This week’s main UK defence and security news has been the allegation that Islamic extremists have been planning to assassinate the Queen in a bomb attack at a commemoration to mark the end of World War Two. The assassination plot was being orchestrated from Syria by Islamic State commanders, according to the Mail on Sunday. The newspaper reports that extremists aimed to explode a bomb in central London during the ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day – Victory over Japan – which is expected to be attended by thousands of people. However, The Guardian reports that the Metropolitan Police have encouraged people to continue with their plans to attend celebrations on 15 August.
The Mail on Sunday claimed sources informed it that a specific threat was made against the Queen, triggering a review of security arrangements. A Met spokesman said: “While the UK threat level from international terrorism remains severe, we would like to reassure the public that we constantly review security plans for public events, taking into account specific intelligence and the wider threat.” Buckingham Palace refused to comment on the reported attack plan.
In addition to the VJ Day threat, the Evening Standard reports that officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command have held a husband and wife and their three teenage daughters, aged 16, 17 and 19, at their home address in an early morning operation. All five were arrested on suspicion of possessing information “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. Police were forced to act amid fears that some or all members of the family were planning to flee to Syria to join the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, the BBC reports that police in Scotland have said they remain alert to all terrorist threats after a report that a woman in Glasgow may be poised to carry out an attack. A Sky News investigation claimed that individuals are being recruited by Islamic State as “lone wolf” bombers in the UK. Using fake identities, reporters said they were told about a woman in Glasgow who was “ready to attack”. Police Scotland said it was working with the Met Police.
MoD to spend £250m on consultants over the next three years
The Daily Mail reports that senior officials at the MoD have agreed to spend £250million on private consultants. The cash will come from the Government's crucial equipment budget, used to supply the military with top-of-the-range combat kit for the front line. MoD chief Bernard Gray – who earns more than £220,000 a year – has agreed to pay the money to management consultant companies Bechtel, CH2M Hill and PwC. The revelation was buried in a damning report by the House of Commons spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee. MPs said the Government should train up permanent staff rather than paying millions to outside contractors. It comes despite the MoD staff being hit by sweeping cuts which could see almost 25,000 civilian workers sacked by 2016.
Army rehires redundant troops
The Sunday Times reports that more than 12,000 former servicemen who left the Armed Forces within the past eight years have been re-employed by the MoD. The newspaper understands that 3,600 of these were rehired for the regular forces – even though thousands of other regulars were being made redundant at the time. Of the 10,800 personnel made redundant between 2011-12 and 2014-15, a total of 1,020 were re-employed. One hundred of them returned to the regular forces, 840 into the reserves and 100 into the civil service. The MoD has spent £882m on redundancy payments to military personnel and civil servants since 2010.
Overspend reported In Astute-class submarine project
The Mirror reports that a watchdog has warned that the £10 billion project to create a fleet of seven Royal Navy submarines is in yet more troubled waters. The submarines have been plagued by a string of technical hitches and delays since the first vessel was ordered 18 years ago. The project was expected to cost another £87.5million more than planned last year – up from £558.1million to £645.6million. The watchdog, the Major Projects Authority, has issued an amber/red alert, meaning there are major issues in key areas. The Authority warned: “The project remains a very technically demanding endeavour and the schedule to deliver the remaining five boats is challenging.” It said while the project remains on time against a revised schedule, “some substantial risks and challenges remain”.
Meanwhile, Forces TV reports that HMS Artful, the third of the seven planned Astute-class attack submarines, has sailed for its initial sea trials. It is scheduled to enter service towards the end of the year.
Possibility raised of additional sailors for Royal Navy
The Sun reports that the Royal Navy may receive permission to recruit an additional 2,500 sailors as part of its settlement under the forthcoming SDSR. The change would come in the wake of the organisation's loss of 5,000 personnel at the last review, and would help to relive existing manpower challenges whilst also providing additional crew to man the two new aircraft carriers and three new patrol vessels. The increase has yet to be finalised, but senior Navy staff are reportedly confident of that it will be signed off in the coming months.
Unexploded World War Two bomb defused in Bethnal Green
The BBC reports that an unexploded World War Two bomb that prompted the evacuation of 700 people in east London has been made safe and removed by the military. Families spent the night in a school hall after the 500lb bomb was found in the basement of a building site on Temple Street, in Bethnal Green, on Monday afternoon. A 200m (650ft) exclusion zone was set up around the device. Residents have been told they can now return to their homes. A spokesman said a bomb disposal team from the Royal Logistics Corps, 621 Squadron and 11 EOD Regiment assisted the emergency services. The bomb was located in the cellar of a three-storey building, which had severely restricted access.
Bell recovered from battleship HMS Hood sunk by Bismarck in 1941
The Guardian reports that an American philanthropist and investor has recovered a bell from a British battleship that was sunk in the north Atlantic during the Second World War. A team led by the Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, retrieved the bell from HMS Hood, once the largest warship in the world and the Royal Navy’s flagship. It was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland in 1941. All but three of the Hood’s 1,418-strong crew perished. The bell was said to be in good condition, although will require a month’s long conservation process. It is expected to be displayed in the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth as a memorial to the Hood and its men.