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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 12 August

By DPF Admin19th August 2013Latest News

The House of Lords remains on recess this week and will not return until 8th October, meanwhile the House of Commons also remains on recess and will not return until 2nd September.

The Daily Mirror reports that army redundancies could be put on ice because of the number of soldiers who are choosing to leave the service. The newspaper says that the MOD may scrap the next round of troop redundancies because they are unlikely to be needed. The news comes as recent figures have revealed that recruitment is down.  The Mirror says that all 37 infantry battalions have a shortfall in manpower. The newspaper adds that axing the fourth planned redundancy programme would spare the Government “the embarrassment of troops leaving their jobs” at the start of an election year in 2015.

Meanwhile, the MOD has reported that 3 major planning approvals have been given which will allow the sale of surplus military facilities in the south of England. The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) gained approvals for Worthy Down in Hampshire, the Prince Royal Barracks at Deepcut in Surrey and land in Aldershot, known as the Aldershot Urban Extension. The MOD says the areas are obsolete and the proceeds will support the Armed Forces, as well as providing new housing

Army Reserve recruitment failing to reach targets

According to The Sunday Times, the government’s plan to restructure the army is in danger of collapse because a recruitment drive has proved to be a disastrous flop. In confidential Army memos, it is revealed that the number of people enlisting in the Army Reserve was just 367, barely a quarter of the 1,432 target. The newspaper says that over the year, the number of recruits is predicted to be half of what is needed, despite the expansion of reserves being “at the heart” of the UK’s new defence strategy. The Sunday Times says that the memos leaked to the newspaper suggest that an expensive television advertising campaign that was launched in February has failed.

Ministers want to see a fully trained reserve force of 30,000 by 2018, to fill the gap left by reductions to the regular army. However, the prediction that only 50% of this target will be realised will expose claims that defence secretary Philip Hammond MP has “mishandled” the reshaping of Britain’s forces. Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy MP warned earlier this year that the government’s defence plans were based largely on the reserves strategy, which “has been rushed, with serious flaws”.

The Sunday Times highlights that the crisis follows the decision to close many army recruitment offices last year and outsource part of the recruitment process through Capita, an outsourcing firm. One future priority the memos mention is to rebrand the army by highlighting the significance of the reserves. Another potential strategy is to ensure that people are aware the army is recruiting through forging links with employers, trade unions and public sector bosses. The possibility of a social media and email campaign has also been considered.

MOD says it will review pension rules for split service personnel

According to The Times, the MOD is reviewing pension rules that could benefit hundreds of soldiers and cost the Government millions after threats of legal action from ex-servicemen. The newspaper says that an internal inquiry has been started at the MOD to investigate the issue of pension payments to soldiers with “split service”, which include many soldiers who abandoned second careers to rejoin the forces to serve in Afghanistan. However, those rejoining after 2005 fall under a different pension scheme which forbids them from counting their first period of service towards full pension rights.

In many cases, servicemen claim they were given incorrect advice, sometimes in writing, by senior officers and the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency and were misled by the MOD’s online redundancy calculator. The MOD subsequently received many complaints from personnel who volunteered for redundancy but received tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds less than they had been told to expect. For one Afghan war veteran, with a total of 19 years’ service, the split period meant the difference between the promised settlement and what he receives is £156,000. The MOD has said that they would be reviewing these cases.

Vice-Admiral warns against cutting conventional forces

The Daily Telegraph reports that Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham has warned that cuts may leave a gap where future enemies could call Britain’s bluff by judging that the UK would be unwilling to issue a nuclear response to a conventional attack. Sir Jeremy warned that a nuclear deterrent was “not a substitute for conventional capabilities” and said that the costly process of replacing ballistic submarines carrying Trident, could pose “a severe challenge to the shrinking UK defence industry”.

In an assessment for the UK National Defence Association, Sir Jeremy said that it has been UK policy that nuclear weapons would never be used against non-nuclear states party to the non-proliferation treaty. Sir Jeremy went on to say that the “cardinal point” was that the nuclear deterrent is not a substitute for conventional capabilities, because the credibility of using nuclear weapons would depend on the very existence of the nation being at stake. Sir Jeremy said conventional forces were an effective deterrent because the threat of their use was “genuinely credible”.

NATO warns that an independent Scotland must resolve Trident issue for membership

The Daily Telegraph has reported that Scottish Government officials have been informed at NATO headquarters that an independent Scotland would be refused membership if it fails to make a deal with the UK over the basing of Trident. The newspaper says that NATO has warned that countries wanting to join the organisation are not allowed to “import” existing military or territorial disputes into the alliance.

The issue is in conflict with promises made by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond MSP, who had made pledges to remove the UK Trident nuclear submarines from the Faslane naval base should Scotland gain independence. The Scottish National Party also intend to include a ban on nuclear weapons in a Scottish constitution, despite Trident forming part of the “supreme guarantee” of NATO’s security along with the arsenals of France and the US.

The Telegraph says that Scottish officials have argued that a separate Scotland should be treated as a special case.  This argument was rejected by NATO, which confirmed that Scotland would have to apply from scratch in a process which normally takes a minimum of two to three years. Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson MSP said that “shutting down the submarine base at Faslane was incompatible with entry into the alliance”. 


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