The Houses of Parliament rose on Thursday for Easter recess. They will not resume business until 28 April where they will sit for three days before rising again for May Day recess.
The BBC reports that former Secretary General of NATO has said that Scottish independence would be cataclysmic for the West in an era of international turmoil. Speaking in the US, Lord Robertson said a “debilitating divorce” after a “Yes” vote in September would threaten the stability of the wider world. Lord Robertson said that allies of the United Kingdom should speak out to warn that the implications for defence would affect the west more generally. His comments have been dismissed by the Scottish National Party as “offensive” smear tactics against the “Yes” campaign.
The Herald Scotland reports that Scotland Office minister and Conservative MP David Mundell has said that there is “no deal to be done” over Trident. The newspaper says that Mr Mundell has concluded that the UK’s nuclear deterrent would be expelled from Scotland in the event of independence. The minister said that negotiations on the issue were impossible because the Scottish National Party could never contemplate a compromise. The newspaper says that his comments could be the first insight into how talks to break up the UK could progress.
- Answers to written questions on defence
- Next GCHQ boss to be decided before the end of April
- Military spending to count towards aid target
Answers to written questions on defence
- Labour MP Dan Jarvis asked the Secretary of State for Defence what savings have accrued to the Exchequer through the linking of the value of armed forces pensions to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Prices Index (RPI).
Defence Minister Anna Soubry said the CPI is used to set the inflation target for the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee; it is the headline measure of inflation in the UK as reported by the Office of National Statistics, and is an internationally comparable measure. Soubry said that CPI is therefore considered by the Government to be the appropriate index to provide protection from inflation, which is why both the armed forces and civil service pension schemes use this measure.
Soubry added that the Armed Forces continue to benefit from the only major public sector pension scheme that is non-contributory. She provided a table which detailed the savings made by the Exchequer by linking the inflation measures to CPI rather than RPI.
Shadow Defence Minister Alison Seabeck asked the Defence Secretary which sites used by the land-focused business of the Defence Support Group will be (a) sold, (b) leased to the buyer and (c) closed with a view to being put on the open market for development.
Philip Dunne said that other than the proposed closure of the site at Ashchurch for the subsequent sale for development, it is not the intention of the MOD to sell any of the sites used by the DSG or to close any with a view to putting them on the market.
Dunne provided a list of the facilities which the DSG occupy exclusively will be leased to the new company.
Dunne also provided a list of the facilities which DSG will be granted a licence to occupy.
Next GCHQ boss to be decided before the end of April
The Financial Times reports that two senior civil servants and a serving intelligence agent form the shortlist of candidates to be the next head of GCHQ. The news comes as the electronic surveillance agency looks to outsiders to help rebuild public and political trust in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. A decision on the new director of the organisation will be taken before the end of April, a senior Whitehall figure has said.
Military spending to count towards aid target
The Times reports that David Cameron is preparing to allow more military spending to count towards his controversial commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on aid. This month, Britain joined a small number of countries who have met the UN target. The Prime Minister has been reluctant to draw attention to the £11.4 billion foreign aid bill but now the Times says he is preparing to take advantage of a review of the rule on what can count towards the aid target. Britain could back a move led by the Netherlands and number of Nordic countries to allow more defence spending to count as aid. Mr Cameron has indicated that he is sympathetic to such reforms and has said that it would be important for the MOD and the Department for International Development to work more closely together.