The Defence Select Committee published a report this week on the future of the Royal Marines and the UK’s amphibious landing capability that has concluded that further cuts would pose risks of the country’s security. The Committee’s report following the announcement that defence capability would be separated from the National Security Capability Review.
As noted in previous reports, the Defence Select Committee will closely scrutinise the review of defence capability, now titled the Modernising Defence Programme.
Crime rates were raised in Prime Minister’s Questions this week as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May whether she regrets “cutting 21,000 police officers” considering rising crime rates. Mrs May responded saying that crime “is now down at record low levels” thanks to a Conservative Government “who at the same time have been protecting police budgets.”
Police chiefs warn against London forces merger
Senior officers from the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and the British Transport Police gave evidence to the London Assembly this week, and all have warned against proposals to merge the three forces into one.
Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick said that although it “is clearly a political decision,” she believes the operational benefits did not “outweigh some of the risks, the enormous costs and the extraordinary political wrangling” that would result from the merger. Ms Dick and City of London Assistant Commissioner Alistair Sutherland noted that further integration and intelligence sharing across the forces would be beneficial; and British Transport Police Chief Constable Paul Crowther added that technology could be used to make savings.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already rejected the proposals, arguing that the response to the terror attacks in London last year demonstrated how well the forces worked together. This comes amid plans to merge the British Transport Police with Police Scotland and there are plans to merge Dorset with Devon and Cornwall Police, which already spans the largest geographical area of any police force in England.
Defence Select Committee publishes report on Royal Marines capability
The Defence Select Committee has published a report titled Sunset for the Royal Marines? The Royal Marines and UK amphibious capability, in which it warns that further cuts to Royal Marines capabilities would undermine UK security and were “militarily illiterate.” The report was published after rumours surfaced that the National Security Capability Review would recommend the MoD reduce the Marines by 1,000 personnel and the disposal of its two amphibious vessels, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. The defence element of the review has now been separated out and will comprise the Modernising Defence Programme.
The report said that ministers risked being “totally at odds with strategic reality” and that the Royal Marines should not be “sacrificed to short-term Treasury bookkeeping” as its reduction would result in “the country's security would be significantly undermined.” It called for the reinstatement of a target of around three percent of GDP to go to defence, an increase from the NATO minimum requirement of two percent.
MPs used the report to call for the Modernising Defence Programme to ensure sufficient funding was granted to both vessels and wider amphibious capability. A MoD spokesperson said that “protecting the UK will always be our priority and the Royal Marines play a vital role in defending our country” and this will be covered in the Modernising Defence Programme.
Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffiths, responded to the report saying “The defence review that is currently underway must be driven by strategy and a clear sense of the personnel and equipment that are necessary to Britain’s defences. This cannot simply be about making further short-sighted and damaging cuts to our national security, the sad hallmark of Conservative Defence policy to date.”
National Chairman Eamon Keating met with both Dr Julian Lewis and Nia Griffith last year, and we will be following on our regular communication with them as part of efforts to influence the Modernising Defence Programme – specifically to ensure it reflects the importance of robust security of MoD establishments, and the role playing by the MDP.
Police Scotland Chief resigns amid misconduct allegations
The Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Phil Gormley, has resigned amid an investigation into several allegations of gross misconduct. Mr Gormley, who took up his role in January 2016, tendered his resignation to the Scottish Police Authority with immediate effect, thereby terminating his contract 10 months early. Mr Gormley stood accused of bullying colleagues; although he denied any wrongdoing. He had been on special leave since September 2017 because of the investigation, and had been asked to return in November but this decision was reversed after Scottish Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, intervened.
The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner has said that their investigation will now be terminated. Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, who is acting Chief Constable of Police Scotland, is the favourite to succeed him. He said that the matter had “been a difficult time for Police Scotland and for many individuals” and that his focus going forward was “serving the people of Scotland.”
Former NATO commander questions Navy’s ability to perform in war
Former NATO Commander Chris Parry has said that the UK’s naval service is unable to properly engage in war because of decades of cuts, The Times has reported. Mr Parry told the Naval Review that findings from a survey of middle-ranking officers in the Navy between 2015 and 2017 indicated that “none was confident about going to war against a peer competitor in the current generation of surface flagships.” Mr Parry said that the reduction in training, support ammunition stockpiles and manpower “have resulted in a Royal Navy that politicians would scarcely dare put into a fight and which would struggle to win against an opponent of comparable capability.”
The Times defence correspondent Deborah Haynes has explained that such a “blunt” intervention from a former naval officer is “an indication of the concern about the state of the Royal Navy” and Mr Parry described it has having “made explicit what was implicit.”
Police could be taken off the streets to deal with crisis in rape cases
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has suggested during an LBC Radio interview that officers could be taken off the beat in order to deal with the crisis in rape cases, the Daily Telegraph has reported. Scotland Yard is currently reviewing 600 sexual assault cases after several rape cases have collapsed in recent weeks because digital evidence was not sufficiently investigated and disclosed as evidence.
Ms Dick has implied that the pressure this is putting on the Met might compel her to reallocate resource until the review is complete, which could take months or years. She said that “there is a question about resourcing” as in cases where the two parties know each other there is often “a mountain of material” that police have to review and “this is becoming more difficult.” She commented that “You ask any police chief, they always want more resources. You can’t do something for nothing, so I will have to move resources from another area.”