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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 02nd July 2018

By DPF Admin9th July 2018August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

Brexit negotiations are winding down for the summer recess after a conspicuous lack of progress in the past few months. Prime Minister Theresa May has responded to Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator’s comments that the UK would be locked out of European security programmes, saying that the “EU is putting lives at risk over Brexit.” Mrs May said that this would hamper the West’s fight against terrorists and common enemies, and that maintaining security cooperation would be “in all our interests.” 

The Metropolitan Police’s counter terror unit have been called back to Salisbury this week following another case of two people being poisoned by the Russian nerve agent Novichok. Two civilians were poisoned in public having come into contact with what is believed to be residue from the chemical attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter earlier in the year when a police officer who attended the scene was poisoned but has made a full recovery. The counter terror police are working with Wiltshire Police to identify the source and location of the chemical and dispose of it.

Contents

·     UK wins multi-billion pound Australian warship contract

·     Armed police present at Wimbledon

·     MP demands MoD civil servants right to speak out over budgets

·     US defence secretary demands UK increase defence spending

·     Government launches Police wellbeing goals

UK wins multi-billion pound Australian warship contract

British weapons manufacturer BAE Systems has secured a £20bn deal to build a fleet of nine new navy frigates for the Australian Government. Despite the jobs created being based in Australia, British ministers are hailing this as a boost to the UK’s export market promoting British expertise and capabilities. British Prime Minister Theresa May had lobbied her Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull in favour of BAE Systems earlier in the year, and had been supported by other Cabinet ministers, including Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

BAE Systems will now make the nine SEA 5000 Future Frigate, which are designed based on the UK’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship. The multi-mission warships weigh in at 6,900 tonnes and have world-leading anti-submarine warfare capabilities. This is the first export of a British design for new-build frigates since the 1970s. They will allow interoperability between British and UK ships. 

Mrs May called the deal a “perfect illustration” of the opportunities Britain has as it leaves the EU, saying that it puts the UK at “the very forefront of maritime design and engineering.” However, British unions have complained that it has failed to deliver jobs to shipbuilding communities in the UK.

Armed police present at Wimbledon

Counter terror police presence at Wimbledon tennis championships is being increased this year, The Times has reported. Armed police, undercover police and officers trained to identify terrorists on reconnaissance missions will be patrolling throughout the tournament and barriers and bollards have been erected to stop terrorists from being able to drive vehicles into crowds and queues. Terrorist attacks of this kind have been particularly lethal recently as it has been used in attacks in the UK and abroad, and these latest measures have been adopted in recognition of the Government putting the UK on severe terror alert. 

Superintendent Jo Edwards, who is in charge of policing at this year’s championships, said: “Each year we review and modify our plans to keep the public safe. The current threat level is among the factors that informs our plans. The Met has vast experience in policing large-scale events such as this and we look forward to working to make it a safe environment for everyone who attends.”

The increased need for counter terror police to provide preventative as well as reactive work will help to inform the DPF’s campaign to policymakers to properly support the MDP as an integral part of Operation Temperer.

MP demands MoD civil servants right to speak out over budgets

The Times has reported that Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier, has said that the UK should change its “crazy” rules that prohibit MoD officials from publicly voicing their concerns about funding for the armed forces for fear of damaging their careers. Hillier expressed her frustration at numerous permanent secretaries and military chiefs who refrained from revealing the extent of the MoD’s funding crisis when giving evidence to PAC inquiries following the publication of a PAC report into the state of the MoD’s finances. 

Hillier said that accounting officers should be able to say when there is a problem without the fear of being accused of “straying into political territory and policy decisions.” She believes that ministers such as Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson should be encouraged to issue more ministerial directions where ministers declare their intent in writing and against the advice of civil servants. She said it “would be very interesting to see” how civil servants being empowered to challenge ministers would hold the government to account and “force them to make proper, hard, strategic decisions.”

This comes as Hillier published her annual report as Chair of the PAC, in which she identified defence as a department of concern because of insufficient funding for the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review’s £24.4bn equipment plan. 

US defence secretary demands UK increase defence spending 

The US Government has called on the UK to increase its defence spending ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit next week. The US Defence Secretary, General Jim Mattis, has written to his British counterpart Gavin Williamson, saying that that Britain’s reputation as a military power is “at risk of erosion” without increased spending, citing France’s pledge to increase defence spending by £260bn until 2025. 

Former Defence Minister with responsibility for the MDP, Mark Francois MP, told The Sun: “For many months, the Defence Committee has been arguing that we must increase our defence spending, not least to remain a credible ally of the United States. This letter is a real wake-up call that we need to invest to maintain our leadership in NATO, and I hope the Prime Minister takes urgent note.”

These comments have come in the midst of the MoD’s funding crisis and the public debate within the government as to whether the UK should maintain its Tier One military status. The MoD has a funding hold of £20bn over the next ten years and the Chancellor is reluctant to give it more money. Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to commit to keeping the UK as a Tier One military power, meaning that it can deploy land, sea, air, nuclear and cyber capabilities anywhere in the world. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is calling for a £4bn a year increase in the defence budget.

Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter has asserted that the UK military is still a prominent power on the world stage, highlighting that the UK is still one of the Permanent Five members of the United Nations Security Council and plays “a leadership role in NATO.” Gen Sir Nick said that as such the UK had responsibilities to meet. Prior to his current role, Gen Sir Nick was the Head of the Army where he managed its rebranding and was outspoken then about the need for more funding. 

Government launches Police wellbeing goals

The Home Office has published a statement of its goals to promote police wellbeing. Its overarching aim is that “by 2021, policing will ensure that every member of the police service feels confident that their welfare and wellbeing is actively supported by their police force throughout their career.” The plan includes promoting a culture of prevention, early intervention and support for individuals; embedding “clear, consistent, evidence-based standards” through occupational health, effective line management and thorough signposting to external support available; and effective sharing of innovation and best practice. The plan iterates the responsibility of Chief Constables to manage their officers’ welfare and that Police and Crime Commissioners are responsible for holding Chief Constables to account. 

Policing and Fire Service Minister Nick Hurd wrote a foreword to the goals, commending the “energy, common cause and support” for police wellbeing and introducing this shared vision, drive and passion for the cause. The goals are supported by the College of Policing, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, the mental health charity Mind, the Police Federation, and Public Health England among others. 

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