- Spring Statement includes boost to police knife crime
- Defence Secretary accused of ‘bad diplomacy’
- MoD assets championed this month
- MDP in the news this month
Spring Statement includes boost to police knife crime
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond gave his Spring Statement in the House of Commons, speaking to the recent achievements of the UK economy. In what is widely regarded as a fiscal non-event for its lack of newsworthy content, Hammond announced that this is the ninth consecutive year of economic growth; that unemployment, standing at 4%, is the lowest it has been since 1975; and that wages are increasing at their fastest rate in over a decade. He did, however, downgrade forecast growth this year from 1.6% in October 2018, to 1.2%.
Following Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s recent comments acknowledging that there was a growing problem of violent crime and knife crime in particular, Hammond pledged another £100 million to the British police to tackle this issue in his Spring Statement outlining the state of the public purse. There were no announcements relating to the MoD, which is unsurprising given that it got a funding boost at the Autumn Budget.
Following Theresa May’s second heavy defeat on her Brexit agreement, the Government published plans to put up no tariffs on 80% of imports as a temporary measure in the event of no-deal. The Chancellor tried to win over MPs to the Government’s deal by speaking of a dividend he would unleash in public spending if a deal was agreed, and the negative impact of a no-deal Brexit. Specifically, Hammond offered a public spending increase of £26 billion across government departments on the condition that MPs vote with the Government on Brexit-related matters tonight and beyond. This increase is a significant jump from the £15 billion announced in the Autumn Budget. Hammond also promised a three-year spending review to be conducted over the summer in the event that the UK agrees a deal with the EU.
In addition to this Hammond offered £3 billion towards efforts to build 30,000 more affordable homes; stricter competition regulations around digital monopolies; £37 billion to a National Productivity Fund going into infrastructure projects; an extra £100 million to tackle knife crime; funding to ensure schools can provide free sanitary products to pupils to end period poverty among our school children; and a review into late payments from business to business. While those in receipt of the money will welcome it, none of these boosts are considered substantial enough to make a significant difference to the causes they support.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell responded to the Spring Statement, calling it a toxic mix of ‘callous complacency’ about austerity and ‘grotesque incompetence’ over Brexit. He highlighted the funding crisis in schools, increased levels of homelessness, rising infant mortality and rates of violent crime. McDonnell noted that the rate of growth forecast has had to be revised down year-on-year. The forecast deficit, which the Government initially forecast would be eliminated in 2015, still exists and there is only a 40% chance the public budget will be balanced by 2023-24, according to the Office for Budgetary Responsibility.
Defence Secretary accused of ‘bad diplomacy’
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been criticised for making comments that offended China and prompted them to cancel the planned British Chancellor’s visit to the country for trade talks. Williamson had said that British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth would be sent to disputed territories in the South China sea, and shortly after Beijing had cancelled a meeting to discuss trade in China between British Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Chinese government.
Williamson had already earned the nickname Private Pike, referring to a comical character from sitcom Dad’s Army, stemming from an ongoing argument Williamson has had with Hammond. Government sources saidthat there was “disbelief across Whitehall departments” as well as Conservative ministers.
While Steve Tsang, Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies China Institute, considered Williamson’s words “silly,” he also said there was nothing wrong in principle with a British vessel sailing in the South China Sea and ministers who “picked on” Williamson gave China a reason to argue that they had been wronged.
MoD assets championed this month
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced a £235 million deal with Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd to manage the submarine nuclear propulsion capabilities in the MoD. The contract will run until 2022 and will sustain 500 jobs in the UK. This will be run predominantly at Rolls-Royce’s offices in Derby, as well as in HMNB Clyde and HMNB Devonport.
The MoD has also announced an £11 million boost to chemical defences. This funding will be used to develop plans to deploy drones and robots to potentially hazardous areas, boosting the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s ability to analyse substances, and keeping the UK “at the forefront of medical advances”.
MDP in the news this month
MP probes MDP work further
Labour MP for Leeds North West has asked a further question about the MDP and its work for US forces in the UK. Sobel asked specifically who pays for the MDP services at RAF bases occupied by the US armed forces. Defence Minister with responsibility for the MDP, Tobias Ellwood, said: “The US Authorities are responsible for bearing the majority of the cost of the services of the Ministry of Defence Police deployed on operational duty at RAF bases in the UK that are made available to the United States Visiting Forces.”
MDP HQ move postponed
The MoD’s plans to develop nearly 5,000 homes on its Wethersfield site where the MDP is headquartered has been disposed of until 2025 after the MoD cited it was needed for defence priorities. This is only three weeks after partners to develop the site had been appointed.