The Houses of Parliament rose this week for February recess. They will not resume business until 24 February.
The Independent reports that two lieutenant generals who left the Army less than 18 months ago are now working for companies fighting for a £400 million Government defence contract to run the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). Both appointments were approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments with the Prime Minister’s agreement. The newspaper says the appointments are the latest example of “the revolving door” where it says ministers and senior civil servants get “lucrative jobs” by trading on the knowledge and contacts made in government.
The Financial Times reports that Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned the police and armed forces could be forced to shed as much as 40% of their workforce over the next five years if health and education continue to be protected from government cuts. Only 240,000 of the 1.1 million public sector jobs the Office for Budget Responsibility expects to disappear between 2010-11 and 2018-19 have actually gone.
The Financial Times also reports that a shortfall in the number of full-time troops needed to run the UK’s armed forces has more than doubled in the past three months, even as the MOD pushes ahead with redundancies across the military. About one in 10 jobs in the army, navy and air force are now unfilled compared with one in 40 in October.
- Answers to written questions on MDP, internal investigations and DE&S
- Written ministerial statement on MOD submarine dismantling
- NAO says procurement costs remain stable but says greater scrutiny is needed on equipment
- Treasury and MOD in deadlock over proposal to subcontract defence purchasing
- TPA report reveals MOD waste
- Female police officers twice as likely to fail compulsory fitness tests
- David Davis calls for full implementation of proposed Police Federation reforms
- Compulsory redundancies will not be introduced to police forces
Answers to written questions on MDP, internal investigations and DE&S
- Conservative MP Dr Matthew Offord asked the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department plans to take to ensure that the MDP adhere to the College of Policing standards.
Defence Minister Dr Andrew Murrison said that the MDP works in close partnership with the College of Policing to ensure the maintenance of standards and professionalism in matters relating to policing, such as firearms, training, professional standards and recruitment.
We flagged this question at the start of the week and the answer provided by the Minister is the standard Department response we would expect to this question. We will contact Dr Offord’s office to see if he would welcome any further information.
- Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie asked the Secretary of State for
Defence which organisation his Department and its subsidiary bodies use to tackle internal instances of crime, including corruption and fraud; and whether he has designated this organisation or any individual within it to grant authorisation for carrying out directed surveillance under section 28 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
Defence Minister Andrew Murrison said the MDP and the service police investigate reported allegations of crime that fall within their respective jurisdictions. Mr Murrison said that in addition, the Counter Fraud and Loss Prevention Unit support efforts to reduce fraud and theft. He said that a new Counter Fraud Strategy and Counter Fraud and Loss Prevention Board has been established to drive improvements in managing the risk of fraud and loss across the MOD.
Mr Murrison also said that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000, section 28 and the orders made under the Act specifically allow the MPD and service police to undertake directed surveillance. He said therefore there is no requirement for the Secretary of State for Defence to designate these organisations. All directed surveillance is conducted in full compliance with the legislative requirements.
- Scottish National Party MP Angus Robertson asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many safety critical posts exist in Defence Equipment and Support; and how many such posts are currently vacant.
Mark Francois said as at the end of December 2013, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) had 1,362 posts designated as ‘Safety-Critical’, 98 of which were vacant. Mr Francois said an external engineering recruitment campaign is currently under way which the Department expects to have a significant impact on addressing the staffing requirement. DE&S is also taking action to fill safety-critical posts from within Defence.
- Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn asked the Defence Secretary what the annual expenditure on the Trident nuclear weapons system, including all capital expenditure at HMNB Clyde, AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield, has been since 2000.
Defence Minister Dr Andrew Murrison said annual expenditure on the Trident nuclear weapons system, comprising D5 missile and warhead costs only, cannot be separately identified.
Dr Murrison said that certain costs, such as some expenditure at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, relate to multiple activities, which cannot be broken down into individual elements.
Written ministerial statement on MOD submarine dismantling
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Philip Dunne announced this week that the MOD submarine dismantling project has published the provisional shortlist of candidate sites for the storage of radioactive waste removed from retired nuclear-power submarines. The storage will be for an interim period until the UK’s geological deposit facility is available after 2040. Mr Dunne outlined that following consideration, five sites have been provisionally shortlisted for the interim store:
- The atomic weapons establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire.
- Sellafield in Cumbria and Chapelcross in Dumfriesshire.
- Capenhurst in Cheshire.
In line with good practice on public consultation, Dr Murrison said the MOD will now enter a period of pre-engagement with local authorities, elected representatives and established site stakeholder groups at each of the candidate sites. This will provide these groups with an early opportunity to understand and comment on the criteria that should be considered during the main assessment of shortlisted sites. The MOD will also carry out a formal public consultation.
Dr Murrison added that following a period of pre-engagement, the MOD will publish the final shortlist of sites in summer 2014.
NAO says procurement costs remain stable but says greater scrutiny is needed on equipment
The National Audit Office has conducted a review of the MODs 16 largest procurement programmes in the Department’s Equipment Plan for 2013-2023. It has also reviewed the Department’s progress in addressing the key risks to the affordability of the Equipment Plan.
The NAO made the following key findings:
- The forecast costs of the projects remain stable.
- The estimated amount by which the Equipment Plan is potentially understated has decreased from £12.5 billion to £4.4 billion.
- Equipment support costs are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as procurement costs.
- The Department underspent against the forecast cost of the Equipment Plan by £1.2 billion in 2012-13.
The NAO concluded that the Department’s work to address the affordability gap and lay the foundations for future stability appears to have had a positive effect on the Department’s ability to maintain an affordable equipment plan. However, the NAO warned that the progress of the department is still in its early phase and said that risks remained to affordability, most significantly around the half of the budget relating to the equipment support costs which the department has not properly scrutinised.
Treasury and MOD in deadlock over proposal to subcontract defence purchasing
The Financial Times has reported that the Treasury and the MOD are “at loggerheads” over proposed reforms that would allow the MOD to break civil service rules to parachute in highly paid experts from the private sector in an attempt to drive down purchasing costs. According to the newspaper, Whitehall officials have told the FT that negotiations over the creation of a new body to oversee the MOD’s £14 billion weapons procurement programme had nearly ground to a halt, with only a few weeks remaining to come to an agreement before the end of the financial year.
The plan would mean that the MOD would recruit experts from the private sector to negotiate with weapons companies over how much they pay for arms. Defence officials believe this will help drive down costs for the Department but the FT says the Treasury may be reluctant to set a precedent that could see other departments argue for similar concessions from strict Whitehall rules.
TPA report reveals MOD waste
The Taxpayers’ Alliance has released a report which has compiled data on the amount of money wasted by government departments. The TPA says that for 2012-13, over £120 billion of taxpayers’ money was wasted. The TPA has accounted for the following items of waste by the MOD:
- Transfer of barracks and buildings in Germany from British possession – £1.5 billion.
- Cancellation of Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft conversion programme – £75 million.
- Early termination of lease agreement – £39 million.
- Write-off of unsupported/unverified balances – £34 million.
- Cancellation of information management project – £17 million.
- Cancellation of intelligence requirement management project – £7 million.
- Scrapping GOCO plan – £7 million.
- Cancellation of planning and decision support tool project – £3 million.
- Loss of lightweight field generators – £740,000.
- Loss of spare part for an anti-aircraft gun – £530,000.
- 50 Leyland DAF trucks gifted to Uzbekistan – £450,000.
- Waiving charges against a contractor – £420,000.
- Accommodation stores discrepancies in Canada – £390,000.
- Cancellation of purchase of practice bombs – £280,000.
Female police officers twice as likely to fail compulsory fitness tests
The Daily Telegraph reports that female police officers are twice as likely as men to fail compulsory fitness tests introduced six months ago. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 27 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales show that of 13,024 officers who completed the tests, 353 had failed. This amounts to a rate of more than one in 40 and female officers accounted for almost 70% of those who failed the test.
Officers who fail the test persistently could face disciplinary action from September, which includes the possibility of a pay reduction. The findings come after a survey published in 2012 suggested that among the Metropolitans Police’s 31,000 officers as many as 52% were overweight, with almost a quarter classified as obese.
The newly founded College of Policing is considering implementing recommendations from Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor to make fitness tests harder from 2018, using challenges based on real-life situations, including strength and obstacle tests. Critics have said the proposals would be discriminatory against female candidates.
David Davis calls for full implementation of proposed Police Federation reforms
Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis says that ministers should seize some of the assets of the Police Federation if it refuses to carry out sweeping reforms. The Times reports that Mr Davis set the ultimatum during a backbench business debate on Police Federation reform in the House of Commons on Thursday. During the debate Mr Davis also said that the Police Federation’s cash reserves gave it an unfair advantage in legal battles with those like former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell who complained about its activities.
Last month, former Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington published a report which called for greater professionalism, transparency and accountability within the Federation. Mr Davis called on ministers to implement all of the report’s recommendations before elections to the ruling body later this month. Mr Davis added that if this fails, ministers should consider seizing some of the assets, selling them off and returning the funds, worth around £500 per member, to rank-and-file offices.
Compulsory redundancies will not be introduced to police forces
The Times reports that police are to keep their right to a job for life after the Home Secretary Theresa May announced on Wednesday that she would not introduce proposals allowing compulsory redundancies. Giving chief constables the power to lay officers was one of the most controversial plans put forward by Chief Inspector of the Constabulary Tom Winsor, in his review of pay and conditions. The Police Arbitration Tribunal has rejected the introduction of compulsory severance.
Mrs May told MPs she had decided to accept the tribunal’s recommendation not to implement such measures “at this time”. However she added that this remained a reform which the police “should continue to consider”.