Defence news this week has been led by the appearance of Secretary of State Sir Michael Fallon in front of the Defence Select Committee (the Chairman of which, Dr Julian Lewis, met Eamon Keating last week). Sir Michael indicated, ahead of the Budget on 22 November, that there could be further cuts to the MoD budget as officials seek to plug a funding gap as large as £30bn over the next decade. Sir Michael’s comments have led to speculation that the MoD’s financial difficulties could be exacerbated by the announcement to remove the one percent pay increase cap on members of the Armed Forces. With service personnel expected to receive pay increases of up to three percent next year, there are suspicions the additional costs will have to be borne within the MoD’s existing budget (i.e. there will be no additional funding provided by the Chancellor), which could impact service numbers and procurement decisions.
Sir Michael’s appearance in front of the Select Committee has coincided with further demands from senior officers at home and abroad for defence cuts to be reversed General Sir Richard Barrons has insisted that the Armed Forces must be funded appropriately to protect the UK, while senior US officers Lieutenant-General Jerry Harris and Colonel Dan Sullivan have expressed concerns that cuts to the Marines could reduce its ability to do its job and support the US as its partner. This week has also seen the publication of official crime figures showing significant increases in instances of reported violent crime.
Defence Secretary signals further cuts in defence spending
The Sun has reported that Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has given evidence to the Defence Select Committee this week, including the suggestion that as much as £200 million may have to be found from the MoD budget to fund Armed Forces pay increases following the removal on the one percent public sector pay cap for service personnel. In giving evidence to the Committee, Sir Michael highlighted a dramatic decrease in the value of the pound following the EU referendum, which has resulted in a real terms decrease in the defence budget. Sir Michael did, however, rule out the possibility of further cuts to troop numbers, which are at their lowest in 200 years; also noting the MoD is looking to strengthen its defence in cyber, space, hybrid, ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and information warfare.
The Times has also reported that senior military officials have met in Whitehall to discuss where to find cost savings of up to £30bn over the next decade, which includes the possibility of selling up to five frigates as well as the Navy’s two amphibious assault ships. Two of the Navy’s 15 minehunters were also scrapped instead of being upgraded last month. The sell-off could start as early as next year, resulting in a reduction in the surface fleet because the new generation of frigates will not come be in operation until 2020. There have been also reports this week that the Royal Marines might be reduced by 1,000 of its 7,000 officers and from four bases to one. The MoD said that the number of frigates would not decrease below 13.
Sir Michael Fallon’s comments this week further highlight the challenges on the MoD budget, and will be part of the MoD’s efforts to lobby Chancellor Philip Hammond for additional funding ahead of the Budget on 22 November. However, as highlighted previously, the Chancellor is unlikely to afford the MoD additional funds as part of the Budget announcement.
The scale of the MoD funding shortfall over the next decade demonstrates that officials will likely be seeking further cuts in the coming years, which the MDP should be considered unable to meet following previous demands. The DPF is consistently making this point to parliamentarians, and this week confirmed a parliamentary event before end of the year to further highlight the importance of the MDP in securing critical assets. The Government is likely to face increasing criticism on funding for the MoD both before and after the Budget, with a number of senior national journalists (with whom the Federation is in contact) highlighting that financial considerations are now being prioritised over risk.
Violent crime in England and Wales has risen by 19 per cent in a year
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published research showing that crime has increased by 13 per cent in a year, fueled largely by a 19 per cent rise in violent crime such as knife attacks and sex offences. Knife crimes saw a 26 per cent surge, and there was a 10 per cent overall increase in violence with injury. The Metropolitan Police saw the biggest rise, accounting for nearly half of the increase.
There are questions over the extent to which this increase is due to improved recording of crimes by police, but an ONS statistician said that “While improvements made by police forces in recording crime are still a factor in the increase, we judge that there have been genuine increases in crime.”
Figures show there are more police per head than 50 years ago
The Daily Telegraph has reported that figures show that police have more officers per civilian person now than they did in the 1960s. Home Office data shows that in 1961 there were 807 people for every police officer, and today there are 462 people for every officer. ONS statistics show that the number of crimes committed in 1961 is 806,900. In the year to June this year, 5.2 million crimes were recorded.
The National Police Chief's Council responded highlighting that the type of crime the police is dealing with now is significantly different, saying, “We are dealing with an unprecedented terror threat, police recorded crime is up 13 per cent and forces are dealing with more complex, resource-intensive crime like modern slavery, child sexual exploitation, cybercrime and online fraud.” Policing minister Nick Hurd said that “We are clear that all crimes reported to the police should be taken seriously, investigated and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences.”
Despite the analysis of the Home Office figures, the Government will come under considerable pressure with regards to funding of Home Office constabularies. However, as with the MoD, it seems unlikely the Chancellor will afford much if any new funding in next month’s Budget.
SNP questions future orders for Clyde shipyard
The Scotsman has reported that Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon visited the Clyde shipyard this for the official naming ceremony of HMS Medway, the newest offshore patrol vessel to be built in Glasgow, where he was questioned about the security of Clyde as a shipyard,. The Government has said that the programme involving the Type 26 frigates guarantees jobs on the Clyde for at least 20 years. However, it has emerged that Type 31e could be built in Mersey, as BAE announced it would bid for the contract alongside Cammell Laird of Birkenhead.
SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald has called this announcement is “a slap in the face” for Clyde workers, and union bosses have expressed their worry at the news. Gary Cook, GMB union Scotland Organiser, said, “Although the future of the Upper Clyde is secure until the 2030s […] the promised ‘frigate factory’, vital to the UK’s ability to compete in the global market, has been shelved” and noted that 3,800 jobs were potentially put at risk by the news. Sir Michael dismissed the concerns, saying that he expected a strong bid from BAE-Cammell Laird and that that means the skills required in Clyde will be re-employed again, and calling the SNP “a miserable lot.”
The DPF will be meeting Stewart McDonald in the next week to discuss the security of MoD establishments and the challenges facing the MDP.
Terror watchdog believes returning jihadists should not be prosecuted
The Daily Mail reports that Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, has raised concerns about the Government’s announcement of a string of new terror offences, such as watching beheading videos and bombmaking guides online, and suggested that “naive” militants returning from the Middle East should be reintegrated into society instead of facing prosecution. Justice Mr Hill said that only those who intended to or actually carried out violent acts should be punished. He said, “Thought without action or preparation for action may be extremism, but it is not terrorism.”
In a rare intervention, ministers have said that they “disagree with him on the issue.” Emma Webb, from the security think tank the Henry Jackson Society, said “The independent reviewer is downplaying the fact that non-violent extremism […] creates an environment in which violent extremism can flourish” and Security expert, Professor Anthony Glees, called for Justice Mr Hill to be removed from his post in light of the comments.
The Daily Mail has also reported that Sue Hemming, Head of Counter-Terrorism and Special Crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, has also voiced her disagreement at Justice Mr Hill’s claims when speaking at the National Security Summit in London. She has called for specific powers to be used against homegrown extremists returning from fighting for ISIS. She said that, “Prosecutors need offences available to prosecute those who rightly need to be brought to justice, where traditional criminal offences do not fit conduct that rightly calls for punishment”.
US military officers raise fears over Royal Marine cuts
The Times has reported that senior US military officers have expressed their concerns over planned cuts to the Royal Marines at a conference on the impact of technology on defence in London this week. Colonel Dan Sullivan said the Royal Marines were the US Marine Corps’ “most important coalition partner” but that proposed reductions to the Royal Marines would change that relationship. He particularly referenced the possible cut of 1,000 Royal Marines and the loss of two amphibious assault ships.
Lieutenant-General Jerry Harris reiterated his colleague’s concerns, but added that the US would respect the UK’s spending decisions as long as the defence budget was not squeezed. He said, “Having that war fighting capability is expensive but more expensive is losing the next fight […] I think we could do better by spending a little more on our defence.”
UK must boost defence budget to protect 'homeland', says former military chief
The Daily Telegraph has reported that General Sir Richards Barrons, who until last year led the UK’s Joint Forces Command, has warned that the UK’s defence budget must be increased to ensure the Armed Forces can protect the homeland. Sir Richard said that that reducing army personnel below 82,000 would be a “problem” but “the core issue is […] equipment.” He said, “the future will not replicate the comfortable recent past” and that the UK needed to be prepared to fight “wars of necessity,” adding that the country’s standing in the world is at risk from the rise of powers like Russia and China.
Plan to sell off £500m Hyde Park barracks scaled back
The Evening Standard has reported that the MoD’s plan to sell the Household Cavalry’s Hyde Park barracks to a luxury property developer has been scaled back following the terror attacks in London this year and a failure to find an appropriate replacement site. Twice this year soldiers stationed at the barracks have been deployed under the Army’s Operation Temperer, and officials have decided that they would struggle to meet such a deployment in future without the barracks.
The 3.5-acre site in which 500 officers and troops are based was hoped to have raised £500m as part of the MoD selling off “dozens of historical sites” in response to the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. Now, the barracks will be reduced in size by half while the other half will be converted into luxury apartment blocks. The barracks were first constructed for purpose in 1795.
Police turn to bouncers for help in handling terror threat
The Times reports that counterterrorism officials have called for private security guards to have reconnaissance and response training as part of their accreditation process. Mark Rowley, Head of National Counterterrorism Policing, said that the security sector provided “untapped potential” in the “national armoury” against domestic terrorism. Mr Rawley and his team are working with the British Security Industry Association to determine how it might be possible to provide counterterrorism training for security guards.
MoD answers defence questions on staff numbers in the Royal Marines
Mark Lancaster, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, has answered Kevan Jones’ question to the MoD about which units of the Royal Marines the Department planned to target as part of reductions in the number of personnel; and what plans it has to reduce the number of personnel in each rank in that organisation in order to achieve that reduction. Mr Lancaster said that the MoD is contributing to the Government's National Security Capability Review, which focuses on the continued implementation of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, and ensuring the United Kingdom's investment in national security capabilities is as joined-up, effective and efficient as possible. No decisions have been made regarding specific capabilities.