During the past month, the Federation has secured a meeting with the newly appointed Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffiths MP; met with a senior national crime correspondent; organised a meeting with a senior journalist at the Financial Times; and had a letter published in The Times.
The purpose of these activities is to highlight the importance of the MDP to public and political audiences as the MoD continues to press for savings within its budget, and government departments consider the potential for a merger of police forces (including the MDP) to protect infrastructure.
The issue of infrastructure policing – following media reports in October – was again reported in both The Times and Sky News over the past month. While the DPF has sent a circular to members highlighting these articles, we would reiterate that the Federation is yet to have sight of the Government’s preferred options but has been leading the communication between the various police federations and civil servants tasked with the review.
The news headlines during the past month were inevitably dominated by the election of Donald Trump as US President. From a British perspective, Mr Trump appears to have rowed back on his suggestion that former UKIP leader Nigel Farage could or should be the UK’s ambassador to the United States; while in a second phone call to Theresa May, the President-elect is understood to have softened what was vociferous opposition to NATO during the election campaign. Defence commentators have suggested Mr Trump could ultimately support NATO but use a dialogue with the UK to press other Alliance members to meet its spending target of two percent of GDP on defence.
Domestically, the Chancellor presented the Autumn Statement last month. In what was a scaled back announcement compared to those of his predecessor, Philip Hammond made little mention of defence save for committing to existing spending plans. However, the Chancellor also identified a substantial ‘black hole’ in public finances, potentially requiring further cuts and likely to necessitate a further drive for efficiencies from government departments, including the MoD.
In defence news, both the National Audit Office and Defence Select Committee published reports that made for unpleasant reading within the MoD. The NAO highlighted the level of spend required to make various MoD establishments fit for purpose following years of under-investment. The report prompted a letter to The Times from the DPF, which was published in mid-November.
Meanwhile, the Defence Select Committee issued a scathingly critical report on the MoD’s naval capacity and construction of a new class of destroyers – a condemnation that was immediately validated by the mechanical failure of one of the destroyers, which limped back into Plymouth accompanied by the MDP.
The political approach
The focus of the Federation’s activity during the last month has been securing a meeting with the new Shadow Defence Secretary.
Nia Griffith MP was appointed to the role in September following the Labour leadership contest that saw Jeremy Corbyn re-elected. It is a particularly important meeting, as Ms Griffith is the principal opponent/opposition voice to government defence policy. Briefing her on the role and importance of the MDP – and by default her colleagues in the shadow defence team – will ensure the need for the MDP continues to be articulated and understood in Parliament.
We are also confirming meetings with circa a dozen more parliamentarians, which will take place either before Christmas or early in the New Year. These meetings will again serve as briefings on the importance of the MDP’s role, building on the MDP/DPF existing bank of political supporters and ensuring decisions relating to site security and the MDP are carefully scrutinised in Parliament.
During the past month, two further articles have been published regarding the potential creation of a merged infrastructure police force. The DPF has contacted both journalists – at The Times and Sky News – to ensure it is positioned to provide opinion as part of further reports on the infrastructure policing review.
The DPF also had a letter from Eamon Keating published in The Times – this being in response to a National Audit Report on lack of investment in the MoD estate. The letter can be found via the link below by members with a subscription to The Times online. Unfortunately, due to copyright, we are unable to circulate the letter in the newspaper, but it highlighted the importance of the MDP in securing the MoD estate and insisted that spending on security should not be reduced to address underinvestment in infrastructure.
The Federation has also, during the last month, met with Rebecca Camber (crime correspondent, Daily Mail), and has arranged to meet Helen Warrell (public policy correspondent, Financial Times). The purpose of these meetings is, again, to build on the Federation’s existing contacts but to continually raise the profile of the MDP by ensuring a continual stream of comment and analysis on relevant stories the journalists might be working on.
The meeting with Helen Warrell is particularly prescient, as she recently wrote what was the first news story anticipating the creation of a merged infrastructure police force.
Finally, the Federation also submitted a letter – although it was not ultimately published – to the Daily Telegraph following the report of a Royal Navy destroyer being escorted back to Plymouth following a full-scale mechanical failure. The letter submitted highlighted the role of the MDP in protecting the destroyer as a key defensive asset, and noted the risk to that capacity if further funding cuts were made to the Force.
Local lobbying / member activity
As with previous newsletter, we would like to remind members that any correspondence they might with to send to local representatives such as their MP is subject to MDP regulations.
Finally, we would like wish all members a very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2017.