This week's main security and defence news has been the terrorist attacks in Paris and their aftermath. The incident saw were multiple coordinated strikes carried out by militants, killing at least 129 people. The first attacks were launched virtually simultaneously, with two explosions close to the Stade de France at just after 9.20pm local time, four miles apart. The attacks then moved to central Paris, where a separate team of gunmen arrived in a black Seat at the Right Bank area of the city. The attackers opened fire on the Petit Cambodge Cambodian restaurant in Rue Bichat, and the Le Carillon bar on the other side of the road. The fourth attack came on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, when the same unit of terrorists drove the 500 yards to the Casa Nostra pizzeria and opened fire on diners, killing at least five. From there, the militants drove around a mile south-east to then launch another attack, this time on La Belle Equipe bar in Rue de Charonne. At least 19 people died after the terrace was sprayed with bullets at around 9.35pm. The next attack, at the Bataclan concert venue in Boulevard Voltaire, was the most deadly. There, at least 89 people lost their lives when they were shot by black-clad gunmen wielding AK-47s and wearing suicide vests.
In the wake of the attacks, The Guardian reports that the UK has increased domestic security, with more checks at Britain’s borders and more police officers deployed on the streets. The England vs. France football match which took place on Tuesday 17 November saw a heavy presence by armed police. Meanwhile, The Daily Mail carried an article by Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation, calling for the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which was published in draft form a fortnight ago by Home Secretary Theresa May, as quickly as possible in order to give the intelligence services the powers they need to counter terrorist plots.
Against this backdrop, the BBC reports that Jeremy Corbyn says he supports any “strictly necessary force” needed to protect the UK in a terrorist attack. His comments, to the party's ruling executive committee, came after he told the BBC he was “not happy” with police operating a shoot-to-kill policy. This led to criticism of the Labour leader's stance from the media and even some of his own MPs.
· 'Run, don't play dead': UK counter-terrorism office issues advice after Paris attacks
· Syria: 'Growing confidence' MPs will back UK airstrikes
· David Cameron pledges an extra £2bn of funding for Special Forces
· Plan for UK to launch cyber-attacks on the Islamic State
· Met police chief calls for more armed officers after Paris attacks
· Labour warn that police cuts above five per cent would 'put public safety at risk'
· Government ministers to get dedicated aircraft
· RAF set to gain additional fighter squadrons
'Run, don't play dead': UK counter-terrorism office issues advice after Paris attacks
The Guardian reports that victims of a Paris-style gun and bomb attack should run or hide behind “substantial brickwork” or “reinforced walls” rather than lie down, according to new official guidance. The UK national counter-terrorism security office (NACTSO) published the advice in the wake of the terrorist atrocities in the French capital that killed 129 people. The document outlines what to do in “response to a fast-moving incident such as a firearms or weapons attack” and also advises businesses to develop procedures for what NACTSO called a “dynamic lockdown”. It states that those caught up in such an attack should “escape if you can”, “insist others leave with you” and “leave belongings behind”. In the event that escape routes are cut off, officials advise finding cover from the gunfire behind “substantial brickwork or heavy reinforced walls” as “cover from view does not mean you are safe – bullets go through glass, brick, wood and metal”.
The new guidance repeats advice issued by police last year in leaflets urging the public to “run, hide and tell” if they found themselves caught up in a multiple shooting.
Syria: 'Growing confidence' MPs will back UK airstrikes
The BBC reports that ministers are increasingly confident they can get approval from MPs for the UK to launch airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has begun talking to Labour MPs to try to get the vote through the Commons. Downing Street says there is still no timetable for a vote on extending UK military action, but it is thought it could happen before Christmas. Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, the prime minister said that while a UN Security Council resolution was welcome, he believed it was not necessary and he would not “outsource to Russian veto” decisions about Britain's safety. Ministers believe around twenty Conservative MPs are still unlikely to support airstrikes, but that others have changed their minds since the government lost a vote on intervention in the Syrian conflict in 2013.
The BBC's chief political correspondent Vicki Young said the government increasingly believes it can call on the support of enough Labour MPs, as well as other parties such as the DUP, to get parliamentary approval and that a senior cabinet minister had told the BBC “we're going to war”.
David Cameron pledges an extra £2bn of funding for Special Forces
The Evening Standard reports that Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to spend an extra £2 billion on the SAS and other special units over the next five years. Speaking at the Guildhall in the City of London, the Prime Minister compared the extremist Islamic State terrorists to the Nazis in the Second World War and called on British citizens to show resolve in the face of evil. Mr Cameron said the additional money will be delivered from the growth in defence budgets guaranteed by the Government’s commitment to spend two per cent of GDP on the military. It is thought the money will be used to fund new weapon and vehicles, protective equipment, night-fighting kit and communications.
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph reports that Special Forces have been deployed on the streets of Britain to monitor stations, shopping centres and key public places amid fears the UK could be the next target for an Islamic State attack. Personnel from the elite Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) were backing up undercover armed police officers to protect the UK in the wake of the Paris massacre. One defence source told the newspaper: “They will be wandering around shopping centres, stations and other crowded potential targets watching what's going on. They will not be armed.”
The ‘extra’ money pledged by the Prime Minister is simply a re-announcement of an initiative to enhance the UK’s Special Forces that he signalled last month.
Plan for UK to launch cyber-attacks on the Islamic State
The Guardian reports that George Osborne has said that British spies will significantly step up their efforts to attack terrorists in cyberspace in the face of Islamic State militants who want to use the internet to kill people. Speaking at GCHQ in Cheltenham, the chancellor said the UK was prepared to use its digital powers to attack hackers, terrorist groups, criminal gangs and rogue states. He also announced that the UK is to double funding to fight cybercrime to £1.9bn over the next five years. The Chancellor did not detail what cyber-attacks would be carried out by UK intelligence agents, but he said: “We reserve the right to respond to a cyber-attack in any way that we choose.” He warned that whoever hits the UK should know “we are able to hit back”, and said the Islamic State's “murderous brutality has a strong digital element” in which the group seeks to kill through attacks on cyber infrastructure.
Met police chief calls for more armed officers after Paris attacks
The Guardian reports that the Metropolitan police commissioner wants to increase the number of armed officers in London in the wake of the Paris attacks. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he expected to have to lose 5,000 of the capital’s 32,000 officers to cope with cuts likely to total £800m over four years after the Spending Review this month. But he tried to reassure Londoners that the number of firearms officers was being reviewed as a result of the attacks in the French capital, in which 129 people were killed. He said the Metropolitan police was proud to be a mostly unarmed force, but the Paris attacks showed the need for change.
The commissioner told LBC radio: “I think what Paris showed us, with so many attackers, with so many scenes, moving around at speed … we need to have a mobile reserve. And I’ve got a good idea how that can be achieved.” He said he would announce the exact details of the plan in the coming weeks, but it would involve changes to the number of armed police. Currently, only about 2,000 officers are armed in London.
Labour warn that police cuts above five per cent would 'put public safety at risk'
The Guardian reports that Andy Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary, has warned Theresa May that she will put public safety at risk if she agrees to cut the policing budget by more than five per cent over the next five years in next week’s Spending Review. Mr Burnham’s intervention follows a warning by Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, that he would “start to get worried” if he had to cut police numbers below 30,000. “If we could keep at least 30,000 cops, I can make this city safe,” he told LBC radio. “If it’s below that, I start to get worried.” Hogan-Howe warned last week that cuts of more than ten per cent to the police budget would harm his ability to fight terrorism on the streets of London.
Mr Burnham sent his letter as the Home Secretary enters the final stage of her negotiations with George Osborne over her budget before next Wednesday’s Spending Review. The chancellor has asked cabinet ministers to draw up savings in areas where spending is not protected under two scenarios – 25 per cent and 40 per cent.
Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Home Secretary Theresa May has been warned that police cuts could “reduce very significantly” the UK's ability to respond to a Paris-style attack in a leaked letter from one of the UK's most senior police officers. However, the name of the letter's author was not revealed.
Government ministers to get dedicated aircraft
The Daily Telegraph reports that David Cameron and senior ministers are to be given the use of a dedicated plane for long-distance trips instead of chartered flights. The Government will announce in next week's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) that it will spend £10million refitting an RAF plane which is normally used for air-to-air refuelling. Ministers insist that the plane will save the taxpayer up to £775,000 a year on the cost of Downing Street's flights because it will avoid the use of costly charter flights.
At present Mr Cameron and senior ministers use Queen's Flight, known as 32 (The Royal) Squadron, for short haul flights and charter commercial flights for long haul trips. Government sources said that the cost of long-haul charter flights can be excessive because they are often arranged at short notice. In January the government spent more than £100,000 sending Mr Cameron to Saudi Arabia to pay his respects following the death of its King. The converted RAF Voyager A330 is expected to cost £2,000 an hour, compared to the current average cost of £6,700 an hour.
RAF set to gain additional fighter squadrons
The Times reports that the RAF is set to gain three additional fighter squadrons under the SDSR, which is due to be published on Monday 23 November. 36 Typhoon jets — which have been sitting unused in a hangar because the military has lacked the funds to operate them — are expected to be brought into service as part of a major review of defence to be announced next week. Twenty-four of the aircraft will form two new operational squadrons, while a third squadron looks set to be created to take on a training role, according to defence sources. The jets are expected to be based at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, with the training planes to take over from a squadron of Hawk jets in playing the enemy on exercises.