This week’s main UK security and defence news has been that Metropolitan Police officers are to be asked if they wish to be routinely armed. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Metropolitan Police Federation will be asking its members whether they would be willing to carry a gun or Taser in the wake of a spate of terror attacks in Europe. They will also be asked if the prospect of being armed would put them off their jobs.
Nationally, the number of armed police is being boosted by 1,500 officers, the number that security officials believe Britain needs to help protect the public from the possibility of a terror attack. However, police chiefs say they have struggled to recruit firearms officers, claiming that many fear they could spend years under investigation if they used their weapon in the line of duty. Last year, Scotland Yard announced plans to increase the number of armed police in the capital by 600, bringing the total to almost 3,000. Now the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents 32,000 officers in London, is asking all of its members whether or not they would be happy to be armed on duty. Ken Marsh, chairman of the association, said: “We're asking our officers if they think they should be armed with Tasers and firearms to get an informed opinion from them so we can tell people what my colleagues are saying.” He added that the results of the survey – which runs until the end of January – could have a “lot of implications,” including the prospect of officers having to pass harder fitness tests to be armed.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said the survey is not being carried out on behalf of, or in partnership with, the Force. They said: “The position of the Met and the Commissioner is clear – we are proud to maintain the tradition that police in this country are not routinely armed. The routine arming of the Metropolitan Police is not supported.”
Past research has indicated that regular police are reluctant to carry firearms, and there is little reason to believe that this survey will produce different results. This – combined with difficulties the UK’s police forces have had in recruiting additional armed officers – serves to highlight the value of the MDP as a fully firearms-carrying force.
- Coverage of historic Burghfield disciplinary case
- Questions raised over MDP in civilian areas near the Clyde
- Questions on the MDP tabled in the House of Commons
- Question on US nuclear weapons answered in the House of Commons
- AWE workers strike over pensions
- 'Fury' over Corbyn aide's NATO comments
- Met’s surveillance unit faces curbs
- 'Local military heritage at risk' as MoD cuts cash to regimental museums
Coverage of historic Burghfield disciplinary case
The Mail on Sunday reports that dozens of armed police have lost or left their jobs following disciplinary proceedings carried out following an investigation at AWE Burghfield. More than 30 MDP officers were either sacked or resigned as part of the investigation. The news story has come to light after the Mail on Sunday obtained a copy of a review of the investigation, which criticised how the process was carried out by the MDP.
The internal review, conducted by Len Jackson of the MDP Committee, states that during the course of the investigation into the problems detected, 25 officers under suspicion were gathered in a parade room and read out the names of those who were being served with misconduct notices, a “distressing and demotivating event” that came to be known as Black Tuesday. Mr Jackson also noted that it “remains a major bone of contention at every level” that “no one above the rank of sergeant has ever been discipline”. The investigation and Mr Jackson’s review have subsequently been reported in other news outlets including BBC South Today.
The DPF was approached for comment by the Mail on Sunday journalist prior to the story’s publication. In response, we highlighted that the officers involved in the case were disciplined over issues linked to record keeping and administration, and not a failure to do their duty. We also highlighted the Federation’s deep concern regarding the manner in which the investigation was conducted, and the punitive nature of the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings which ignored wider systemic failures. While the published article did not carry our comments, we have secured a follow up meeting with the journalist and will contact other media running follow up stories as required.
Questions raised over MDP in civilian areas near the Clyde
The Scottish Herald reports that the MDP is to begin patrolling in civilian areas of Scotland. Officers based at Faslane and Coulport are to expand their operations into civilian areas outside the nuclear bases on the Clyde. The moves have prompted fears about 'increased militarisation' of policing according to the newspaper.
Their deployment comes amidst concerns about cutbacks in Police Scotland services in the area. “Are budget constraints the driver for this change in policing, or are we witnessing the increasing militarisation of the Rosneath Peninsula?” Alannah Maurer, a resident of the Rosneath peninsula and a spokesperson for the local campaign group, Navy not Nuclear, asked. Campaigners are worried that the MDP, who the paper notes routinely carry firearms, are replacing unarmed Police Scotland officers, and question whether the MDP have the skills and training to carry out community-based police work.
The newspaper notes that an MDP officer recently told a recent meeting of Cove and Kilcreggan Community Council that officers would be more active on public land, as well as at MoD sites. “Over the next year or two years what we plan to do is introduce greater interaction with the local community,” the officer said. “We’re encouraging a culture of safety and security across the whole area and that does not just mean the MoD assets, it means the whole area.” The officer’s comment comments were reported by a local website, The Lochside Press.
Brendan O’Hara, the SNP’s defence spokesperson and MP for Argyll and Bute, voiced his concern to the newspaper about the extra workload the MDP are taking on. He pointed out that the Force had suffered a £20 million cut and that there were 100 MDP vacancies.
The DPF was asked by The Herald to offer comment regarding the deployment of officers around Faslane. On this occasion, we did not give a statement, due to the news story focusing on the operational deployment of officers. However, the article includes helpful comments from Brendan O’Hara MP, who we have met with and briefed regarding the demands on the MDP’s resources, and who has previously been very supportive of the MDP and Federation
Questions on MDP tabled in the House of Commons
As a result of the issues raised in The Herald article, SNP Defence Spokesperson Brendon O’Hara has tabled nineteen written question on the MDP in the House of Commons. They include questions asking the Defence Secretary:
· By how much the MDP have increased in the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport in the last (a) 12 and (b) 24 months.
· When the MDP first patrolled the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
· Whether his Department consulted Police Scotland before the MDP began patrolling beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
· What formal arrangement is in place between Police Scotland and the MDP regarding the division or delegation of responsibilities when the MDP goes on patrol in the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot At Coulport.
A full list can be found here.
Additionally, Mr O’Hara asked an oral question in the House of Commons, inquiring if the Government planned to issue a statement on the increased use of MDP officers outside the bases on the Clyde to establish who made the decision to deploy them and why, under whose chain of command these officers operate, and whether the officers are armed. Responding, the Leader of the House David Lidington MP said that he would get the relevant defence minister to write to Mr O’Hara.
This line of written and oral questioning is intended to politically bolster the SNP in the context of their opposition to Trident, rather than attack the MDP. During our meeting with him, Mr O’Hara made it clear that he understood the importance of protecting Trident as long as it existed. Overall, the questions appear to be designed to support a case claiming that the use of MDP officers in the community surrounding the Clyde has been expanded without appropriate oversight and consent, and has placed the facilities the MDP officers are tasked to guard at risk by distracting them from their primary duties. We are following up with Mr O’Hara.
Question on US nuclear weapons answered in the House of Commons
Green MP Caroline Lucas asked the Defence Secretary when the Third Tier arrangement between the UK and the US for responding to an accident in the UK involving US nuclear weapons was last reviewed and updated; when the last exercise took place; and when the next one is scheduled.
Responding, Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin said that the Third Tier Arrangement was last updated on 27 March 2014. She added that the most recent tabletop and field exercises conducted under the auspices of the Arrangement, Exercise DIAMOND DRAGON 2015, were held in Suffolk over the period 30 June to 2 July 2015. The dates and locations of the next tabletop and field exercises, she concluded, are yet to be agreed.
AWE workers strike over pensions
The Independent reports that employees responsible for manufacturing and maintaining the UK's nuclear weapons are to go on strike. Workers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) are to stage two 48-hour strikes walk-outs as part of a long-running dispute over pensions. Unite said 600 of its members, who work as managers, craft and manual workers at the AWE's two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, will strike on 18 and 30 January.
Unite is protesting at plans to close the defined benefit scheme at the end of the month and replace it with a defined contribution one. A spokesperson for the MoD said it was aware of the upcoming industrial action, adding: “Changes to the AWE Pension Scheme are a matter for AWE plc to determine as the employer.”
'Fury' over Corbyn aide's NATO comments
The BBC reports that Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary is “absolutely furious” after Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman said a planned NATO deployment to Estonia was “one of the escalations of tension” that has taken place on the Russia-NATO border. A source close to Ms Griffith said she was “livid” about the remarks, and that support for NATO was a “red line”. Estonia joined NATO in 2004.
BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said the Labour leader has not called for the withdrawal of British troops from Estonia, but it was clear Ms Griffith – and a number of other Labour MPs – are very concerned about the leadership's approach to defence. The MoD announced last July that 500 UK troops would be permanently based in Estonia, that number being increased to about 800 in October. They are set to be deployed soon.
Met’s surveillance unit faces curbs
The Times reports that convictions obtained with the help of Scotland Yard’s unit of “super recognisers” risk being regarded as unsafe after guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) downgraded their work. The team of officers with an extraordinary ability to spot visual similarities has been celebrated since being formed after the riots that broke out across England in August 2011. However, the CPS’s latest guidance advises that the super recognisers should be used in an investigatory capacity rather than appearing as witnesses in court.
There are now two full-time detective sergeants and five detective constables in the team, with an additional 150 officers within the force who have passed the super recogniser skill set and can be called on as needed.
'Local military heritage at risk' as MoD cuts cash to regimental museums
The Daily Telegraph reports that some parts of the country are being cut off from their historical military links as the MoD ends funding to a string of Army regimental museums. More than a dozen museums are set to lose their money in April as the MoD scales back funds used to pay for curators and staff. Several of the museums have already closed their doors in advance and moved to share premises with other regiments. Others are hoping to stay open by raising money elsewhere.
An MoD spokeswoman said: “We recognise the important contribution made by these museums in preserving military heritage and acting as the bridge between communities and the Army… This is why, irrespective of funding, they will continue to receive support and have close ties with their associated regiment.”