This week’s main security and defence news has been the official placing of the order for the first three Type 26 frigates. The Daily Telegraph reports that BAE Systems and the MoD have signed a long-awaited £3.7bn deal to build the first three of eight new frigates for the Royal Navy, securing thousands of British shipyard jobs. The agreement to start work on the new Type 26 combat ships is one of the biggest UK defence deals in years and will guarantee work at BAE’s Scottish shipyards and across its supply chain. Construction is expected to start on the 6,900-tonne ships next month, with steel beginning to be cut for the vessels at a ceremony in Scotland.
Announcing the deal, Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, described the Type 26 as a “cutting-edge warship combining the expertise of the British shipbuilding industry with the excellence of the Royal Navy”. The Government committed to buying the Type 26 ships in 2015. However, there have been delays to the start of work, raising concerns about the future of BAE’s shipbuilding facilities in Scotstoun and Govan in Glasgow. A Defence Select Committee report late last year warned that hold-ups to the programme risked the loss of shipbuilding expertise as a previous programme to build Type 45 destroyers ended and the aircraft carrier programme wound down.
Although very much needed to replace a fleet of Type 23 frigates that was largely built in the 1990s, the high cost of these ships is likely to result in further claims that the MoD is prioritising prestige platforms over less glamourous priorities. Although basing arrangement have not been formally settled, it is essentially certain that these ships will be based at HMNB Devonport and/or HMNB Portsmouth. As such, they will be protected by the complement of MDP officers. The DPF will ensure that policymakers are aware that it makes no sense to invest huge sums in such capabilities whilst cutting back on the comparatively tiny cost of providing them with security.
· DPF presses case for sustaining MDP officer numbers
· Labour shadow ministerial team in minor reshuffle
· Debate over public sector pay cap continues
· £500 fine for soldiers who stole £44,000 of kit
· Eton John bomb plot teenager jailed for life
· MoD admits over 350 sexual abuse complaints have been made by cadets
· Army is in danger of being reduced to a mere 'gendarmerie', former Chief of the General Staff warns
· MDP launch twitter account
DPF presses case for sustaining DPF officer numbers
The DPF has this week raised its concerns in the media over plans to re-set officer numbers from the current complement of around 2,600 to the actual current strength of approximately 2,300. Such a cut would halt attempts to ‘re-grow’ the force, and result in a real-terms cut in the number of armed police officers in the UK.
Writing in a letter to The Times, National Chairman Eamon Keating stated that it was unacceptable that despite the spending of tens of billions on the carrier and Trident replacement projects, the MoD was pressing ahead with cuts to the MDP officers who were tasked with protecting them. He outlined that the MDP is now facing a further 13% cut to its officer numbers, which would result in the force being cut by more than half in a decade. This, Mr Keating added, was “fundamentally dangerous, putting national security and the safety of the public at risk”.
Additionally, Police Oracle has carried an opinion piece by the DPF National Chairman in which he outlines the MoD’s demand to find £12.5m in cuts that is driving the re-set plan. He notes that the planned cuts to officer numbers should be considered “unacceptable”, and that reducing the number of armed officers should be a “red line” in the face of ongoing demands for savings. These cuts, Mr Keating adds, will not only will it be impossible to maintain current levels of security with fewer people, but will also mean a reduction in the number of officers that are available to support Home Office constabularies in an emergency.
Both the letter and the opinion piece were part of the DPF’s media engagement programme. We are currently engaged in an ongoing programme of briefings for defence, police and security sector journalists to ensure that the importance of the MDP and the capabilities it provides.
Labour shadow ministerial team in minor reshuffle
Jeremy Corbyn has appointed a number of new junior shadow ministers to his team. Full details are yet to emerge, but the moves of relevance to the DPF so far are:
- Louise Haigh MP has been appointed as Shadow Policing Minister. The MP for Sheffield Heeley was formally the Minister for the Digital Economy. Notably, she is as former Special Constable.
- Gerald Jones MP is now a shadow defence minister, although his responsibilities are not yet clear. The MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney has served as a Private Parliamentary Secretary for both Nia Griffith and Emily Thornberry, and prior to this appointment was Shadow Minister for Wales.
We are in the process of re-engaging with the Labour defence team – beginning with Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith – to ensure they are up to date with the issues facing the MDP.
Debate over public sector pay cap continues
The Guardian reports that Theresa May raised the spectre of a Greek-style economic collapse if Britain fails to press ahead with tackling the deficit during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, as she was challenged repeatedly by Jeremy Corbyn over the public sector pay cap. With intense political pressure on the prime minister – including from her own cabinet colleagues – to ease the strain for public servants, including police, she warned MPs about the risks of loosening the purse strings.
Many Conservative MPs have returned to Westminster after the bruising election campaign, determined to urge the government to allay some of the concerns about spending cuts they heard from voters. Some would like to see May give a clear signal before parliament breaks up for the summer recess on 20 July that the 1% across-the-board cap will be lifted.
It is unlikely that any decisions on pay caps will be taken in the immediate. Instead, any new approach will likely be announced towards the end of the year – possibly as part of the Autumn Budget.
£500 fine for soldiers who stole £44,000 of kit
The Sun reports that two soldiers jailed for stealing £44,000 of SAS military kit which could have fallen into terrorists’ hands will only have to pay back just over £500. Army store NCOs Craig Davenport and Stephen Suffield raked in £22,000 from their theft ring which they ran through Whatsapp messages. They then passed them on to civilian accomplice Andrew Stevens, who sold them online.
Davenport, 30, of Crewe, Cheshire – jailed last December for a year and 10 months – had made £19,903. But a confiscation hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court heard he only had £552.04 in assets so that was all he was ordered to repay. Yet Suffield, 29, of Pershore, Worcs – who received an 18-month suspended prison term – was not ordered to pay back the £2,500 he made because he was unable to do so. Stevens – dubbed the lynch pin – was jailed for two years.
An MoD spokesman said: “Ministry of Defence Police policy is always to recover, wherever possible, any proceeds of crime and stolen public funds and we employ specialist financial investigators for just this purpose.”
UK terror convictions rising, research shows
The BBC reports that more than 100 people in the UK have been convicted of terrorism offences related to Syria and Iraq since 2014, its research shows. The youngest is a schoolboy from Blackburn who was 14 when he incited an act of terrorism in Australia. The figures also show there are growing numbers of women and girls being prosecuted. Those convicted come from a wide cross section of society and include former prisoners, a hospital director and the son of a police officer. Married couples, siblings and a mother of six have also been prosecuted.
Of the 109 people convicted, 18 (16%) were women and girls and over 85% of those convicted have never been to Syria or Iraq: many of the offences relate to those who have plotted to go and fight, but who were arrested before putting their plans into action. Others have been convicted of using social media to encourage support for banned groups such as the Islamic State. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, told the BBC that the Crown Prosecution Service has the resources it needs to deal with the increased number of cases.
Elton John bomb plot teenager jailed for life
The Daily Mirror reports that a teenager has been jailed for life after admitting he was plotting to carry out a nail bomb attack at an Elton John concert. He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum 16 years and six months term at the Old Bailey, after he pleaded guilty to preparation of terrorist acts. Haroon Syed had trawled the web to find a busy area in the capital such as Oxford Circus or an Elton John concert in Hyde Park to launch a mass casualty attack. The gig, attended by 50,000 fans, went ahead in September 2016 without incident after Syed was arrested in the days leading up to it.
Syed is the middle of three brothers and his older brother Nadir was last year sentenced to serve at least 15 years of a life sentence after he was convicted of planning to carry out a Lee Rigby-style beheading in the run up to Remembrance Sunday 2014.
MoD admits over 350 sexual abuse complaints have been made by cadets
The Guardian reports that more than 350 complaints of sexual abuse perpetrated against members of Britain’s cadet forces have been made in the past five years, the MoD has said, as claims emerged that some cases were covered up by the authorities. Figures released by the MoD show that, of the 363 claims lodged between 2012 and 2017, 282 were referred to the police. The allegations also led to the dismissal of 99 instructors across the three cadet branches: army, air and sea, as Whitehall paid out more than £2m in compensation to the survivors.
The claims of a cover-up were aired by BBC1’s Panorama on Tuesday evening. The programme will quote survivors of abuse, as well as other people who were made aware of it, who say they were pressured to not report their complaints to police. An MoD spokesperson said: “Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime, and we have robust procedures in place to protect cadets.”
Soldiers urged to offer savings ideas
The Times reports that the Army is urging its soldiers to submit ideas to contribute towards finding £9bn in savings over the next ten years. The programme, which comes as further cuts are the already understrength force are threatened, will be launched in September. Soldiers whose ideas are acted on would see some of the money saved put back into their areas of work.
Outlining the programme, General Sir Nicholas Carter, Chief of the General Staff, explained that a trial of the project had saved £12m from the Royal School of Artillery’s £100m budget. Almost half the money saved was the re-invested in the school.
Army is in danger of being reduced to a mere 'gendarmerie', former Chief of the General Staff warns
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Army is in danger of being reduced to a mere “gendarmerie”, a former army chief has warned, as he says that the emphasis spending on “big ticket machinery” has led to a squeeze on manpower. General Lord Richard Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff, said that “any thought of Britain being taken seriously in the world after Brexit would disappear” if forces are cut any further.
General Lord Dannatt, who was speaking about his new book Boots on the Ground: Britain and her Army Since 1945, said: “The professional view and the widespread view is that an army by design, below the strength of what we currently have, would frankly reduce the Army to nothing more than a gendarmerie”, adding “The Americans would give up on us as a useful ally”.
Irresponsible jet ski users are putting 'lives at risk' in Plymouth Sound
The Plymouth Herald reports that irresponsible jet ski users are potentially putting lives at risk in Plymouth Sound, according to the Queen's Harbour Master. The public authority, which helps ensure safe and orderly passage and activity for all vessels within the waters of the Dockyard Port, says it has received an increasing number of complaints regarding personalised watercraft users putting themselves and others in danger. The QHM spokesman said patrols are carried out in a bid to prevent incidents, adding: “The Ministry of Defence Police Marine Unit act as QHM's enforcement officers and patrol”.
The QHM is urging anyone who witnesses irresponsible watercraft users to report it. The spokesman said: “QHM is working closely with the MDP Marine Unit as well as the Devon and Cornwall Police and Plymouth City Council Anti-Social Behaviour Team to take action against offenders.”
Man rescued by MDP fined for being drunk and disorderly
The Plymouth Herald reports that a man rescued from the River Tamar by MDP officers – who later arrested him for being drunk and disorderly – was handed a fine after magistrates heard he had told rescuers he had felt suicidal. Joshua Cann, of Antony Road, Torpoint, faced the single charge at Plymouth Magistrates' Court following an incident at Devonport early on 11th June.
Mr Cann, aged 22, had initially tried to go into the River Tamar at around 6.30am, close to the Tamar Ferry crossing. Officers from the MDP had been called after reports of a man 'up to his neck in the water'. The ferry was stopped mid river and passengers watched as the man was rescued by the officers aboard a MDP launch and then taken ashore. The court heard how when Devon and Cornwall Police officers arrived they spoke to him, but he fled back into the water and both sets of officers were forced to pull him from the water a second time.
MDP launch twitter account
The official MDP Twitter account has been launched, and can be found at @MODPolice. It will supplement the MDP’s existing online presence, including its official website and its Facebook account. Speaking about the launch, MDP Deputy Chief Constable Andy Adams said: “Our Twitter account will provide us with a primary communication tool in order to raise public awareness of the MDP and enhance their understanding of what we do and the specialist policing services and capabilities that we provide”, adding “In the event of an operational incident Twitter will also present the means for us to communicate quickly and effectively with stakeholders, customers, staff, the public and the media.”