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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report Dec 2018

By DPF Admin14th December 2018August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Circulars, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

Theresa May lost three major votes in parliament last week on Brexit. The first and second loss related to the failure of Government to publish the confidential legal advice for Cabinet authored by Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox MP. The legal advice was redacted when it was shown to parliamentarians, which Government argued was necessary because of the sensitive information enclosed. 

Parliament disagreed with this assessment, and the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, agreed to a request from Labour for a contempt motion to be voted on. The Commons backed the motion meaning that the current Government is the first government in history to be found in contempt of Parliament. Offences which MPs can be held in contempt for include: preventing freedom of speech on the floor of the House, refusing to appear before a Parliamentary Committee when required, or any attempt to bribe a fellow Member of Parliament. Although being held in contempt has previously resulted in suspensions and expulsions the collective responsibility of Government in this instance means it is not clear what punishment, if any, could be given. 

As a consequence of the vote the full legal text has now been released. It warns that the Government’s Brexit backstop plan risks a “stalemate” and “protracted rounds of negotiations”. According to the document the Northern Irish backstop arrangement could last “indefinitely” and the UK could not “lawfully exit” without the EU’s agreement, enraging pro-Brexit MPs. 

The Government’s third defeat in Parliament is more consequential. Under the Government’s original arrangements if it loses the vote on its deal next week it would have to make a statement to the House of Commons about its new plans within 21 days.

Former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve M, has tabled an amendment that was backed by 26 Conservative MPs which means that, in the event the deal doesn’t pass Parliament, MPs are able to amend the Government’s statement of intent. The unprecedented move means that, as a result of current parliamentary arithmetic, it is highly unlikely that the UK will now leave the EU without a deal and opens up the potential for MPs to force a second referendum.

However, members of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit MPs have made clear that the statement to the Commons, even if amended by pro-EU MPs, is not legally-binding. Another view is that pro-Brexit MPs may now fear a second referendum so much that if the vote fails they may support Theresa May’s Brexit deal on a second vote, even if it is largely unsatisfactory.  

With the increased risk associated with the deal failing to pass Parliament next week, Conservative MPs are pressuring the Prime Minister to delay the vote so that government can ensure any deal passes Parliament.

Overview 

·      MPs vote to give MDP stalking protection powers

·      MDP supports counterterror police in Christmas security campaign

·      Police forced to handle mental health cases

·      Assets championed by the MoD this month

·      MDP in the news this month

·      MDP body armour not bulletproof

·      Faslane experiencing rise in safety incidents

·      MDP officer and Police Dog compete in International Canine Biathlon

MPs vote to give MDP stalking protection powers

Conservative MP for Totnes and Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee Sarah Wollaston has inserted an amendment to her Stalking Protection Bill which will provide the Chief Constable of the MDP with the power, along with his Home Office peers, to apply for stalking protection orders where appropriate. This is a very positive development and comes off the back of the close engagement between the DPF and Sarah Wollaston earlier in the year, including sharing a briefing outlining the DPF and its position on the matter.

The amendment has received assent from the government. In response to the amendment Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office Victoria Atkins said:

“Stalking occurs across a range of contexts and situations, with devastating consequences, and it is essential that a stalking protection order is available to police in a variety of situations. There may be circumstances in which the British Transport police or MOD police are best placed to seek an order, for example if the stalking conduct has taken place on the railway network or a perpetrator lives or works in MOD premises.”

The transcript for the debate can be accessed here: 

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-11-23/debates/AB8D6204-3755-47A8-9CBD-81E56368D5E5/StalkingProtectionBill

The amendment was supported in speeches by Kevin Foster MP (Con, Torbay), and James Cartlidge MP (Con, South Suffolk), the latter of whom added that to deal with these measures, the relevant forces “will have to be adequately resourced.”

The Bill now enters the House of Lords. The Second Reading of the Bill is likely to be scheduled just before Christmas. It is unlikely that any Peers will oppose the amendment or raise concern. Provided there are no objections the Bill will receive Royal Assent and become law next year. 

Assets championed by the MoD this month

The MoD has still not published its Modernising Defence Programme, which the DPF engaged with extensively to highlight the importance of prioritizing the security of MoD assets and establishments. Originally expected in July, the government then decided to push it  had back until “autumn”. We expect it to be published during the next two weeks. 

The MoD has announced that it is doubling its order of F-35 warplanes by purchasing 17 more. The multi-million-pound contract promises 35 stealth jets by the end of 2022. 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has committed to retaining the Royal Navy’s Batch 1 Offshore Patrols Vessels (OPVs): HMS Tyne, HMS Mersey, and HMS Severn. The three ships currently support the Fishery Protection Squadron and are now secured for at least the next two years.

The UK’s new state-of-the-art Type 26 frigate, a submarine hunter, has been named HMS Sheffield. . Defence Minister Stewart Andrew said that the ship “will be at the forefront of our world leading Royal Navy for decades to come, providing cutting edge protection for our aircraft carriers and nuclear deterrent, and offering unrivalled capability at sea.”

MDP supports counterterror police in Christmas security campaign

Counterterror police have launched their biggest-ever winter advertising campaign as part of its ACT: Action Counters Terrorism initiative. The campaign calls on business, industry and the public to help in a ‘whole society’ approach to tackling terrorism. It asks people to remain vigilant by looking out for and reporting suspicious behavior and encourages businesses to sign up to the ACT Awareness online training scheme; and to draw up ‘Sixty Second Security’ plans to prepare them to act in an emergency.

The MDP is supporting this initiative and promoting its use of Project Servator. Chief Inspector Jeff Renton, Senior Police Officer at Whitehall and the MDP’s Protect and Prepare Force representative said of ACT and Project Servator that they promote the importance of remaining vigilant, and helps deter, detect and disrupt terrorism.. He championed the hashtags: Action Counters Terrorism, Communities Defeat Terrorism and Together We’ve Got It Covered.

Police forced to handle mental health cases

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services has published research which found that over half of all mental health patients who need help in a place of safety are taken there in a police car rather than an ambulance. Specifically, police take ill patients to hospital 12,000 times a year, which comprises 52% of all cases. The Inspectorate says that police forces are being left to “pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system” as some health professionals are advising patients to call the police to beat long NHS waiting lists as police attempt to fill the gaps left by medical experts.

The Inspectorate conducted a survey on public opinion surrounding the matter,and found the overwhelming belief that it was not the job of the police but the health service to deal with mental health problems. 

The watchdog states that this is taking police away from doing their jobs, and HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham, who authored the report, said police officers “naturally want to responsd and do their best to support vulnerable people” but they are “overstretched and all-too-often overwhelmed”. Police Federation Chair, John Apter, blamed Government-imposed austerity for the UK getting to “this dire state”. Labour’s Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh – who attended the DPF’s recent parliamentary reception – responded to the news also attributing the trend to the Government’s underfunding of mental health services, and called it “frankly shocking”. 

MDP in the news this month

MDP body armour not bulletproof

The Times has reported on research published in Police Journal which found that the uniforms worn by MDP officers “can be pierced by bullets when wet”. When military scientists tested MDP officers’ kit, 70% of 9mm bullets pierced the front of wet supposedly bulletproof vests which had waterproof cover, and 100% of those vests without waterproof cover. DPF Chair Eamon Keating is quoted in The Times article expressing concern. The MoD maintains that body armour is checked regularly and remains “fit for purpose”. 

DPF contacted the manufacturer, where they discovered that the testing was carried out on body armour 10-15 years past its end of life date and had been submerged in salt water for an 18hr period prior to the ballistic testing.

Full reassurance, from the technical department of Aegis, was received that all current body armour is designed to provide the required ballistic protection in all conditions and in every environment we operate in.

Faslane experiencing rise in safety incidents

The MoD has revealed that there have been 505 recorded safety incidents at the MDP-guarded Faslane in the past 12 years, according to an article in The Times. Defence Minister Stuart Andrew outlined the figure in a letter to SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith Diedre Brock in response to a written parliamentary question she had put to the MoD. The figures show an increase in recent years, with 80 incidents happening in 2016 and 73 incidents in 2017. 

In the letter, Mr Andrew said that “These events may be near misses, equipment failures, human error or procedural failings.” Only two of the incidents were graded “Category A” which meant it had “actual or high potential for radioactive release to the environment”. Mr Andrew confirmed that neither of these incidents had evident radiological contamination, nor had any of the events caused harm to staff or the public, and all incidents were investigated.

MDP officer and Police Dog compete in International Canine Biathlon

The MoD reported on MDP Constable Martin Johnson and police dog Peppa competed in the annual International Canine Biathlon against 45 other teams of competitors from the UK, the USA, Belgium and Latvia. Constable Johnson attributed his success, coming 25th, to training and bonding with Peppa, saying that he “was astounded by exactly how fit my dog is!” 

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