The military has been brought in to help the fire service tackle wildfires in Greater Manchester. 100 troops from the 4thBattalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland were sent from their barracks in Catterick, North Yorkshire, to help with efforts to keep the fire under control, along with approximately 60 firefighters
NATO’s General Secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, has said that transatlantic cohesion that keeps NATO together is not weakening but actually strengthening, ahead of the NATO Summit on 11thand 12thJuly. This is after European leaders expressed concern at US President Donald Trump’s presence at the Summit following tensions at the G7 which included Trump saying that Europeans needed to start contributing more to their own defence. The US is NATO’s core member, with the biggest military in the world and a budget of 3.5 percent of its GDP. The only other countries to meet the two percent target in the 29-member Alliance are Croatia, Greece and the UK.
- Doubts cast over increased defence funding
- Downing Street offers compromise for armed forces pay rise
- Former army chief says UK “living a lie” over defence capability
- Scottish Justice Minister under pressure to scrap BTP-Police Scotland merger
- Labour calls for end to MoD-private sector contracts
Doubts cast over increased defence funding
The Guardian has reported that a Whitehall source has claimed that “there is no chance” that the Treasury will increase the MoD’s budget. The MoD is scheduled to publish the key findings of its Modernising Defence Review ahead of the NATO Summit on 11thand 12thJuly, after the defence review was separated out from the security review because Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson asserted that the “fiscally neutral” security review would not deliver on the needs of the MoD. Williamson is due to meet Chancellor Philip Hammond ahead of the NATO Summit in order to reach an agreement before the announcement. This follows previous meetings having broken down without any deal reached.
In response to the rumours, Williamson was quoted in a private meeting saying that he would “bring down” the Prime Minister and “crush” the Treasury if they failed to increase the defence budget, The Daily Mail has reported. It also reported that Defence Select Committee Chair, Julian Lewis, saying, “There need be no political risk to the Prime Minister – if she does the right thing.” Both MPs said that the increase in the health budget showed that the Government could deliver increased funding if it chose to. Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith has responded to the feud saying that if the Labour Party were in Government it would ensure that the UK remained a Tier One power.
Doubts arose last week when Prime Minister Theresa May refused to confirm that the UK would remain a Tier One military power, able to fight a nuclear, cyber, and conventional war anywhere in the world. Currently, Tier One military powers are typically considered to be the US, Russia, China, France and the UK. The Government has this week reaffirmed that it is on track to deliver headline findings from the Modernising Defence Programme ahead of the NATO Summit in a couple of weeks.
Downing Street offers compromise for armed forces pay rise
Whitehall sources have told The Guardian that Downing Street has directly intervened in the feud between Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Chancellor Philip Hammond with regards to the pay rise announced for the armed forces. The independent armed forces pay review body had recommended that the UK’s 137,000 service personnel receive a three percent salary increase which would cost an estimated £200m a year. The Treasury and the MoD are in dispute about who should cover the cost.
Downing Street has sided with the Treasury, which is prepared to honour “the spirit” of the salary recommendation but is calling on the MoD to compromise considering the pressures the Treasury is under from numerous departments calling for increased staff salaries and funding. The details of Downing Street’s offer to the MoD is unknown, but sources say it is intended to test whether or not Williamson will cooperate with Government, following the reports outlined above where Williamson said he could “bring down” the Prime Minister.
Former army chief says UK “living a lie” over defence capability
The Timeshas reportedthat former defence chief, General Sir Lord Nicholas Houghton has said that the UK is “living a lie” as he admitted that the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which was published while he was Chief of Defence Staff, had never been sufficiently funded. The SDSR had been championed by then-Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and then-Prime Minister David Cameron as a plan to rebuild the armed forces, but Lord Houghton said that “in truth that programme was never affordable going forward without herculean assumptions coming to pass” with regards to the UK’s economic performance and “alchemic ideas about what efficiencies the armed forces could deliver.”
General Sir Lord Houghton agreed with the Defence Select Committee’s assertion that the MoD needs a budget increase of approximately £17bn a year, equating to an increase from 2.4 percent GDP to three percent GDP. He said, “It is not just what the armed forces needs, it is actually what the country needs.”
Commenting on Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s recent comments, the former defence chief said that “It would be a great shame if the future of the defence budget and the armed forces of this country were part of a political game of power and ambition.”
Scottish Justice Secretary under pressure to scrap BTP-Police Scotland merger
The SNP’s new Justice Secretary in Holyrood, Humza Yousaf, has come under pressure to drop his predecessor’s controversial plans to merge the British Transport Police (BTP) that operates north of the border with Police Scotland. Former Scottish Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, had tried to press ahead with the changes but had had to postpone the proposed deadline of April 2019 indefinitely when it became apparent that it could not be met “without compromising public safety.” The BTP has been vocally opposed to the merger.
Conservative Justice Spokesperson in Holyrood said that the change of Justice Secretary presented an opportunity for the Scottish Government to “abandon the dogma” of his predecessor and scrap the merger which “will not work, will cost more, and will leave us with a worse service.” A spokesperson for Mr Yousaf said that the Department remained “committed to the safe and smooth integration of BTP into Police Scotland following Parliament’s vote to pass the Railway Policing Act, while called the Conservatives of having “double standards” noting that the Conservative’s 2017 election manifesto pledged to merge the BTP with the MDP and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary into the National Infrastructure Constabulary.
Since the Conservatives lost their majority in the House of Commons in the 2017 General Election, they have not pursued the creation of the National Infrastructure Constabulary and instead have asked the three forces concerned to demonstrate that they are improving their “interoperability.” Although a commitment to merge the three forces was contained in the Conservative Party manifesto t is unlikely that the British Government will pursue this merger in the near future with a range of other issues taking centre stage most notably the Brexit process
Labour calls for end to MoD-private sector contracts
Labour has pledged to stop the MoD contracting work out to the private sector if it wins the next election. This will include an immediate review of all significant service contracts the MoD has with the private sector and bringing them back in house if appropriate and suspending the process of outsourcing in the future. This comes following the Government’s decision to award the Defence Fire and Rescue Service, which delivers fire safety to the defence community and key defence infrastructure, to Capita. Capita has been criticised for underperforming on other public-sector contracts it had, including its Army recruitment contract, and recently lost its contract to run MoD military estates.
Following the collapse of government outsourcing giant Carillion, which at the time of its demise had £1.7bn worth of public sector contracts, including between £700,000 and £1bn in the MoD, the Labour Party has increased its efforts against Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) and Private Public Partnerships (PPP). It considers the contracts to be poor value for taxpayers’ money and lacking in the transparency necessary for the public to hold contractors to account.
Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith announced the policy while talking at defence think tank RUSI, saying that where private are “failing our personnel and their families, or failing to provide value for money to British taxpayers” they will be stripped of their work.