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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 8 July 2013

By DPF Admin15th July 2013Latest News

The Sun has reported on findings by the RAF Families Federation which shows that promises in the legally-binding Armed Forces Covenant are not being kept. The newspaper says that three in four of the servicemen polled in the survey had no idea what the covenant was, or said it had no impact on their lives. The Prime Minister said in 2011 that the Covenant should remove social disadvantages, many of which stem from moving postings. However, according to the survey by the RAF Families Federation, airmen complain that they are still living in dilapidated housing, receiving substandard NHS healthcare and have to send their children to underachieving schools.

In its annual report published this week, the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has raised warnings regarding the efficiency savings which have been forced on intelligence services by the Treasury. The Committee highlighted that they are not confident operational capabilities will be protected during the spending round, and particularly focussed on the need to ensure that sufficient resources are committed to combating cyber threats. These, according to the report, are at their highest level ever and expected to rise further still.

Contents

  • Answers to written questions on MDP pensions
  • Notice of written question on MDP’s investigation into disappearance of Katrice Lee
  • Britain’s defence spending to go from fourth to sixth largest in the next four years
  • Government denies plans for keeping Faslane in UK if Scotland became independent
  • HoC Library publishes research briefing on Defence Reform Bill

Answers to written questions on MDP pensions

  • Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid asked the Secretary of State for Defence:

(1) what consultation process he plans as part of the review of the pension ages of the MDP and the DFRS; when he plans to complete such a review; and if he will place the terms of reference for the review in the Library.

(2) if the review of the pension ages of the MDP and DFRS will consider early retirement, the effect on capability of officers and the effect on the health and wellbeing of officers of a rising retirement age.

(3) what assessment he has made of the number of officers likely to take early retirement if the pension age of the MDP and the DFRS were 60; 65 and; 67.

Defence Minister Mark Francois responded that in line with the terms set out in the Public Sector Pensions Act 2013, terms of reference for the review are currently being finalised together with timescales for the work and details of the consultation process. Mr Francois added that once this is complete, a copy of the terms of reference will be placed in the Library of the House and said he could confirm that the review will consider those aspects referred to in the question.

Mr Francois went on to say that no assessment has yet been made of the likely retirement numbers. However, he said that such an assessment will form part of the review and will be informed by work commissioned from the Government Actuary’s Department.

Notice of written question on MDP’s investigation into disappearance of Katrice Lee

Conservative MP Caroline Dinenage has tabled a new question:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what his latest estimate is of when the latest Ministry of Defence Police investigation into the disappearance of Katrice Lee will be concluded; and if he will make a statement.

Britain’s defence spending to go from fourth to sixth largest in the next four years

Defence analysts have revealed to the Sun newspaper that Britain’s military budget will fall from being the fourth largest to being the sixth largest by 2017. Experts at HIS Jane Defence Weekly have shown that Britain is now the fifth largest military spender, with the Russian defence budget overtaking the British defence budget for 2013. The findings also show that India is projected to spend more on defence than Britain within four years, pushing Britain down to sixth place.

The newspaper said that these findings contradict a commitment made by the Prime Minister recently that the UK would retain its fourth place in defence spending whilst he was in office. The defence analysts say that Britain is already fifth, with the US, China, Japan also ahead in terms of spending. Former Commander of Troops in Afghanistan Colonel Richard Kemp has warned that the spending cuts will render the UK “strategically irrelevant”.

Government denies plans for keeping Faslane in UK if Scotland became independent

A number of reports appeared in the media this week, suggesting that the MOD was considering the idea of designating the Faslane naval base as a sovereign British territory in case Scotland became an independent country following the 2014 referendum. The rationale of such an idea would have been to avoid the high cost of relocating the Trident fleet, as well as the preference of the MOD to maintain access to the open seas via the Firth of Clyde.

However, the Prime Minister’s office has denied that the Government was considering this possibility, dubbing the plan “not credible”. The SNP had reacted angrily to the idea, with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accusing the UK government of making an “outrageous attempt at bullying”. Sturgeon also reiterated the SNP’s plan to remove weapons from Scotland should Scotland become independent.

HoC Library publishes research briefing on Defence Reform Bill

The House of Commons Library has published a research paper on the Defence Reform Bill, providing background information on the policy developments which fed into the drafting of the Bill and offering an overview of the provisions which it contains.

Of particular relevance, the briefing looks at the provisions regarding the jurisdiction of the MOD Police in relation to the Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated (GOCO) organisation which will run the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S). Clause 5 of the Bill allows for the MOD Police to continue exercising its police powers on premises that will be used by the GOCO, including any vehicles, vessels or aircraft and any new site utilised by the contractor.

This clause will also allow for the MOD Police to investigate any allegations of fraud and other criminal offences relating to the provision of defence procurement services, including in relation to any contracts between the contractor and third party contractors. 

Meanwhile, it was reported this week that the Government has already begun talks with private companies, with around 20 firms having expressed an interest in the contract to run DE&S. The aim is to complete the reforms within the next 18 months.

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