Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 10th July 2017

By DPF Admin13th July 2017August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

The main news this week has been the funeral of MDP Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock. Following the service, which was attended by around 300 mourners and also streamed live to the nearby Harpur Suite, a guard of honour was formed outside St Paul's Church in Bedford, whilst MDP Deputy Chief Constable Andy Adams and Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher took a salute. The funeral cortege then made its way to Bedfordshire Police HQ in Kempston, where officers and staff paid tribute to their former Chief Constable. The funeral cortege was given a police motorcycle escort made up of officers from the four forces he served – Bedfordshire, the Met, Lancashire and MDP.

MDP DCC Andy Adams said: “Alf Hitchcock was appointed as Chief Constable of the MDP four years ago. He quickly established himself as a highly committed leader of our organisation and was very well respected for his dedication to the force and the wider MoD.” He added “His career in policing spanned five decades, joining Lancashire Police in 1977. He served with dedication and professionalism in the Metropolitan Police, the National Policing Improvement Agency and Bedfordshire Police until joining the MDP in 2013”, and noted that “His contribution to public service and policing in the UK are both many and diverse. His vision and preferred inclusive police style will be carried forward for many years to come.” Mr Adams concluded by stating that “We at the MoD Police feel a great sadness at his untimely loss as a greatly respected leader, policeman and friend.”

The DPF extends its condolences to the family and friends of Mr Hitchcock. A Memory Giving donation page has been launched in his memory, with contributions going towards Embrace, and Child Victims of Crime.

·       Five arrested after attempting to blockade Coulport

·       Loss of hundreds of MDP officers a ‘retrograde step’, former borough commander says

·       MDP Policing Plan 2017/18 published

·       Question on MDP answered in the House of Commons

·       Question on base security answered in the House of Commons

·       MDP awarded a gold banding in the Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark

·       Defence Select Committee chairman re-elected

·       UK military assets ‘increasingly vulnerable to cheap missiles’, claims think-tank

·       Police cuts ‘jeopardising hunt for potential terrorists’

·       Security checks carried out near London bridge

·       Trident facility upgrades costs double original budget

·       UK terror funding report withheld for 'national security reasons'

·       Former senior officers demand better protection for new carrier

Five arrested after attempting to blockade Coulport

The National reports that five disarmament campaigners were arrested this week after mounting a human blockade on the road leading to the Trident nuclear weapons depot at Coulport. The three men and two women – two Spaniards and three UK citizens – had locked themselves together using heavy concrete and metal tubes early in the morning, but they were cut out of their shackles by MDP officers. The protest was organised by the Trident Ploughshares Coulport disarmament camp. The road was blocked for almost three hours, but traffic was diverted so no local people were prevented from travelling on public roads. Campaigners had travelled from across the UK and as far afield as Finland to take part.

Angie Zelter, one of those arrested. said: “British nuclear weapons are illegal now there is a United Nations ban treaty”, adding “It is imperative that all of us get involved in non-violent nuclear disarmament as our government is engaged in state terrorism.” The protest came after more than 120 countries last week approved the first United Nations treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a vote that was boycotted by all nuclear-armed nations, including the UK.

The intervention of the MDP in the civilian protest demonstrates the vital role officers play in securing vital MoD assets such as Trident – but also their training in managing protests and operating in civilian environments. A point the Federation is making as part of its engagement with MPs and peers is that the MDP complement reset undermines this capacity, and that members of the Armed Forces lack the same public accountability and authority to deal with such incidents.

Loss of hundreds of MDP officers a ‘retrograde step’, former borough commander says

Police Oracle reports that accepting current staffing levels in the MDP would be a “retrograde step”, according to a former borough commander. The MDP is planning to ‘reset’ the size of its workforce to match current numbers, meaning a real terms loss of some 300 officers, in order to help meet £12.5 million of required budget savings. The National Chairman of the DPF, Eamon Keating, has previously labelled the move “unacceptable”, and now former Metropolitan Police Borough commander Kevin Hurley has called the move “ill considered”.

Mr Hurley said: “Whilst not really commenting on whether the MoD Police need these 300 officers or not, it would seem to be nationally a retrograde step to reduce by this many the number of armed officers available to the government now at a time of extreme threat”, adding “One wonders whether the Home Office actually talks to the Defence Secretary about the need to protect the public with armed police because it would appear they do not. To reduce the availability of armed officers would be ill conceived.”

MDP Policing Plan 2017/18 published

The MoD has published the latest MDP Policing Plan. The document was signed off by Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock before his untimely death, and carries the forward he wrote for the document in tribute. In it, he highlights that the MDP’s unique abilities continue to be in high demands, and also notes that the MDP has achieved significant savings over the last year – although there is now little opportunity left for cost reductions. 

This plan sets out the operational and organisational priorities for the MDP, as agreed with the Ministry of Defence Police Committee. The strategic priorities for 2017/18 are identified as:

  • Contributing to the protection of defence personnel and assets, and the operation of the UK’s national infrastructure
  • Crime prevention and detection
  • Cross-government reform
  • Achieving value for money

The plan also highlights the core capabilities the MDP possesses and provides a financial overview. Additionally, the document gives details of the progress of the implementation of the new Operational Policing Model, and outlines the new steps that will be embarked upon over the next year.

Question on MDP answered in the House of Commons

Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh asked the Home Secretary what plans the Government has to merge the MDP, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the British Transport Police.

Responding, Policing Minister Nick Hurd said that the Government is considering a broad range of options to optimise the protection of critical infrastructure such as nuclear sites and railways, including the future roles of the CNC, the MDP and the BTP.

Whilst this answer is not very informative, it probably reflects the fact that the policy approach the government is going to take to critical infrastructure security in the face of its unexpectedly weak parliamentary position is not yet very well developed. The DPF’s stance towards this issue continues to be that the Government must produce evidence that any merger would result in equal or greater security provisions for the facilities under these forces’ protection.

Question on base security answered in the House of Commons

Labour MP and former Defence Minister Kevan Jones asked the Defence Secretary how many successful prosecutions of foreign nationals there have been made for unauthorised entries under the provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to 2005 to (a) AWE Aldermaston, (b) AWE Burghfield, (c) HMNB Devonport, (d) HMNB Clyde, (e) RNAD Coulport, (f) Northwood Headquarters, (g) RAF Fylingdales, (h) RAF Menwith Hill, (i) RAF Croughton, (j) RAF Lakenheath, (k) RAF Feltwell, (l) RAF Mildenhall, (m) RAF Brize Norton, (n) SMC Larchwood, (o) RAF Fairford and (p) RAF Welford in the last two years.

Defence Minister Tobias Elwood responded by stating that since 1st July 2015, no foreign nationals have been prosecuted by the MDP for unauthorised entry under the provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Kevan Jones is a long-standing supporter of the DPF and an influential defence figure in parliament. We will shortly be re-engaging ask part of our efforts to sustain and grow the Federation’s base of support.

MDP awarded a gold banding in the Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark

The MoD reports that the MDP has been awarded a gold banding for both gender and race in the Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark. This is the UK’s most comprehensive benchmark for workplace gender and race diversity.

Business in the Community said: “Congratulations to [the] Ministry of Defence Police on being awarded gold for both gender and race diversity in the workplace in the Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark”, adding “They have demonstrated a strong commitment to creating inclusive workplaces where employees are valued and rewarded for their contribution to the organisation, regardless of gender or race.”

Defence Select Committee chairman re-elected

Dr Julian Lewis has been re-elected as Chairman of the influential Defence Select Committee, fending off a challenge from fellow committee member (during the last Parliament) Jonny Mercer MP.

Dr Lewis’ position as Chairman had been considered vulnerable, with calls within the Conservative Party to award chairpersonships to rising stars within the Party’s ‘younger generation.’ However, Dr Lewis retained his position, winning the election over Mr Mercer by 305 votes to 265. Dr Lewis will formally resume chairing the Committee once its other members have been announced.

While Dr Lewis retained his chairmanship, this week has also seen the election of the other Select Committee chairpersons – with Yvette Cooper MP retaining her position on the Home Affairs Committee, while former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan won the election for the Treasury Select Committee and Robert Halfon (former education minister) won the Education Committee chairmanship. Both Ms Morgan and Mr Halfon were unceremoniously removed from their posts during Cabinet reshuffles, and their new positions are being interpreted as adding further pressure on Theresa May.

Dr Lewis is a longstanding contact of the Federation and supporter of the MDP. We had already written to him following the general election on the subject of the Force re-set, but will be following up with him once the rest of the Select Committee membership is announced.

UK military assets ‘increasingly vulnerable to cheap missiles’, claims think-tank

The Independent reports that British military assets including the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier are increasingly vulnerable to cheap missile attacks from Russia and China, warns a new report calling for a dramatic re-think on defence. The Royal United Services Institute identified a series of complex threats to ships, military aircraft and conventional weapons by states including North Korea and terror groups. The authors said that although potential adversaries have not “caught up” with the US and UK in all areas, they have focused efforts on low-cost and high-threat areas including precision missiles and cyber-attacks to increase the threat.

A spokesperson for the MoD said it was keeping all threats under constant review, adding: “We are confident our new aircraft carrier, and other state-of-the-art equipment, is well protected thanks to defensive systems we have invested in as part of our £178bn equipment plan.”

The potential vulnerability of some of the more prestige UK military assets extends not only to the missiles of nation states, but also to sabotage and terrorism. The MDP forms a major component of the protection of many of Britain’s key platforms from such threat, and it would be a false economy to invest billions on equipment and then cut provisions for their security to save a comparatively tiny amount – a point the Federation is making in upcoming meetings, including with the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence.

Police cuts ‘jeopardising hunt for potential terrorists’

The Guardian reports that police capacity for gathering vital intelligence on potential extremists has been jeopardised by cuts to neighbourhood policing teams, former senior Metropolitan police officers have claimed. The officers, who requested anonymity, painted a stark picture of how the cuts have left their mark on the capital’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams, the Force’s “eyes and ears” on the ground. They claim the teams have been key to detecting signs of radicalisation and gang-related activity, but that their numbers have shrunk dramatically over the past decade. The officers explained that in 2007 every ward in every London borough boasted a team comprising a sergeant, two police constables and three community support officers. But now there are just three officers in each team, with each unit covering three or four wards.

A Home Office spokesman said: “In light of the recent appalling terrorist attacks we are engaging with the police about the demands they are currently facing to ensure they continue to have the resources they need to keep us safe.”

Security checks carried out near London bridge

The Daily Express reports that officers from City of London Police have this week carried out examinations of vehicles and passengers at a check point on the northern side of the bridge where eight people were killed and 48 injured in the London Bridge attack on 3rd June. The operation was part of Project Servator, which has been stepped up in response to the spate of terror attacks since the Westminster Bridge attack in March. The operation is focusing on bridges over the River Thames in the capital due to the risk of repeat attacks while the terror threat across the country remains severe. Last week, City of London Police and MDP officers reportedly carried out a similar check point operation at Tower Bridge.

Trident facility upgrades costs double original budget

The BBC reports that an upgrade of the UK's Trident warhead factory has cost double its budget – and it is expected to take more than two further years to complete. Funding of £2bn was allocated for rebuilding facilities between 2005 and 2015 at Berkshire's two Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites. AWE had spent £3.96bn by the end of the 2015/16 financial year, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

An AWE spokesman said: “The figures released by the MoD, in response to the recent Freedom of Information request, form part of our annually agreed funding from government, ensuring our capability in support of the UK's nuclear deterrent”, adding “This funding covers the capital costs of a complex nuclear licensed site and replacement nuclear facilities, all of which is subject to rigorous scrutiny.”

UK terror funding report withheld for 'national security reasons'

The Guardian reports that opposition parties have condemned the Government for opting not to publish a much-delayed report into the funding and support of jihadist groups. But the Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the move was based on national security and claimed that the full report contained sensitive and detailed personal information.

Announcing the decision in a written parliamentary statement, Ms Rudd instead published a 430-word summary of the report, which outlined that some extreme Islamist groups receive hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in funding, mainly from UK-based individual donors. The summary said the most common source of support for extremist organisations is from small, anonymous public donations, mainly from individuals in the UK. However, the summary did not name the countries of origin for such funding or mention any nations.

Former senior officers demand better protection for new carrier

Four senior RAF officers have warned in a letter to the Daily Telegraph that the UK’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be at serious risk unless more maritime patrol aircraft are purchased to protect it.

The warning follows the £3bn carrier beginning exercises in the North Sea. The MoD cut the Nimrod patrol plane programme as part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, and while the MoD announced in 2015 that it would order nine Boeing P-8 submarine hunter planes, the first are not expected to come into service until 2019. The letter was signed by Air Marshall Sir John Harris, AVM Andrew Roberts, AVM David Emmerson, and Air Commodore Andrew Neal. While the former officers have welcomed the purchase of the P-8 aircraft, they have insisted that nine will not be enough to protect MHS Queen Elizabeth and the Trident nuclear deterrent when at sea.

The MoD has insisted that the “carrier strike group will be robustly protected by air and sea assets.”

The warning of the former senior RAF officers underlines concerns over the protection of major MoD assets such as the new aircraft carrier. The DPF has been insisting as part of its media activity and communication with parliamentarians that security of these assets in the UK will be affected if the MDP is subject to a complement re-set.

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