This week’s main security and defence news has been the arrest of five individuals in the West Midlands on suspicion of terrorism offences. The Daily Telegraph reports that counter terrorism police with the Army bomb squad attended one of the addresses raided. Anti-terror police searched the property which they suspected was being used as a factory to make bombs. Two of the men, aged 32 and 37, were arrested in the Stoke area of Staffordshire with another two men, aged 18 and 24, arrested at their homes in Birmingham. Police said another 28-year-old man was arrested at another location in Birmingham.
The five men are all being held by counter terrorism detectives in the West Midlands on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Police confirmed the Army Bomb Disposal Team were called in as a “precautionary measure” to the Leak Bank area near Birmingham city centre as a result of one of the arrests. A spokesperson for West Midlands Police said: “The arrests were intelligence-led and part of an on-going investigation.”
Subsequent to the arrests, the police were granted additional time to question the suspects.
Civil Nuclear Constabulary lose pensions case
The BBC reports that representatives of a police force which protects British nuclear sites have lost a High Court challenge over a new pension scheme. Most UK police can retire at 60, but new rules mean Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) officers will have to work to 65 in future. The Civil Nuclear Police Federation (CNPF) said it has been left “dismayed” and wants ministers to “intervene”. There are some 1,250 CNC officers guarding nuclear sites around Britain. The CNPF has said officers could not fully protect the public from terrorism if they worked beyond 60. The changes to the pension ages for the force were brought in as part of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013.
Delivering her verdict, Justice Nicola Davies said the CNC was a police force in the “wider and colloquial” sense but there were “distinct and distinguishing differences” compared to forces governed by the Home Office. She pointed out that the CNC Police Association, which had opposed the courtroom challenge on legal grounds, shared the CNPF's view that 60 would be a better retirement age for policy and operational reasons. But she said the High Court was “not concerned” with policy arguments – the “sole issue” was whether the CNC was a police force as defined in law by the new Pensions Act. She also referred to comments made by lawyers representing the government that “no final decision” had been made on the terms of the CNC's future pension scheme.
The MDP were similarly excluded from the Public Service Pensions Act 2013, although there are difference between the two case. The DPF is continuing negotiation with the MoD to reach a compromise solution to the pensions issue and is seeking to pursue separate legal challenges for its members.
Cost of policing of MDP protection of Trident highlighted
The Scottish Herald reports that more than £74 million of public money is spent every year to guard Trident warheads and nuclear submarines on the Clyde and across the UK. Nearly half the total budget for the MDP goes on armed police protecting the nuclear bases at Faslane and Coulport near Helensburgh, bomb factories in Berkshire and the nuclear convoys that shuttle between them.
The spending has been attacked by politicians and campaigners as a hidden cost of maintaining Trident weapons of mass destruction. If Trident were scrapped, the money could be better spent on public services, such as improved policing, they say. John Finnie MSP, the justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, described the MDP’s spending as “yet another cost to the public purse as a result of this immoral and unusable weapons system.” The SNP’s defence spokesperson at Westminster, Brendan O'Hara MP, lambasted Trident as immoral, obscene and redundant. The costs of policing it were “another worrying sign” of the massive cost of nuclear weapons, he said.
All of the data contained within the reports comes from the MDP Policing Plan 2015/16.
Former Chief of the General Staff apologies over Lariam scandal
The Daily Telegraph reports that the former head of the Army has admitted he would not take a controversial anti-malarial drug as he revealed his son had suffered severe depression while prescribed Lariam. Lord Dannatt said side effects of the drug could be “pretty catastrophic” and he apologised to troops who had taken it while he was Chief of the General Staff.
While Lariam is not the main anti-malarial drug used by the Armed Forces, at least 17,368 personnel were prescribed it at least once between the start of April 2007 and the end of March 2015, according to official MoD figures. Lawyers are representing hundreds of former personnel who claim they were wrongly given the drug because they were not given individual risk assessments or warned of side effects. Lord Dannatt said he was “quite content to say sorry” to those troops who had taken Lariam while he was head of the Army.
Defence jobs in Scotland 'in decline'
The BBC reports that according to a new study commissioned by the GMB union, shipbuilding supports nearly 10,000 jobs in Scotland, and has grown in importance while other manufacturing has declined. However, employment by the MoD is down by nearly a quarter in the past eight years. The GMB said this makes the case for the MoD to safeguard shipbuilding jobs by committing soon to a delayed order for eight frigates.
The research has been carried out by the Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University. It estimates that 13,840 people are employed by the MoD in Scotland. In 2008, when the economics institute last reported on the defence sector, there were 23% more jobs in uniformed and MoD civilian roles. The number of civilian MoD employees has fallen from 6,500 to 3,730 in eight years. The number in military roles is down from 12,400 in 2008 to 10,100 this year. The fall in military roles has been faster across the UK as a whole, meaning the Scottish share of jobs has increased slightly. However, the share of civilian employment has fallen to 8.5%.
GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said: “This report was commissioned following the delays to type-26 programme and because of the long-term frustrations felt by our members across the sector after years of being used as a political football. One job on the Upper Clyde alone supports an additional 1.18 jobs across Scotland so for the future of Scottish shipbuilding and our long-term economic prosperity it is imperative that the UK government makes good on the promised frigate programme.”
UK police forces under pressure to stop using spit hoods
The Guardian reports that provincial police forces are under pressure to stop hooding detainees after it emerged that the practice has been used hundreds of times despite being banned by Britain’s biggest police forces. Official figures obtained by the Guardian show that spit hoods have been used 513 times since last year by a handful of provincial police forces. The practice of placing a tightly meshed hood over a suspect’s head has been criticised as breaching human rights law and investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission in at least two high-profile cases this year.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act show that eight rural forces continue to use the practice – including on children as young as 13 – despite it not being sanctioned by police chiefs at the biggest forces, including the Metropolitan police, West Midlands police and Greater Manchester police. The practice is not used by 20 of the 35 forces that responded to The Guardian’s FoI request. There is no national police policy on the use of spit hoods. Chief constables at each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales decide whether to sanction the use of force, often used alongside handcuffs and other forms of restraint.