Political and parliamentary news has focused heavily on immigration, and specifically the Windrush scandal over the past week. In defence news, the Defence Secretary this week has launched a new ‘veterans strategy’ to support former members of the Armed Forces experiencing issues including debt troubles, and mental health.
Gavin Williamson also launched the Submarine Delivery Agency, which will be responsible for the development of Royal Navy submarines that will include the continuous at sea deterrent.
The Defence Select Committee has also begun publishing the written evidence it has received in response to its inquiry on the Modernising Defence Programme, including the Defence Police Federation’s written submission to the Committee.
- Defence Select Committee publishes DPF’s submission to inquiry on Modernising Defence Programme
- BTP Federation estimates merger will cost £500,000 per officer
- Defence Secretary launches SDA with new defence money
- MPs call for increased parliamentary scrutiny of UK special forces
- Former defence minister tables MDP question
- Defence Secretary questioned on MoD funding
- College proposes end to automatic believing of victims
- Defence Secretary announces new support for veterans
Defence Select Committee publishes DPF’s submission to inquiry on Modernising Defence Programme
The Defence Select Committee has published the evidence it has received for its inquiry into the Modernising Defence Programme. This includes the DPF’s submission, which answers most of the questions outlined in the Committee’s terms of reference for the inquiry. The DPF’s submission outlines the unique and important role the MDP plays in protecting the UK’s defence infrastructure and the role of officers in ensuring the security of MoD assets and their surrounding environments. The submission also highlights the increased threats posed by both extremists and geo-political instability to underline the importance of the security of MoD establishments and assets to maximising Armed Forces’ capability – insisting security should be considered as part of the Modernising Defence Programme, as opposed to specific focuses on procurement and Armed Forces capability.
Other contributors to the inquiry include the MoD, Boeing UK, the Scottish Government and Plymouth City Council. Plymouth City Council outlines the importance of the MDP-guarded HMNB Devonport in countering aggression from the UK’s adversaries, and the funding it requires to retain its position as the largest naval base in Europe. The Scottish Government outlines the air, sea and nuclear capabilities based in Scotland, all of which are guarded by the MDP.
Oral evidence for the inquiry is now underway and we would anticipate the Committee will publish its report and recommendations ahead of the publication of the Modernising Defence Programme by the MoD (which is expected in July ahead of the NATO summit). The DPF is also making a written submission to the MoD’s consultation on the Modernising Defence Programme and has been regularly liaising with parliamentary supporters to stress the importance of considering security as part of the Modernising Defence Programme. This engagement has included meetings this week with Shadow Defence Minister Gerald Jones MP, former Defence Minister Kevan Jones MP, and previously with Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Lord Menzies Campbell.
The DPF also met with the MP representing HMNB Devonport, Labour’s Luke Pollard, last week; highlighting the importance of the role the MDP plays in protecting HMNB Devonport and the surrounding area.
BTP Federation estimates merger will cost £500,000 per officer
Police Oraclehas reported on the British Transport Police (BTP) Federation’s response to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, outlining its opinion on the BTP Police Scotland merger, which has been put on hold because infrastructure would not be ready. The BTP Federation has claimed that the merging of the BTP into Police Scotland north of the border will cost the equivalent of £500,000 per officer. The BTP has approximately 200 officers stationed in Scotland and its Federation is opposed to the merger. The Federation instead suggests that it retains its independence but increases its accountability to the Scottish Parliament for the activity it undertakes within the Assembly’s jurisdiction.
BTP Federation chairman, Nigel Goodband, said: “A range of risks and fees (for example, legal fees) remain unqualified. How these costs will be met, and by whom, is also unclear. It should be noted that factoring in pensions liabilities, the cost of transferring every BTP Scotland officer to Police Scotland may well range between £225,000 and nearly £500,000 per officer. It remains unclear whether there will be a financial impact on the Train Operating Companies and whether, in turn, those costs will be passed onto the travelling public.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said that it is “committed to the safe and seamless integration of BTP into Police Scotland following Parliament’s vote to pass the Railway Policing Act. This will deliver continuity of service for rail users and staff and a single command structure, with seamless access to wider support facilities and specialist forces.”
Defence Secretary launches SDA with new defence money
Following the Government’s announcement that it will release £600m of the MoD’s contingency money for its nuclear submarine programme, the MoD has launched the Submarine Delivery Agency (SDA) this week. The SDA is a key point of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and will be responsible for the procurement and project management of the construction of Royal Navy submarines in liaison with Navy Command and the Defence Nuclear Organisation with the aim of leading “a high-performing industrial enterprise to deliver and support the UK’s submarine capability safely, securely and more effectively and cost efficiently.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our nuclear deterrent is our ultimate defence from the most extreme threats while our attack submarines are busier than ever providing unprecedented levels of protection across the world.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Submarine Delivery Agency, Ian Booth said: “The SDA is to lead a high-performing industrial enterprise that is committed to strengthening the safety, availability, reliability and security of UK submarines, including our Continuous At Sea Deterrent. The Agency will draw on best practice from both the public and private sectors with a focus on cost effective and timely delivery to achieve the best possible outcomes for Defence.”
As noted above, in its submissions to both the Defence Select Committee and MoD for the Modernising Defence Programme, the DPF has highlighted the necessity of robust security for high value assets – noting that any attack on them would both significantly impair military capability and departmental finances. We will also be continuing to highlight this point, and consequently the importance of properly resourcing security assets (including the MDP).
MPs call for increased parliamentary scrutiny of UK special forces
The security think tank the Oxford Research Group (which also submitted evidence to the Defence Select Committee’s inquiry on the Modernising Defence Programme) launched a report in Parliament this week titled Britain’s Shadow Army: Policy Options for External Oversight of UK Special Forces,which calls for increased democratic oversight of the UK’s special forces, which operate almost entirely covertly. Currently, the MoD issues a “no comment” to any questions on special forces’ activity even when forces have been identified in conflict zones. This is unlike allied forces such as those in the US, Canada, Australia, Denmark, France, and Norway.
The authors of the report Liam Walpole and Megan Karlshoej-Pedersen said: “While there remain many good reasons for the tactical secrecy of UKSF [UK Special Forces] activities, there appear to be fewer good reasons for the complete opacity that currently surrounds them.” The report also lists Julian Lewis, Chair of the Defence Select Committee, and Dominic Grieve, Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, as supporting the proposals.
Reporting on the event, The Guardian’s defence correspondent, Ewen MacAskill, quoted former Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who chaired the Intelligence and Security Committee until 2015, saying “I think it is unanswerable that there should be some form of oversight of the special forces.” He also called for increased parliamentary scrutiny of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. Conservative MP for Reigate, Crispin Blunt, who has previously sat on the Defence Select Committee and the National Security Strategy Joint Committee, said “It is my view there is a gaping hole in parliamentary oversight.”
Former defence minister tables MDP question
Former Defence Minister and Shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones MP (Lab, North Durham) tabled a written parliamentary question this week, asking the Secretary of State for Defence “which Critical National Infrastructure sites the Ministry of Defence Police provides civil policing and armed security for.”
Mr Jones’s question is likely to be answered in the next week. His tabling of the question follows a meeting earlier this week with DPF National Chairman Eamon Keating to discuss the role of and current challenges facing the MDP.
The Federation is grateful for Mr Jones’s tabling of a question regarding the MDP, which is helpful in highlighting the full scope of the Force’s responsibilities and contribution to protecting critical assets and infrastructure.
Defence Secretary questioned on MoD funding
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson faced topical defence questions in the House of Commons this week, with MPs pressing the Defence Secretary on the status of discussions with the Chancellor on funding for the MoD.
In response to questions from Leo Docherty (Lab, Aldershot), Bambos Charalambous (Lab, Enfield Southgate), Marcus Fysh (Con, Yeovil), and Eleanor Smith (Lab, Wolverhampton South West), Mr Williamson commented that: “I have regular discussions with the Chancellor and, as the Prime Minister announced last month, the Ministry of Defence will benefit from an extra £800 million in the current financial year, including £600 million for the Dreadnought submarine programme. The Government are committed to spending at least 2% of GDP on defence, and the defence budget will rise by at least 0.5% above inflation in every year of this Parliament. The modernising defence programme will ensure that our armed forces have the right processes and capabilities to address evolving threats.”
College proposes end to automatic believing of victims
Police Professionalhas reported that the College of Policing has backed a change in crime reporting rules that would “see policing move from a position of automatic belief to one where victims are reassured they are being listened to.”
The change has been proposed following the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into high-profile sex abuse, which was examined in a report by Sir Richard Henriques. The recommendation for a change in approach was put forward by Assistant Commissioner Rob Beckley, who said: “The College of Policing and (National Police Chiefs’ Council) should approach the Home Office to amend the crime recording counting rules to remove the words ‘The intention that victims are believed’ to ‘The intention is that victims can be confident they will be listened to and their crime taken seriously’.
“If accepted the College of Policing APP and training materials should be reviewed to support this approach.”
The College has also proposed that the term ‘victim’ continues to be used (alternatives such as ‘complainant’ were rejected), but that police forces should more clearly specify the ways in which the term could be interpreted.
Defence Secretary announces new help for veterans
The Sun has reported that Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has launched the first veterans strategy to tackle issues homelessness, debt, loneliness, mental health and physical wellbeing amongst former Armed Forces personnel.
The campaign will be overseen by the Ministry of Defence, but supported by departments across government including the Treasury, Department of Health, Department for Education, and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Leading Armed Forces charities have also been recruited to the campaign. Each department has also been asked to nominate a member of their ministerial team as their lead on the campaign.
The Defence Secretary said: “We have a golden opportunity to ensure our veterans get a fair deal for their service and sacrifice to our country. The vast majority of those leaving the Armed Forces go on to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives, which is a testament to their professionalism and resilience. However, for those who need help it is right that we step forward, create new opportunities, and remind them that they are not alone.”