The main security and defence news this week has been the announcement of a new programme of work to “support the ongoing implementation” of the 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review (NSS/SDSR). The review will be led by Mark Sedwill, the former Home Office permanent secretary and now national security advisor to Theresa May. Details are sparse, but it appears that the results of this review will be published as part of the next annual assessment of the NSS/SDSR, which is due in December.
The Times reports that the review has been prompted by an MoD funding shortfall of up to £20 billion over the next decade. The fall in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote is largely to blame, as it has effectively increased the cost of equipment the UK is planning to import. The size of the Armed Forces may be examined in Mr Sedwill’s review, but MoD sources told the newspaper that the work was a “refresh” exercise and not a new SDSR.
The review will be a cross-departmental exercise, and will examine counterterrorism provisions as well as more conventional military capabilities. It seems unlikely at this stage that the review will result in any fundamental changes to flagship programmes due to the risk of political embarrassment. Additionally, the recent agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP to sustain Theresa May’s party in parliament explicitly included a commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, meaning that direct funding cuts are not an option. However, it is possible that there will be a ‘rebalancing’ of priorities, with certain projects – potentially including the F-35 fighter programme – seeing reductions in scale.
This review will provide an opportunity for the DPF to highlight the importance of the armed policing capability they provide in both securing the UK’s defence estate and providing wider support to the Home Office forces in the event of a major incident. The Federation will approach Mr Sedwill to brief him on the MDP’s role and the challenges the force faces.
· Questions on MDP answered in the House of Commons
· Faslane worker caught with stun gun
· Spending watchdog warns on Trident cost
· ISIS losses in Syria and Iraq ‘not reducing terrorism threat to UK’, warns Met Commissioner
· Teenage girl accused in court of plotting terror attack in UK
· Government risks ‘alienating’ Muslims, terrorism watchdog warns
· Tensions rise at fracking site in UK after police and activists clash
· Police shootings hit 12-year high
· Crime rises at fastest rate in 18 years
· CPS considers file on alleged £1m fraud at Police Federation
· Met police given 1,000 acid response kits after surge in attacks
· MDP support safety afloat
Questions on MDP answered in the House of Commons
- SNP Defence Spokesperson Stewart McDonald MP asked the Defence Secretary:
- What consultations his Department conducted before the decision was taken to reduce the size of the Ministry of Defence Police's officer complement; and if he will make a statement.
- What assessment he has made of the effect of planned reductions to the Ministry of Defence Police's officer complement on the security of the defence estate.
Responding collectively to the questions, Defence Minister Tobias Elwood said that the safety and security of the defence estate continues to be of the utmost importance, and that there are many ways this is achieved, including the vital role provided by the MDP. He added that discussions are ongoing across the Department in order to ensure that our policing resources are deployed where they are most needed, and that the Government will continue to fully safeguard all sites and would never contemplate changes that would place these in jeopardy. He further noted that consultation with the DPF will take place in the normal manner.
These questions were tabled by Mr McDonald shortly after he was briefed by DPF National Chair Eamon Keating. The minister did not answer either of the questions directly, although his endorsement of the “vital role” played by the MDP is encouraging. It is also noteworthy that he automatically assumed the question about consultation referred to the DPF specifically. Clearly, the MoD is well aware that the re-set issue is being closely monitored and publicised by the Federation – a point that the media coverage surrounding the annual conference will have helped reinforce – and considers the DPF a leading stakeholder.
Faslane worker caught with stun gun
The Daily Record reports that a man was caught with a stun gun while working on Faslane Naval base. Martyn Galloway was working as a sub-contractor at the base when he had the weapon in the back of his van last year. The 36-year-old, who told police he bought the stun gun online, has no previous convictions but was warned he now faces having a serious criminal record following the incident.
Mr Galloway, of Craigie View in Tarbolton, Ayrshire, appeared at Dumbarton Sheriff Court last week where he admitted having the prohibited weapon designed for the discharge of electricity in his possession on 29thJune last year. The court heard that the stun gun was discovered by police during a random search of his van. Depute fiscal Sarah Healing said, “At 4pm on the June 29, searches of persons and vehicles were carried out by the Ministry of Defence police”, that “at 4.50pm a white Renault transit van was stopped and searched”, and “when the officers were searching the rear of the van they found a toolbox and inside they found a stun gun.”
The case was adjourned until 9th August for social work reports to be obtained.
Spending watchdog warns on Trident cost
The Herald Scotland reports that the £43 billion plans to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system and build a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Clyde are “in doubt” or “unachievable”. A new report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) to the Cabinet Office and the Treasury has condemned three major nuclear projects run by the MoD for being poorly managed, over-budget and beset by technical problems.
A £1.7 billion project to build new submarine reactor manufacturing plants at Rolls Royce in Derby, called Core Production Capability, is given the IPA’s worst rating of 'red' for 2017. “Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable” said IPA. The £31.6 billion project to build four new nuclear-armed Dreadnought submarines to replace Trident and a £9.9 billion programme to build seven new conventionally-armed nuclear-powered Astute-class submarines were both rated as “amber/red” for the third year running. All the submarines are due to be based at Faslane on the Gareloch near Helensburgh. According to the IPA an amber/red rating suggests the schemes may not be viable. “Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas,” it said.
The complex nature of both the Trident replacement programme and the UK’s wider nuclear military systems means that cost overruns are always a significant risk. However, it is vital that such overruns are not compensated for by cutting the security of these assets. With a new examination of the 2015 SDSR now in progress, the DPF will be working to further ensure that key policymakers are aware of the vital role played by the MDP in protecting UK defence facilities.
ISIS losses in Syria and Iraq ‘not reducing terrorism threat to UK’, warns Met Commissioner
The Independent reports that the threat of ISIS-linked terror attacks in the UK continues to rise despite heavy military losses for the group in Iraq and Syria, the UK’s most senior police officer has warned. Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said six plots have been thwarted in the last four months alone and she expects the figure to rise. She told delegates at the annual Lord Mayor's defence and security lecture that “Progress on the ground in Syria and Iraq does not necessarily translate into a reduction in threat here.” Her caution came after triumphant statements from Government ministers following Iraqi forces’ victory over ISIS in Mosul.
Ms Dick said 13 lethal terror plots were foiled from June 2013 to March this year, amid increasing numbers of arrests seeing 340 suspects detained in the past two years. “We must not deny the scale of this challenge,” she added, saying MI5 is monitoring 3,000 individuals across the UK who are assessed as posing the biggest threat.
Teenage girl accused in court of plotting terror attack in UK
The Guardian reports that a teenage girl is alleged to have married an Islamic State fighter in Syria via Skype and became so indoctrinated that she tried to get a gun and grenade to stage a terrorist attack against Britain. The girl, who cannot be named because of her age, appeared at Westminster magistrates court on Wednesday charged with the alleged plot. The teenager, from London, is accused of receiving instructions on how to use the weapons and asking for help in carrying out the plot.
District judge Tan Ikram remanded her in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on 11th August. In a statement, the Metropolitan police said the teenager had been charged with having “the intention of committing acts of terrorism engaged in conduct in preparation for giving effect the that intention”.
Government risks ‘alienating’ Muslims, terrorism watchdog warns
The Independent reports that the Government’s response to terror attacks risks alienating Muslims and driving them away from authorities seeking to protect the UK, a watchdog has warned. A report by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Max Hill QC, found that mosques and community centres felt under pressure to denounce atrocities even when they had no links to perpetrators. He took aim at calls, which have been repeated by senior politicians, for Muslims to “do more” to fight extremism.
A Government spokesperson said: “This Government is committed to making Britain a country that works for everyone and we’re clear there should be no conflict between being British and being Muslim.”
Tensions rise at fracking site in UK after police and activists clash
The Guardian reports that tensions at Britain’s most high-profile fracking site have risen after an increase in violent clashes between protesters, security guards and police. One demonstrator said she had been left unconscious after a “pretty brutal” scuffle with security officers on Wednesday, and another activist fell from his wheelchair when police officers pulled him out of the way of a 40-tonne lorry. Both protesters said they planned to report the incidents that had occurred at energy firm Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, near Blackpool, to Lancashire police.
The skirmishes came as anti-fracking activists and Cuadrilla accused each other of “increased aggressive” acts in the years-long battle over the 1.5-hectare (3.8-acre) plot near Little Plumpton, one of the firm’s sites for shale gas exploration. Hundreds of protesters have demonstrated outside the site since last October, when the Government overruled Lancashire County Council and allowed Cuadrilla to begin drilling.
Should fracking become a widespread industry in the UK, the result will be the development of a dispersed network of natural gas extraction sites that will be vulnerable to threats ranging from protests to terrorist attack. Already, Home Office forces are requesting additional resources to protect such facilities. How this matter is addressed going forward will have to be considered in any review of infrastructure policing.
Police shootings hit 12-year high
The Independent reports that fatal police shootings in England and Wales have hit a 12-year high, according to figures released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). There were six fatal police shootings in the 12 months to March 2017, making it the highest annual figure since the IPCC began recorded in 2004/05 and marking a two-fold rise on the previous year. Commenting on the figures, Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the IPCC, said: “While the number of fatal police shootings has risen this year, this is in the context of many thousands of authorised firearms operations – 14,700 in 2015/16.”
The IPCC report also revealed there were 28 deaths related to police pursuits of vehicles — more than in any year since 2005/06 — and 14 deaths in police custody, which is the second lowest figure recorded by the IPCC since it began in 2004.
Crime rises at fastest rate in 18 years
The Financial Times reports that crime in the UK rose at the fastest rate in more than a decade last year, according to newly-released statistics, lending weight to fears that the recent trend of falling crime rates could be reversing. The overall number of recorded crimes increased by 10%, while there was an 18% increase in violent crime and a 20% increase in offences involving knives or other sharp instruments, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Conversely, the Crime Survey for England and Wales has recorded a fall in crime by 7% to 5.9 million incidents, compared with the 6.3 million incidents estimated to have taken place in the year ending March 2016. The figures are based on interviews with members of the public.
CPS considers file on alleged £1m fraud at Police Federation
The Guardian reports that an alleged £1 million fraud case at the Police Federation has been referred to prosecutors. Lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will now consider if criminal charges should be brought against Will Riches, the former vice-chair of the federation and a serving Metropolitan police officer. The investigation began in March 2016 and it is alleged that £1 million of Police Federation funds was transferred to an organisation called the Peelers Charitable Foundation. In March 2016, the Police Federation leadership called in investigators, claiming the £1 million should not have been transferred out of the organisation. Three other officers were placed under investigation, but the IPCC ruled that they had no case to answer.
In a statement, the IPCC said: “A referral to the CPS is made when the IPCC investigation indicates that a criminal offence may have been committed. It does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow. The CPS will decide whether charges should be brought, based on the test set out in the code for crown prosecutors.”
Met police given 1,000 acid response kits after surge in attacks
The Guardian reports that police officers in London are being issued with 1,000 acid attack response kits after a rise in the number of crimes involving corrosive liquids. Rapid response police cars will now carry the kits, which include protective gear and five-litre bottles of water, to allow officers to give immediate treatment to victims sprayed with acid.
A number of attacks have taken place in east London recently, particularly in Newham. At the moment, police cars in east London carry the attack response kits, but they will now be rolled out to all cars in the capital. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said the force was working closely with the London Fire Brigade, the ambulance service, the Home Office and hospitals on how to deal with the issue.
MDP support safety afloat
The Royal Navy website reports that the Plymouth Queen’s Harbour Master and MDP are advising leisure water users to follow simple safety advice during the summer holiday. The MDP Marine Unit, led by Inspector Tony Micallef, has a fleet of boats on the water 24 hours a day in all weathers primarily protecting Devonport Naval Base. At the same time, they are able to offer advice to recreational users and respond to tasks from the emergency services as well as assist HM Coast Guard and the RNLI.
Inspector Micallef says although his force primarily protects the naval base and warships and submarines entering and leaving the port, they also keep an eye out for members of the public who may get into difficulty. He added, “Regrettably, in the course of our work we come across boat users who are ill-equipped to be out on the sea. We would appeal to all boat owners who use this beautiful and busy harbour to treat the sea with respect. Don’t take fine weather or the reliability of your boat for granted. Take the right kit with you; if you need it, you need it with you, not at home.”