The Financial Times reports that the MOD is seeking to shave £1.5 billion off the money it pays the defence industry each year to help maintain and retool its military equipment. The targeted cuts will reduce the £7.5 billion annual spending on support contracts by 20%. A large part of these savings is expected to come from the renegotiation of contracts, with eight already redrawn at a saving of £500 million. Industry chiefs have warned that the renegotiations could affect the UK’s military capability.
- Defence Reform Bill
- Faslane civilian staff vote for strike action
- Union hours for civil servants continue to fall
- Allegations of abuse in the Armed Forces up by 25% in 2013
- Senior MOD officials urge defence companies to highlight threat of Yes vote to industry
Update – Defence Reform Bill
During a House of Lords Committee debate on the Defence Reform Bill on Wednesday, two amendments to the Bill were discussed which related to the jurisdiction of the MDP over contractor property.
The Lords debated Amendment 10 which sought to include jurisdiction over contractor “unmanned aerial systems, distributed common ground systems, ground control and other stations”. Meanwhile, Amendment 11 sought to add to clarity to the Bill by stating that the MDP would have jurisdiction over “any property or vehicles owned or used by the GOCO for providing defence procurement services” in addition to contractor property.
Defence Minister Lord Astor said that the current wording in Clause 5 of the Defence Reform Bill fully provided the Ministry of Defence Police with the jurisdiction they needed to carry out their duties in relation to any future GOCO and said the changes proposed were unnecessary.
The amendments were not adopted by the Committee. The Committee will consider the bill further throughout February, after which it will go to report stage before the whole House of Lords.
Faslane base civilian staff vote for strike action
The Times reports that maintenance staff at Faslane have voted overwhelmingly for strike action, in an unprecedented move which the newspaper says could impact the safety of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. The Unite union said that civilian workers at HM Naval Base Clyde had been forced to take action after being offered a “derisory” 1% pay rise offer by employers Babcock Marine. Expert on nuclear matters John Large, said the strike action would cause serious “safety implications” for the base because many civilian staff were carrying out jobs previously held by military personnel.
The MOD has played down the implications of a strike. A spokesman for HM Naval Base Clyde said that the base commander would retain overall responsibility for security and safety within the site and added that the base had “robust contingency planning measures” in preparation for such an eventuality.
Union hours for civil servants continue to fall
The Daily Telegraph reports that 950 civil servants have been forced to stop working for their union on the taxpayers’ time over the past two years. Official figures show the number of civil servants who can work for their union during office hours fell from 6,746 to 5,796 between 2011 and 2013. Over the same period, the number of civil servants who can work full time for their union fell by over 80% from 200 to just 37.
The reforms are expected to save £17 million a year. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said that before 2010 there was “no proper control” over how much taxpayers spent funding trade union representatives.
Allegations of abuse in the Armed Forces up by 25% in 2013
The Times reports that allegations of mistreatment in the Services have risen, with 1 in 10 respondents to an official survey complaining of “discrimination, harassment or bullying” last year, up 25% on 2012. Of the 12,500 personnel who responded to the 2013 Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey, approximately 1,250 made allegations of abuse. The rise was greatest among the lowest ranks.
Commenting on the findings, Defence Select Committee member Madeline Moon said that sexual harassment was a “daily issue” for women serving in the Forces. A survey of the Armed Forces in 2006 found that 57% of complaints of all types by female personnel related to more senior figures in their own chain of command. An MOD spokesman said the Armed Forces have a “zero tolerance” approach to all forms of abuse and said that all allegations will be thoroughly investigated, either by civil or military police.
Senior MOD officials urge defence companies to highlight threat of Yes vote to industry
The Financial Times reports that senior figures at the MOD are urging executives of defence companies to highlight potential job losses and disruption if Scotland breaks away from the UK. Defence Minister Philip Dunne told the newspaper that a Yes vote for Scotland would raise “huge questions” for Scotland’s £1.8 billion defence industry.
Mr Dunne’s intervention came after several senior defence executives told the FT that they were being pressed by ministers and other senior officials to highlight the negative consequences of a Yes vote for Scotland’s defence sector. The FT says the move shows anxiety within government about the referendum result in September on whether to leave the UK.