed that three per cent of officers failed overall in more than 30,000 tests. The results also showed a higher failure rate among female officers. An equality impact assessment is reportedly being carried out on the results before further plans to make the tests harder from 2018 are implemented.
The Daily Telegraph has published an editorial leader in which the newspaper has asserted that the Armed Forces cannot and should not accommodate any further cuts on the basis of financial rather than strategic considerations. The editorial was published alongside a report in the Daily Telegraph that an elite airborne force, 16 Air Assault Brigade, is to lose approximately a third of its soldiers as the Government attempts to reduce the size of the Army.
The newspaper has stated that the cuts should give rise to further questions about the coherence of Coalition defence policy and has claimed that further cuts could “imperil national security”. A subsequent editorial in the Daily Telegraph has highlighted a report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) that British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan amounted to “strategic blunders, spreading terrorism, drumming up resistance and increasing the opium trade.” The newspaper has used the RUSI report to make the case for the UK having the necessary resources in place for future military action, should it be required.
Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War could publish its report before the end of the year, in a story that has been reported across the national media. The Prime Minister has previously demanded that the report be published before the General Election in 2015 following protracted delays caused by discussions as to whether classified material, including the content of emails between Tony Blair and former US President George W Bush, should be published with a report.
Mr Cameron’s suggestion that the report could be published within a matter of months follows warnings from Bernard Jenkin MP, Chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee, that either Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude or cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Haywood could be called before the Committee to answer questions as to why the report is already four years overdue. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has also insisted the report should be published sooner rather than later, even if the content of the report is critical of the Ministry of Defence.
Subsequent media reports have revealed that the Chilcot Report will only feature the ‘gist’ of correspondence between Mr Blair and former-President Bush, rather than the full correspondence. The announcement has been heavily criticised as a whitewash (the Daily Mail suggesting in its editorial that the decision represents the Establishment protecting itself), with former Prime Minister John Major calling on Mr Blair to insist that the correspondence should be published in full. Mr Blair has insisted that he is not responsible for delays to the report’s publication.