This week's security and defence news has continued to focus upon the debate surrounding the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system. The Independent reports that a narrow majority of the public supports the Government’s proposal to fully renew Britain's Trident nuclear weapons programme, according to a poll for the newspaper. A smaller proportion, three out of 10 (29 per cent), support the plan floated by Jeremy Corbyn to keep the submarines but to send them to sea without warheads. A further 20 per cent oppose any form of Trident renewal. This means that Britain is split down the middle on whether to retain nuclear weapons: some 51 per cent of people back full renewal of Trident, while a total of 49 per cent prefer either non-nuclear submarines or reject any renewal.
In the political realm, The Sun reports that the Government is to call an early vote to renew Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent by the end of March. Bringing it to a head will leave Jeremy Corbyn set against the majority of his MPs and shadow cabinet, and is expected to spark new in-fighting. Labour chiefs face a dilemma on what to do in the vote. They could back Trident, which is still official party policy; try to block it – which is Mr Corbyn’s desire; or offer MPs a free vote. Some senior Labour figures are arguing for a fourth option of abstaining, as the best of a poor set of options.
This week has also seen the publication of letters and opinion pieces in The Independent and Plymouth Herald claiming that Trident is not an independent weapons system. The items assert that because the Trident missiles used by the UK have to be returned to the US for maintenance and testing, and that they depend upon US-controlled GPS for guidance, they are not under independent British control.
The UK’s Trident system is operationally independent when deployed on patrol. Furthermore, they depend on a star-tracking navigation system, as opposed to GPS, for guidance to their targets. Short of sinking the submarine carrying the missiles or disabling the Royal Navy’s systems for communicating with its submarines, the US has no ability to stop a British nuclear launch.
· MDP to end presence at Royal Mint HQ
MDP to end presence at Royal Mint HQ
Wales Online reports that the MDP will stop providing a security service for the Royal Mint headquarters in Llantrisant later this year. The 35-acre site, which operates around the clock for 52 weeks a year, is currently overseen by the MDP – which has had a long-term responsibility for the UK coin-makers’ headquarters in South Wales. The MDP has confirmed it will leave its current policing role in Llantrisant this summer, but there will be no redundancies as a result of the move. The change in security arrangements comes as the Royal Mint prepares to open a new £7.7m visitors’ centre.
DPF are currently engaged with the Force and the Department on this issue.
Royal Navy destroyers face engine refit after reliability issues
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Royal Navy's most modern warships are to be fitted with new engines because they keep breaking down. The MoD confirmed that the six Type 45 destroyers are to undergo major refits amid concerns over their reliability. It said the extensive work, which could cost tens of millions of pounds, would be staggered over a period of years to ensure that some ships remain available for operational commitments at all times. From 2019, each will be upgraded, potentially by cutting a large hole to insert at least one new generator into the ships.
In 2014, HMS Dauntless had to abandon a training exercise due to engineering issues, and in 2009, HMS Daring lost power in the Atlantic on her first voyage to the US. According to the BBC, an email by a Royal Navy officer stated that “total electric failures are common”.
There have been persistent rumours of engineering issues with the class for several years, and this development confirms both that the problems are significant and that they will require a major investment to correct.
Defence suppliers overcharging by up to £26m
The Financial Times reports that companies chosen as sole suppliers of military equipment could be overcharging the UK Government by up to £26m, according to the watchdog created last year to tackle cost inflation on defence deals. The Single Source Regulations Office (SSRO) – set up by the MoD last year as an independent body – has secured cost reductions of £100,000 and identified a further £25.7m in potential savings after a review of 18 non-competitive contracts signed in 2015.
The SSRO’s first compliance report comes as the Government prepares to step up the level of its procurement from single source suppliers – where there is a highly specialised or particularly urgent need that would preclude a competitive tender. Some of the most crucial contracts that will be allocated under the single source regime include the £31bn renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, awarded to BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Babcock International, and the Type 26 global combat ship, estimated at a cost of more than £4bn.
Nearly 60 Iraq killings claims against UK soldiers dropped
The BBC reports that investigations into 58 allegations of unlawful killing against UK soldiers in Iraq have been dropped. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) has decided not to proceed in 57 cases, the MoD said. A further case was stopped by the military's prosecuting authority. The news follows a call by David Cameron to “stamp out” what he called “spurious” legal claims against British troops returning from action overseas.
IHAT was set up to review and investigate allegations of abuse made by Iraqi civilians against UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009. It currently lists more than 1,300 allegations under investigation, ranging from murder to low-level violence: some 280 of those are allegations of unlawful killing.
Emergency services told to 'share control rooms' by Government
The Daily Telegraph reports that Minister for Policing Mike Penning has called for the emergency services in England to handle 999 calls from a shared control room. The plans also include a move to allow police and crime commissioners (PCC) to take responsibility for their local fire and rescue authority. PCCs who take this step will then be able to put in place a single 'employer' led by a chief officer in charge of hiring all fire and police personnel.
A few areas of England already have a share control room, but the Home Office is issuing a 'statutory duty' that will require the services to collaborate more closely. Mr Penning said: “It simply doesn't make sense for emergency services to have different premises, different back offices and different IT systems when their work is so closely related and they often share the same boundaries.”
Scottish police authority publishes terrorism paper by mistake
The Guardian reports that Police Scotland has identified “knowledge gaps” in its counter-terrorism strategy, according to a classified paper published in error on the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) website. The Force’s civilian watchdog was also warned that the police and partner authorities had yet to draw up a consistent list of vulnerable sites, according to the private paper. Responding to the mistaken publication of the report, a Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The paper contained protectively marked information which was uploaded on to the SPA website in error and this was spotted and corrected after a media inquiry was received.”
Plymouth harbour drowned 'thief' case sparks IPCC plea
The BBC reports that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has called for national guidance for forces following the death of a suspected bike thief who drowned in a marina after being chased by officers. Darren Wakefield, 35, jumped into a harbour in Plymouth in October 2014 and died after he became trapped, despite a joint rescue effort by Devon and Cornwall Police and the MDP. Devon and Cornwall Police subsequently referred the case to the IPCC.
Tom Milsom, IPCC Associate Commissioner, said: “We have… advised the National Police Chiefs Council that all forces should have better guidelines for working with other agencies when dealing with water rescues.” The investigation also found some confusion within the MDP control room over the policies for assisting other police forces. An MDP spokesman said: “The MDP is aware of the IPCC recommendations relating to this matter and will take action around any required improvements in communications”, adding “[the] MDP always try to assist local police forces when appropriate and within their jurisdiction and this is standard practice.”