This week’s main security and defence news has been the publication of the three main UK-wide parties’ manifestos, with the Conservatives – who current polling indicates are on course to win the 8th June election – being the most prominent. Of greatest relevance to the MDP is the pledge to create an infrastructure police force, formed of the MDP, the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
On wider defence and security matters, the manifesto includes pledges to:
- Continue to spend two percent of GDP on defence
- Raise defence spending by 0.5% in real terms every year
- Invest £178 billion in equipment
- Retain Trident and continue to deploy it in a continuous at-sea deterrent posture
- Maintain the overall size of the Armed Forces, including an Army capable of deploying a warfighting division
- Withdraw the Armed Forces from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights
- Limit legal aid to unscrupulous law firms targeting military personnel
- Introduce an improved compensation scheme to support those injured in combat and to take care of the families of those killed
- Continue with existing procurement programmes, including the Type 26 frigates, AJAX armoured vehicles and maritime patrol aircraft.
Policing and justice policies of note include:
- Incorporating the National Fraud Office into the Serious and Organised Crime Agency
- Improving provisions to defend against cyber attack
- Widening the role of police and crime commissioners
- £1 billion investment in the prison estate
- Enhancing the provisions in the victims’ justice system to support victims
The featuring in the manifesto an intention to form an infrastructure policing force was unexpected given that the Government announced earlier this year that such a plan would not be going ahead in the near future. Given that such a merger would require primary legislation, it is possible that – should the Conservatives be re-elected – a bill to support this policy could appear in the Queen’s Speech next month. The DPF is in communication with the MoD to ascertain information on the plans, and will relay it to members as soon as we are able.
More broadly, the Conservative manifesto contained no significant surprises. However, the pledge to only preserve the “overall” size of the Armed Forces does not replicate the 2015 pledge to protect the size of the Army alone. As such, it is, for example, possible that the Army will lose some personnel, with the Royal Navy receiving additional (and badly needed) numbers in return.
- Labour publish manifesto
- Lib Dems publish manifesto
- Defence Secretary criticised for ‘taking nonsense’ on Army
- Think-tank claim Brexit may trigger defence review
- Campaign launched for police memorial
- NHS victim of major cyber-attack
- Four men arrested in London on terrorism charges
- CAGE Director arrested under Terrorism Act
- Police Federation Conference takes place
- ‘Unpredictable policing’ launches in North Yorkshire
Labour publish manifesto
Labour has also published its manifesto. Given that a draft of the manifesto leaked last week, there were few surprises. On defence, security and policing and justice matters, the document included pledges to:
- Continue to spend two percent of GDP on defence
· Support the renewal of Trident, but also lead global multilateral disarmament efforts
· Ensure that the defence industry is supported
· Improve to the pay and living conditions of Armed Forces personnel
· Take measures to improve recruitment and retention
· Resist any proposals to abolish the right to seek legal redress against the MoD by service personnel
· Recruit an extra 10,000 police officers
· Conduct a review of the ‘Prevent’ programme with a view to assessing both its effectiveness and its potential to alienate minority communities
· Enhance judicial oversight of investigate powers
· Retain the Human Rights Act
· Sustain cross-border security agreements with European partners
- Recruit 3,000 more prison officers
· Open enquiries into Orgreave and blacklisting
One notable change was that the draft manifesto (leaked to the media last week) contained a commitment to hire 1,000 new border guards. In contrast, the final version pledged only an additional 500. Additionally, the reference to the need to be cautious about using nuclear weapons was removed – presumably as it states what is obvious.
The manifesto also addressed the matter of Scottish independence. Labour states that it opposes a referendum, highlighting that independence would make Scotland’s austerity more severe. If also offers an inquiry into the actions of Scottish police during the miners’ strike.
Although the pledge to spend two percent of GDP on defence will be welcome, Labour’s manifesto does little to disguise the tensions between its branches on key defence issues such as Trident. The semi-pacifist stance on foreign policy is also likely to sit poorly with many in Labour. Nevertheless, it has been widely acknowledged that this manifesto is one of the most distinctive offered by Labour in several decades.
Lib Dems publish manifesto
Finally, the Liberal Democrat manifesto has now been published. Defence and counterterrorism policy points of relevance to the DPF include commitments to:
- Spending two percent of GDP on defence
- Maintaining a nuclear deterrent, but procuring only three new Dreadnought-class submarines instead of four, and moving to a medium-readiness responsive posture. This would mean abandoning the continuous at-sea deterrence and instead maintaining the deterrent through measures such as unpredictable and irregular patrolling patterns.
- Addressing key Armed Forces skills shortages.
- Improving the quality of MoD housing.
- Scrapping the Prevent strategy and replace it with a scheme that prioritises community engagement and supports communities in developing their own approach to tackling the dangers of violent extremism.
- ‘Rolling back’ state surveillance powers.
On policing, criminal justice and liberty, pledges include:
- Providing an additional £300 million a year to local police forces
- Ending the 1% cap on police pay rises
- Requiring all front-line officers to wear body cameras on duty
- Replacing Police and Crime Commissioners with boards of local councilors
- Retaining the European Arrest Warrant, membership of Europol and access to EU information databases.
- Opposing any attempt to withdraw from the ECHR or abolish or water down the Human Rights Act.
- Commencing part two of the Leveson inquiry as soon as is practical
The commitment to spend two percent of GDP on defence means that all three of the main UK-wide political parties are wedded to this goal – a far cry from the situation just two years ago. However, this will do little relieve the pressure on an MoD that is strained due to a number of large scale procurement projects. On Trident, the Lib Dems have gone for a major shift in posture: their plan to cut the number of submarines from four to three will make sustaining a continuous deterrent impractical. However, given the nature of the UK submarine industry, this is unlikely to save much money.
Defence Secretary criticised for ‘taking nonsense’ on Army
The Times reports that the Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has been criticised for giving misleading statement on the Conservative Party’s defence pledges prior to the last election. Speaking during an interview, he claimed that the Government has said it would “build the army up to 82,000 by the year 2020”. However, he was subsequent accused of taking “nonsense” by a former senior Army officer, as the manifesto stated that that the Party would “maintain the size of the regular armed services and not reduce the army to below 82,000”. At present, the Army has a trained strength of around 80,000
It is clearly the case that 82,000 was intended as a floor to the strength of regular Army, as opposed to a target to be built towards. A combination of more soldiers than expected departing the force since 2010 and poor levels of recruitment are responsible for the current situation.
Think-tank claims Brexit may trigger defence review
Defence News reports that the UK could bring forward its next strategic defense and security review by as much as two years to reflect the likely impact of the Brexit negotiations, according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). By late 2018, the implications of the upcoming negotiations with the European Union over Britain exiting the organisation should have become much clearer, potentially prompting a new defense review, says Professor Malcolm Chalmers, RUSI’s Deputy Director General. “The new government that takes office after the UK general election on 8th June will have to decide whether to stick to this timetable. One plausible outcome is that the launch of the next SDSR is brought forward to late 2018, by which time the implications of Brexit — economic and strategic — should have become much clearer,” Professor Chalmers said. He added that there was also a “distinct possibility” the new government could hold a mini review of defense commitments this year.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reports that the suggestion of a new review have provoked tensions within the Conservative Party. Mark Sedwill, a national security advisor to Theresa May, is keen to have the 60-day security review he is currently conducting to be converted into a full defence review given funding pressures at the MoD. However, the Treasury are reported to be unenthusiastic.
Whilst most defence reviews age poorly against wider circumstances, the drastic shift in the UK’s position following the Brexit vote and what now appear to be significant flaws in the 2015 SDSR’s costings may make a new defence review unavoidable. This will have implications for the MDP, as a new SDSR would consider all aspects of defence spending and procurement. This will provide opportunities to underline the importance and value of the MDP; along with the point that the level of spending on major procurement requires appropriate spending on security. However, inevitably a new SDSR would also have risks given the inevitable pursuit of further efficiencies from the defence budget.
Campaign launched for police memorial
The Evening Standard reports that Prince William has backed a fundraising campaign for a memorial to recognise the bravery of police officers killed in the line of duty. The Duke of Cambridge said it was “high time” a focal point for remembrance existed for officers. The UK Police Memorial will bear the names of more than 1,400 police staff who died on duty including Keith Palmer, who was killed in the Westminster terror attack.
While some £2.5 million has already been raised for the project, £4 million is needed for the memorial that is to be built at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Staffordshire. The memorial will feature an interactive space, telling the stories of those who have sacrificed their lives and is expected to be completed by 2019.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “Every day, our police officers and staff go out to work not knowing what they might face, but do so with the utmost professionalism and bravery. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
Further information about the memorial, including how to make a donation or take part in fundraising activity can be found at the UK Police Memorial website.
NHS victim of major cyber-attack
BBC News reports that a “second spike” in cyber-attacks has not hit the NHS but some hospital trusts are suffering ongoing disruption due to Friday's ransomware attack. The ransomware that hit the NHS in England and Scotland, known as Wanna Decryptor or WannaCry, has infected 200,000 machines in 150 countries since Friday. Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, has called the cyber-attack the “largest ransomware attack observed in history”. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who chaired the Cobra meeting on cyber security, said the UK was working with international partners in the global manhunt to find the ransomware's creators.
The ransomware, which locks users' files and demands a $300 (£230) payment to allow access, spread to organisations including FedEx, Renault and the Russian interior ministry. In England, 47 NHS trusts reported problems at hospitals and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were affected. Responding to suggestions that the NHS had left itself open to an attack of this nature, Mr Hunt told the BBC it had “massively” upgraded its security before the incident.
The NHS has come under criticism for continuing to use Windows XP – a software package that is no longer supported with regular security updates by Microsoft. However, the Government has claimed that less than five percent of hospitals use the platform, and Microsoft has put out a free emergency update for XP in response to the attack.
Four men arrested in London on terrorism charges
The Daily Telegraph reports that four men have been arrested on suspicion of planning a UK-linked terror plot. Scotland Yard said the men were detained under the Terrorism Act in east London on Wednesday. The planned arrests were part of an ongoing investigation by the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command and MI5. Officers arrested three of the men – aged 18, 25 and 27 – at their home addresses in east London, while a 24-year-old man was arrested near to his home address in east London.
Police were on Wednesday afternoon searching five residential addresses in east London and one business address, also in east London. They were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
CAGE Director arrested under Terrorism Act
The Guardian reports that the international director of controversial human rights group Cage, Muhammad Rabbani, has been charged under the Terrorism Act after refusing to hand over passwords to his laptop at Heathrow airport. Mr Rabbani, who regards it as a privacy v surveillance test case, said he intended to fight the charge. “I am innocent of these charges that have serious implications for journalists, lawyers and human rights,” he said.
A spokesman for Cage said Rabbani was charged with willfully obstructing or seeking to frustrate a search examination under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, which gives border officials sweeping search powers. The case comes against the backdrop of a similar campaign in the US against proposals by the Trump administration to make entry by non-Americans conditional on handing over passwords.
Police Federation Conference takes place
AoL News reports that the Chairman of the Police Federation chairman Steve White has warned that state of policing in England and Wales is “in intensive care”, with experienced officers leaving in droves. He said that officers who risk their lives and face danger on a daily basis are often “unfairly punished” for their actions, with firearms officers and police involved in pursuits particularly in fear of being “dragged through the courts” simply for doing their jobs.
Later in the conference, the Home Secretary clashed with rank-and-file police officers over crime rates and funding as she insisted the Tories remain the “party of law and order”. Amber Rudd was grilled by delegates as she made her first appearance at the annual conference of the Police Federation of England and Wales since she was appointed to the post. Like Policing Minister Brandon Lewis the day before, Ms Rudd received a testy response over the Conservatives' claim that crime has been falling despite the loss of thousands of officers from the service.
Other questions pressed the Home Secretary on the issue of pay, with some officers said to be so desperate they are resorting to food banks and food vouchers. Ms Rudd prompted a murmur of disbelief in the hall when she suggested average police earnings are about £40,000 a year – but the figure is broadly in line with official data. She also insisted that the Government has protected police budgets amid pleas for more funding and boosts to staffing levels.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott’s attempt to woo the Police Federation ended up with her being jeered as she failed to back officers having controversial protective equipment to save them from being spat at. Ms Abbott went to the Federation’s conference armed with promises that Labour would fund 10,000 more officers if elected and rhetoric attacking years of cuts to police funding by the Conservative government. That was received with polite applause in Birmingham by delegates representing 120,000 rank and file officers. But Ms Abbot came unstuck when she attempted to sit on the fence over the issue of split hoods.
Police Federation in funding row
The Times reports that the Police Federation is facing further upheaval after its biggest membership group, the Metropolitan branch, threatened to secede in a row over funding. The Federation has been ordered by the Government to make its branches more transparent after its branches were accused of keeping millions of pounds in reserve in secretive “No 2” accounts, owning holiday homes and spending thousands of pounds on gifts. All branches have now published accounts, but funding has yet to be centralised – a move that was agreed to three years ago. The Met feels that it would be unfair to their members to hand over their money to a central body, as some forces are not meeting the Met’s standards of transparency.
‘Unpredictable policing’ launches in North Yorkshire
The Yorkshire Post reports that extra uniformed and undercover officers were deployed on the streets of a North Yorkshire this week today in the latest stage of an “unpredictable policing” project to make life difficult for criminals. They patrolled key areas of Catterick, home to Europe’s largest military base, including Princes Gate, Richmondshire Walk and the Munster Barracks as part of the recently-launched Project Servator. The scheme is already part of regular business for a number of other forces, including British Transport Police, Essex Police, the MDP and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
Inspector Dave Edwards, of North Yorkshire Police’s Proactive Policing Command, said: “Project Servator enhances our existing crime prevention and public safety tactics and is being rolled-out in town centres and events across the county like we’ve seen in Catterick.”