This week’s main security and defence news has been the release of the Chilcot report into the Iraq War. The report spans almost a decade of UK government policy decisions between 2001 and 2009. It covered the background to the decision to go to war, whether troops were properly prepared, how the conflict was conducted, and what planning there was for its aftermath – a period in which there was and continues to be intense sectarian violence. Amongst the key points of the report were:
Britain’s intelligence agencies produced “flawed information”: The Chilcot report identifies a series of major blunders by the British intelligence services that produced “flawed” information about Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the basis for going to war. Chilcot said the intelligence community worked from the start on the misguided assumption that Saddam had WMDs and made no attempt to consider the possibility that he had got rid of them, which he had.
The government had no post-invasion strategy: According to Chilcot, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair did not identify which ministers were responsible for post-war planning and strategy. The Prime Minister also failed to press former US President George W Bush for “definitive assurances” about the US’s post-conflict plans.
The UK military was ill equipped for the task: The MoD planned the invasion in a rush and was slow to react to the security threats on the ground, particularly the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that killed so many troops.
The legality justification for the war was unclear: Although the inquiry was not tasked with ruling over the legality of the war, the report judged that circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were “far from satisfactory”
Prime Minister Blair ignored warnings on what would happen in Iraq after invasion: the report says that between early 2002 and March 2003 Blair was told that, post-invasion, Iraq could degenerate into civil war.
Responding to the report, David Cameron said lessons must be learned from the Iraq War. He announced a two-day House of Commons debate into Sir John Chilcot's long-awaited report. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said MPs had been “misled” in the run-up to the invasion. He also apologised on behalf of the Labour Party and called for more powers for the International Criminal Court. Responding to the Report, Tony Blair expressed sorrow for the lives lost, but refused to apologies for the conflict.
Half of police officers facing gross misconduct charges quit force before case heard
The Guardian reports that new figures have shown that half of police officers facing gross misconduct investigations in the past two years resigned or retired before their cases were heard. Of the 833 officers added to the “disapproved register” by forces in England and Wales in its first two years, 416 left before their cases were resolved, the College of Policing said. Among the officers who left before their hearings were 34 accused of having a relationship with a vulnerable person, 11 who faced allegations of sexual misconduct towards colleagues and 30 accused of domestic abuse. Of the reasons for leaving the service over the two years, through dismissal, retiring or resigning, the highest number – 107 – did so because of a failure to perform their duty, followed by data misuse, at 89, and giving false evidence, at 74.
The figures for officers added to the register have been broken down by force for the first time, with the highest number, 148, leaving the Metropolitan police, the country’s largest force, followed by the MDP at 56 and Essex police at 41. The majority of those who were placed on the register were reported by colleagues, with internal complaints the source of 91% of cases in 2013-14 and 84% in 2014-15.
The Policing and Crime Bill, which is currently passing through parliament, will make it possible for Home Office police officers accused of misconduct to be investigated and charge up to a year after they depart their respective force. There are also plans to amend the Bill to make it possible to extend the limit beyond one year ‘in exceptional circumstances’. However, such powers will not apply to accusations from before the Bill comes into effect.
Theresa May calls for Commons vote on Trident renewal
The BBC reports that Theresa May has said there should be a vote in the House of Commons on replacing Trident before the summer recess. The Home Secretary and leading Conservative leadership candidate said it would be “sheer madness” to give up the UK's nuclear deterrent because of the threat posed by countries including Russia. Renewing Trident would show Britain was “committed” to working with NATO allies after voting for Brexit, she added. Mrs May said the vote should take place before the Commons summer break begins on 21 July, adding, “we should get on with getting it built”.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that David Cameron is expected to hold a vote on the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent later this month in an attempt to reunify his Brexit-scarred party and underscore the divisions in Labour. MPs were expected to be asked on 18 July to confirm that construction of all four submarines needed to maintain a continuous at-sea deterrent should go ahead, Whitehall sources said on Thursday. The Daily Telegraph reports that up to 150 Labour rebels intend to increase the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to resign by voting against him on Trident and formally backing renewal. The group, which represents two-thirds of Mr Corbyn’s MPs, are prepared to ignore their leader’s call for the nuclear deterrent to be scrapped.
With the combined support of the vast majority of Conservative Party MP and a large percentage of those representing Labour, the motion to approve the renewal of Trident is essentially guaranteed to pass. The Scottish National Party will remain committed to nuclear disarmament. However, the DPF has met with the Party’s Westminster defence spokesperson, who has confirmed that as long as Trident exists the Party understands it must be properly protected, recognising the value of the MDP.
Confirmation that British troops will deploy to Eastern Europe
The BBC reports that hundreds of UK troops are to be sent to Poland and Estonia as part of the NATO response to concerns over Russia. A 500-strong battalion will be deployed to Estonia and 150 troops will go to Poland to “reassure” these countries, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said. It is part of a NATO commitment made after Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 to have four new battalions on its eastern flank. Mr Fallon said it aims to “deter Russia from any further aggression”.
The UK is also to take over the leadership of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2017, which will see 3,000 troops based in the UK and Germany join a 5,000-strong unit ready to move with as little as five days' notice. It will involve the 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade, an armoured infantry battle group from the 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment and a light infantry battle group from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
Women to be given front line combat roles
The Times reports that Britain is set to lift a long-standing ban on women fighting in frontline ground combat roles. The move, strongly supported by David Cameron, follows a ruling in the United States to allow female soldiers to participate in ground close combat. The MoD signalled a willingness to allow women to join infantry and armoured units two years ago. It ordered a review into the physiological impact of frontline infantry duty on the female body. That review will have informed the decision to open up the full range of combat jobs in the army to women.
The change in the rules will be a hugely historic moment for servicewomen. Less than 25 years ago they could only serve in female-only branches of the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Opening up all combat arms to women, however, is particularly controversial, with a number of soldiers and veterans warning that it is not a good idea.
Police condemn 'paltry' and 'insulting' one per cent pay rise
The Daily Telegraph reports that police officers have condemned a “paltry” and “insulting” one percent pay rise, which leaders say will “further impact on low morale”. The rise for rank-and-file officers, announced by the Home Office yesterday, is almost three times less than the 2.8 per cent police associations had called for. Steve White, Chairman of the Police Federation, said: “Every police officer across England and Wales will be angry and bitterly disappointed with an insulting one per cent pay deal by the Government, after the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) rejected our evidence for a 2.8 per cent increase.” He warned the announcement “will further impact on the low morale among police officers”. The pay rise was also attacked by the Metropolitan Police Federation. Its Chairman, Ken Marsh, said: “We are disgusted by this announcement. We have absorbed one per cent pay rises for the last three years – while we have seen rises in the private sector averaging 2.5 per cent a year.”
The Government accepted the recommendations of both the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) and the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB). From September there will also be a one per cent increase to both London weighting and the allowance given to dog handlers. Other steps include increased flexibility for South East forces to vary location-based allowances and alignment of mileage expenses to standard HMRC rates.
Expansion of Army Reserves listed as ‘at risk’ project
The Times reports that one in three of Britain’s major programmes, including HS2 and the Army Reserve expansion scheme, are at risk and could fail completely, a National Audit Office (NAO) report has shown. The disclosure shows that a third of the projects were rated as unachievable or in doubt with major risks. The Army Reserve development programme is again under scrutiny as the MoD has struggled to recruit reservists to replace Army regulars.