This week’s main UK security and defence news has been the announcement that the that the threat level from Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Great Britain has gone up from moderate to substantial. The BBC reports that this means an attack in England, Scotland or Wales is “a strong possibility”. Home Secretary Theresa May said the level, set by security service MI5, “reflects the continuing threat from dissident republican activity”. The level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Northern Ireland remains severe, meaning an attack is “highly likely”. Despite the increase in the threat level from Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Great Britain, it remains lower than the threat to the entire UK from international terrorism. This is set at severe – the second-highest of the five ratings used.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said it had been 15 years since the last Northern Ireland-related attack in Great Britain, but there was now a “real fear” in the security services that the deadly tactics of the past would be used again. But he said the “far bigger” threat to Great Britain came from the Islamic State group and its supporters.
The House of Commons and House of Lords have now completed their 2015/16 session, and have entered prorogation prior to the Queen’s Speech, which is scheduled to take place on 18 May.
- 400 new armed police to be deployed in London by next April
- Parliamentary Committee calls for clarification over drone strike legality
- Early Day Motion tabled on behalf of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary
- Question on Civil Nuclear Constabulary answered in the House of Commons
- Iraqi civilian claims against UK blocked by Supreme Court
- Armed Forces relaxes rules around foreign recruits
- Man arrested as Welsh police investigate death of soldier
- Early Day Motion tabled on behalf of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary
- Invictus Games get take place
- 'Allahu Akbar' cry at terror drill was scripted, police admit
400 new armed police to be deployed in London by next April
City AM reports that Newly-elected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has welcomed the news that 400 more armed police will be ready for deployment in the capital as soon as April next year. Speaking at a Metropolitan Police armed response training exercise in central London, Mr Khan also thanked the 600 police officers who have volunteered to undertake firearms training, as part of plans to boost the number of armed officers available to protect the capital from gun crime and capital. The announcement comes ahead of a full terror preparedness review, which Mr Khan pledged in his manifesto.
Parliamentary Committee calls for clarification over drone strike legality
The Guardian reports that a parliamentary committee has warned that British drone pilots, intelligence officers and ministers could face murder charges if the Government does not clarify its policies on targeted killing. Confusion over the precise legal justification exposes frontline personnel and all those involved in decisions to launch lethal attacks outside warzones to “criminal prosecution for murder or complicity in murder”, according to a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR). Although the Crown Prosecution Service is highly unlikely to pursue such a case in the UK, MPs and peers caution that other nations might do so, for example if their citizens were killed abroad.
The committee launched its inquiry after David Cameron announced that UK drones had targeted and killed a 21-year-old Briton Reyaad Khan in Syria last August. The attack took place months before MPs voted for airstrikes in Syria. Mr Cameron described the strike on Khan as a “new departure”, explaining that this was the first time the UK had used a drone to kill someone in a country where it was not at war.
Early Day Motion tabled on behalf of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary
SNP MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Dr Paul Monaghan has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) regarding the retirement age of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. EDMs are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few are actually debated. EDMs allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause. MPs register their support by signing individual motions. The motion states:
That this House expresses grave concern at the failure of the Government to ensure parity in respect of terms of service between officers of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Home Office police forces and Police Scotland; notes that the Department of Energy and Climate Change, as the sponsoring agency of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, has failed to equalise the terms and conditions applying to these police officers in regard to retirement age, and that the Government has increased the retirement age for these officers to 68, notwithstanding the fact that the officers in question are required to carry and deploy firearms and ammunition weighing approximately 25 kilograms, and potentially to respond to terrorist attacks in support of territorial police forces on the streets of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; and recognises that the Government has so far failed to act to rectify the inequity in retirement age, which is unrealistic and unfair to the officers, and has failed to recognise the potential consequences of reduced operational effectiveness in the context of protecting the public from potential terrorist attack.
The motion has so far been signed by eleven MPs.
We have opted not to request that one of our supporting MPs table an EDM, as such motions are rarely voted upon, do not require a Government response, and tend to have a negative reputation amongst senior MPs. Instead, we are continuing our programme of face-to-face briefings with influential MPs and Peers in order to ensure that they are properly briefed on the issue impacting upon the MDP and are willing to offer their support, notably via the tabling of parliamentary questions and writing to reinvent ministers.
Question on Civil Nuclear Constabulary answered in the House of Commons
Dr Paul Monaghan MP, who tabled the above Early Day Motion, has also had a question on the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) answered in the House of Commons. In response to his question to the Energy Secretary what duties officers of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary who reach 50 years of age in service are expected to perform under their contracts, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom MP said that Civil Nuclear Constabulary police officers are required to be Authorised Firearms Officers. As such, she added, officers undertake a number of tasks and must meet fitness and capability standards which have been set by the College of Policing regardless of age or gender.
We are currently seeking to engage with Dr Monaghan in order to inform him of the similarities between the situation facing the CNC and the MDP.
Chilcot Report is to be published on 6 July
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War is to be published on 6 July. Last week David Cameron confirmed that the report would not be published until after the June 23 EU referendum, prompting criticism that the delay was to avoid embarrassing key ‘In’ campaigners. Tony Blair, the Labour Prime Minister at the time of the 2003 conflict, is expected to be criticised in the report, along with other figures in his Government. Sir John, the chairman of the inquiry which started work seven years ago, said the 2.6million word report had now been vetted for national security breaches “without any need for redaction”.
However, the delay until after the EU-referendum was branded a stitch up” by anti-EU MPs. David Davis MP, a former Shadow Home Secretary, said the delay was based on the “thinnest of excuses” and it looked like the publication of the report had been pushed back deliberately until after the EU.
Iraqi civilian claims against UK blocked by Supreme Court
The Daily Telegraph reports that hundreds of Iraqi civilians who allege they were detained and mistreated by British forces have had their claims for damages blocked by the Supreme Court. The claims were given the go-ahead by the High Court in London, but were blocked by the Court of Appeal – a decision which has now been upheld by Supreme Court justices. The ruling is a blow for law firms bringing the cases on behalf of Iraqis. Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, has previously criticised 'ambulance-chasing' lawyers, who have brought a deluge of claims against the MoD – a claim vehemently denied by the law firms involved.
Lord Sumption, one of a panel of five Supreme Court justices who considered the latest appeal, said a substantial number of the cases were time-barred in Iraq because they had been brought outside a three-year limitation period imposed by article 232 of the Iraqi Civil Code. Although launched in England, all the cases are governed by Iraqi law.
Armed Forces relaxes rules around foreign recruits
The Daily Mail reports that two hundred foreign fighters a year will be able to join Britain's Armed Forces in a bid to make up for 'perilous' manpower shortages. Defence officials have relaxed the rules for Commonwealth recruits wanting to serve as part of the Army, Navy and RAF as new figures show a drastic drop in numbers. Under current rules they can only join the military if they had lived in the UK for five years. Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt has waived the residency requirements to allow 200 Commonwealth citizens to fill roles in regular forces every year. They will fill the gap in troops with specialist skills, such as engineering. The U-turn comes as staggering statistics published yesterday revealed there had been a drop in the regular armed forces of 3,680 troops since April last year.
CND claims that Trident renewal will cost £205bn
The Guardian reports that the total cost of replacing the Trident nuclear missile system will come to at least £205bn, far more than previously estimated, according to figures drawn up by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). It has calculated the total on the basis of official figures, answers to parliamentary questions and previous costs of items including nuclear warheads and decommissioning nuclear reactors. It says it has not taken into account that past MoD projects have frequently gone well over budget.
The costs includes:
£31bn for the construction of four submarines
250m – or £350m for the Trident missile lease
£4bn for refurbished warheads
£4bn for new infrastructure work at Faslane and Coulport
£167bn of running cost over 30 years
£1bn for conventional naval forces tasked with supporting Trident
£20bn for work at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE)
£13bn for decommissioning
Whilst it is always wise to treat figures from campaigning organisations as questionable, it this instance it is likely that CND’s cost estimates are broadly correct. The only caveat is that the costs for the system – from initial design to scrapping – are spread over approximately 50 years.
'Allahu Akbar' cry at terror drill was scripted, police admit
The Guardian reports that Greater Manchester police have admitted that use of the phrase “Allahu Akbar” was a planned part of a terror training exercise at one of the UK’s biggest shopping centres. Police were criticised for explicitly linking the drill at the Trafford Centre in Manchester to Islam when a fake suicide bomber shouted “Allahu Akbar” before appearing to detonate a device. The phrase translates as “God is greatest” and is used in prayer by Muslims. More than 800 volunteers took part in the training exercise on Monday night, which was designed to be similar to the Paris and Brussels atrocities.
On Tuesday Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan apologised for the use of the phrase. “On reflection, we acknowledge that it was unacceptable to use this religious phrase immediately before the mock suicide bombing, which so vocally linked this exercise with Islam. We recognise and apologise for the offence that this has caused.”
Brecon soldier death: Man in court on murder charge
The BBC report that a man charged with the murder of a soldier in Powys has appeared in court. Pte Matthew Boyd, from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, was found injured in Lion Street, Brecon, 1am on Sunday. He later died at hospital. Jake Vallely, 23, appeared at Brecon Magistrates' Court on Thursday, charged with his murder. He was remanded in custody and will appear at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday. Mr Vallely spoke only to confirm his name and age. A second man, Aaeron Evans, 22, is accused of causing actual bodily harm. He was also remanded in custody until Friday.
In a statement, his family paid tribute to the soldier, saying news of his death was “devastating”, and thanking the Brecon community for its thoughts and condolences.