This week’s main UK security and defence news has been the reaction to comments made by US President-elect Donald Trump concerning NATO. The Guardian reports that the Chairman of the Defence Select Committee has described Donald Trump’s warning that the US might abandon NATO as “radical and reckless”, saying Europe would be vulnerable without American military protection. Dr Julian Lewis MP expressed the hope that the President-elect did not mean what he has said and that his rhetoric was just a negotiating ploy to force European countries to increase defence spending.
Dr Lewis was speaking after Mr Trump created alarm in European capitals by describing NATO as obsolete in an interview published by The Times on Monday. Last summer Mr Trump also said he would not feel bound by NATO’s collective doctrine in which an attack on any one of the 28 member countries would be regarded as an attack on all. In response to the US President-elect’s comments on NATO, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: “We Europeans have our fate in our own hands.”
Mr Trump’s intentions towards NATO and Russia are hard to gauge, given the ambiguity and contradictions in his positions. In contrast with the President-elect’s hints of a rapprochement with Russia, his pick as next defence secretary, General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, has long been a vocal critic of Russia and a firm supporter of NATO.
It is too early to judge with any accuracy how US relations with NATO will evolve over the next four years. NATO enjoys support amongst Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and Donald Trump’s candidates for Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence have both expressed suspicion of Russian intentions. There will also be political pressure of the new President to take a tough line on Moscow following allegations that Russia embarked on a hacking campaign in support of his run for the presidency. Additionally, it is likely that Theresa May will seek to highlight the importance of NATO to him during her visit to the US in the spring.
- Questions on MDP answered in the House of Commons
- Question on nuclear weapons transport answered in the House of Commons
- Question on MoD security breaches answered in the House of Commons
- New legislation prepared over Northern Ireland historical investigations
- Met requires ‘new leadership approach’ says Commissioner candidate
- Royal Navy facing heaviest Russian activity since Cold War, says First Sea Lord
Questions on MDP answered in the House of Commons
SNP Defence Spokesperson Brendon O’Hara MP has had a number of questions on the MDP answered in the House of Commons. Mr O’Hara asked the Defence Secretary:
· Whether his Department is on target to recruit sufficient MDP officers to ensure that the force is at no less than 95 per cent of its agreed strength by 31 March 2017.
Responding, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster stated that the MDP was on target to do so.
· How many vacancies there are within the MDP.
Responding, Mr Lancaster stated that the total number of vacancies across the MDP as at 31st December 16 was 175.
· What formal coordination and communication mechanisms are in place between the MDP and Police Scotland for during and after an incident when the MDP goes on patrol in the civilian areas 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 MoD Police goes on patrol in the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
Responding collectively to the questions, the Minister said that all MDP activities that take place in areas beyond the perimeter of Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, which includes the Royal Naval Armaments Depot Coulport, are covered by a joint agreement between the MDP and Police Scotland. He added that this agreement includes details of the command and control arrangements that would apply in the event of an incident and is supported by regular dialogue at both local and Force Headquarters levels.
· Whether his Department has plans in place to increase the number of MDP officers at HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport in the next 12 months.
Responding, Mr Lancaster said that security arrangements are frequently tested and kept under continual review, but that the Department do not comment on specific site security arrangements.
· What change there has been in the number of police officers at HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport in the last 12 months.
Responding, the Minister said that there has been no change to the total number of MDP officers required at these establishments in the last 12 months.
· Whether his Department plans to increase its funding for non-Ministry of Defence policing in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20.
· Whether his Department plans to increase its funding for community policing in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Responding collectively, the Minister stated that the MoD’s community policing arrangements are kept under continual review
Eleven questions were then answered collectively. These questions asked the Defence Secretary:
· Whether his Department plans to expand the role of MDP officers in the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
· Whether MDP officers are deployed to patrol in the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
· By how much MDP (patrols) 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.
· Under whose command MDP officers are when on operational duty in the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
· Whether MDP officers carry firearms when on duty beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
· What extra training MDP officers receive before going on duty beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
· Who allocates what duties are to be performed by MDP officers before they go on duty beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
· What role the MDP fulfil in the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport that Police Scotland currently (a) do not and (b) cannot.
· What changes in circumstances made it necessary that the MDP should start patrolling in the civilian areas beyond the perimeter of HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport.
Responding, Mr Lancaster said that MDP officers have historically routinely undertaken external unarmed patrols in the vicinity of Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, which includes the Royal Naval Armaments Depot Coulport. He noted that in 2003, as part of the overall protective security arrangements for both establishments, the MoD introduced armed external patrols following full consultation with the then Strathclyde Police and local community stakeholders, and that this agreement remains extant with the Police Service of Scotland.
The Minister also stated that of MDP patrol activity is determined as part of the Naval Base security arrangements and are covered by an agreement with Police Scotland, and that MDP officers are trained to national police standards and remain under the operational command of the Chief Constable of MDP whilst on external patrols. He added that responsibility for the maintenance and enforcement of the law in Scotland rests with the Chief Constable of Police Scotland.
Mr Lancaster concluded by stating that there has been no increase to routine MDP patrols outside the two establishments during the last 24 months, and that although the MoD keeps security at all its establishments under review and that any proposals to increase external MDP patrols would be agreed with Police Scotland.
Additionally, Mr O’Hara tabled an oral question asking 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 they are armed. Responding on behalf of the Government, Leader of the House David Lidington MP said that he would ask Mark Lancaster to write to him.
The above questions were tabled in response to a Scottish Herald article last week which claimed that the MDP had increased its level of patrolling in the civilian areas of the Clyde – a report that was subsequently repeated in Police Oracle (both articles were highlighted to members in last week’s policy summary, also noting the DPF had not commented on the operational issue). The DPF has previously met with Mr O’Hara, and spoke to him again following his tabling of the above questions. He reassured us that his questions were in no way designed to criticise the MDP, which he continues to support. Instead, he wished to raise issues of accountably, consent and resource overstretch.
Question on nuclear weapons transport answered in the House of Commons
SNP MP Stewart Malcolm McDonald has had his question, asking the Defence Minister what discussions he has had with the (a) Scottish Government and (b) local authorities in Scotland on the safety framework for nuclear convoys travelling through Scotland, answered.
Responding, Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin stated that a wide range of safety and contingency measures are in place to ensure the safe movement of Defence Nuclear Materials throughout the UK, and that these are regulated and assessed by the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator. She added that MoD officials have regular discussions with all relevant agencies including local authorities and emergency services, the Police and National Traffic Information Services, including those in Scotland.
Question on MoD security breaches answered in the House of Commons
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron MP’s parliamentary question asking the Defence Secretary how many security breaches there have been at his department's bases since 2010; and what the nature of each such breach was, has been answered.
Mark Lancaster said that information on physical security breaches has only been held centrally since 2015, and that providing information as to the nature of each breach would incur disproportionate cost. However, he did provide the follow table of incidents:
Front line command/major business unit
Number of physical incidents 2015
Number of physical incidents 2016
Defence Equipment and Support
Defence Infrastructure Organisation
Head Office and Corporate Services
Joint Force Command/Permanent Joint HQ
New legislation prepared to protect Northern Ireland soldiers
The Daily Mail reports that police and prosecutors will be banned by law from turning investigations of British troops in Northern Ireland into a 'witch-hunt'. Ministers have begun work on legislation which will compel authorities to treat historical cases with 'proportionality'. Under proposals being drafted in Whitehall, there would be an upper age limit on who could be investigated, a five-year time limit on how long an inquiry can last, and a limit on maximum sentences for anyone found guilty. Ministers are also pushing for new rules on reopening inquests after it emerged that law firms had played a major role in forcing 31 new hearings into 57 killings by Army personnel.
Ministers are determined to stop military personnel facing experiences similar to those see during the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) investigation of more than 3,000 claims of wrongdoing in the Iraq War. Last year it emerged that a new police unit will investigate every British Army killing during the Troubles. The taxpayer-funded Legacy Investigation Branch is ready to re-open 238 'fatal incidents' which involved 302 deaths.
Met requires ‘new leadership approach’ says Commissioner candidate
The Guardian reports that policing needs to abandon a “boss knows best” culture and debate how stretched resources are deployed in the face of ever-growing demands, according to one of the leading contenders to become the next Metropolitan police commissioner. Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told The Guardian that a “modernisation of policing” was necessary as police work out how to best help the victims of traditional crimes while learning how to contend with newer cybercrimes and other offences linked to technology.
She said police leaders needed to move from “a kind of command and control leadership model where the boss knows best ”because “we need to bring everybody’s views to bear on how we solve these problems” when faced by complex challenges. Ms Thornton argued that “very difficult choices” about what to prioritise with limited resources cannot be ducked as “the demands for policing always seem to grow”.
Ms Thornton is a frontrunner for the post of Metropolitan Police Commissioner, with formal interviews for the job due in weeks and an announcement expected in February. The successful candidate will replace Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
Royal Navy facing heaviest Russian activity since Cold War, says First Sea Lord
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Royal Navy is facing its greatest challenge from Russian submarines and warships for more than 25 years, the First Sea Lord has told his sailors. Admiral Sir Philip Jones said the Navy was dealing with the highest level of activity from Vladimir Putin’s fleet since the end of the Cold War, even as it has to make “difficult” cuts to equipment. Russia analysts fear the jump in submarine activity to levels not seen since the 1980s is accompanied by increased efforts to spy on Britain’s nuclear deterrent vessels.
In a New Year message to the Navy, Sir Philip said: “In northern Europe and the Baltic, we are responding to the highest level of Russian naval activity since the end of the Cold War.” His comments follow a warning last year by the commander of the US Navy’s European fleet that NATO was on the verge of a new “battle of the Atlantic” with increasingly sophisticated Russian submarines.