The main news this week is passing of MDP Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock after a short illness at the age of 58. Mr Hitchcock spent his working life in public service, joining Lancashire Constabulary in 1977. In 2005, he led the Safer Neighbourhoods Programme within the Metropolitan Police Service and delivered the successful roll-out of Neighbourhood Policing across the whole of London by the end of 2006. In 2007, he was appointed as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner within the Met with responsibility for Operational Services, with portfolios including Professional Standards, Command and Control, Diversity and Citizen Focus. In 2009, Mr Hitchcock was appointed Deputy Chief Constable at the National Policing Improvement Agency. In 2011, he became Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police, and led the Force through a series of reforms that improved crime prevention and detection rates whilst meeting budgetary challenges. It was this experience that led him to be appointed as Chief Constable of the MDP in 2013. In parallel to these roles, Mr Hitchcock also acted as the national police spokesperson on Knife Crime, being appointed in 2008 to develop and lead the National Tackling Knives Action Programme. He was also the national policing lead for equality and human rights for four years until 2016.
Mr Hitchcock was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2008 for distinguished services to policing. He was subsequently made a CBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list for services to Defence and Policing. Mr Hitchcock is survived by his wife Helen, his two daughters and two grandchildren.
Mark Lancaster, Minister for the Armed Forces who until recently had ministerial responsibility for the MDP, said “I was deeply saddened to hear about the untimely death of Alf Hitchcock. I knew Alf very well in his capacity as the Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police and held him in the highest possible regard. He was a consummate professional and I echo the sentiments that have been made by others. My sympathies go to Alf’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”
National Chairman of the DPF Eamon Keating stated: “We're shocked and saddened by the passing of Alf. He was a fantastic person who will be deeply missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially his wife and two daughters. Alf has left a legacy here in the MDP, which will out survive all of us and his family and friends should be proud of all he achieved throughout his extensive police career. A true copper’s copper.”
· Queen’s Speech takes place
· Tobias Ellwood confirmed as new Minister for Defence People and Veterans
· Police commissioners call for additional resources
· PC Keith Palmer receives posthumous honor
· Man arrested after suspected terrorist attack on London mosque
· Met to increase number of officers with Tasers
· Soldiers who died in tank training accident named
· EU army inevitable, says senior German official
Queen’s Speech takes place
The State Opening of Parliament has taken place this week, including the Queen’s Speech setting out the Government’s legislative agenda for the coming two years. It has been announced that this parliamentary session will be extended from one to two years to enable Parliament to scrutinise legislation relating to Brexit – as such, the next Queen’s Speech will not be until 2019. The speech itself was dominated by bills relating to the Brexit process.
As many had expected, neither the speech nor its supporting briefing contained any sign of a bill to merge the MDP, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and British Transport Police into an ‘Infrastructure Police’ – a pledge contained in the recent Conservative manifesto. The need to secure national infrastructure was noted, but this was kept vague. The pledge to “bring forward proposals to ensure that critical national infrastructure is protected to safeguard national security” does leave the window open to further unstated measures, but there is no actively outlined intent to go ahead with the merger in the two years before the next Queen’s Speech.
The most significant security measure contained within the speech was the announcement of a Counterterrorism Review. This will seek to incorporate the lessons of the recent Manchester and London attacks into a review of existing counterterrorism legislation to ensure that the police and security services have the powers they need to manage terrorism. The suitability of existing prison sentences will also be examined. Additionally, options for working with online companies to reduce and restrict the availability of extremist material will be explored. Linked to this was the announcement of a plan to establish a Commission for Countering Extremism. This will seek to identify and expose extremists, and support the public sector in promoting and defending pluralistic values.
For the defence sector more generally, the speech contained a commitment to continue spending two percent of GDP on defence spending until 2022 and increase spending by at least half a per cent more than inflation every year. Additionally, the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill will seek to support recruitment and retention in the Armed Forces by enabling flexible working arrangements for regular service personnel
There were also a number of law and order measures, including a Domestic Abuse and Violence Bill: this will seek to improve protection for the victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales. Measures will include the appointment of a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner and a tighter definition of domestic abuse in law. A Courts Bill will also be introduced to modernise the court system in England and Wales.
This speech reflected the reality of the election result and subsequent events: not only does Theresa May not possess a Commons’ majority, her negotiations with the DUP since have not produced an agreement which would assure her of their support on many of her manifesto’s original commitments. Many initiatives have therefore been postponed indefinitely or scrapped. MPs will now debate the contents of the speech over the coming days, before voting on it on Wednesday 28th June. We will continue to update the members on any relevant developments, including on any references to plans for infrastructure policing in the debate.
Tobias Ellwood confirmed as new Minister for Defence People and Veterans
Newly appointed Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood has had his role confirmed as Minister for People and Veterans. Baring a significant change in ministerial portfolios (which are yet to be released), this means he will take over responsibility for the MDP from Mark Lancaster, who has been promoted to Armed Force Minister.
Tobias Ellwood was born in 1966 in New York, where his parents were working for the United Nations. He grew up in Germany and Austria and went to the International School in Vienna and Loughborough University. He then spent five years in the Army, reaching the rank of captain, and served with the Royal Green Jackets in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Kuwait in the first Gulf War, Germany, Gibraltar and Bosnia. After periods at the London Stock Exchange and at a law firm, he moved into politics, winning the seat of Bournemouth East in 2005. When the Coalition Government entered power in 2010, he served as a PPS at the MoD, Foreign Office and Department of Health, before becoming a Foreign Minister in his own right in 2014, a position he retained until this moved to the MoD.
Mr Elwood’s is noteworthy for his long-standing opposition to the Iraq War. In 2002, his brother was killed in the terrorist attack in Bali. Mr Elwood subsequently threatened to take the Government to court for failing to give the appropriate warning to travellers and elicited a public apology from the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. During the terrorist attack in the Houses of Parliament in March 2017, Mr Ellwood attempted to save the life of PC Keith Palmer, giving CPR and applying first aid. In recognition of this, he was appointed to the Privy Council.
Once final confirmation of his responsibility for the MDP, the DPF will approach Mr Ellwood for a meeting to brief him on the role of the Federation and outline our concerns over key issues including the planned complement ‘reset’, pensions and TACOs.
Police commissioners call for additional resources
The Guardian reports that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has warned that her force is financially stretched and that she needs more money to “do the job” of policing the capital in the aftermath of the Westminster, London Bridge and Finsbury Park terrorist attacks. Cressida Dick said she was in talks with the Home Office and Mayor Sadiq Khan about funding, while other chief constables joined her in warning about the impact of past cuts and future funding changes. Steve Finnigan, the outgoing chief constable of Lancashire, told The Guardian he believes past spending cuts left people feeling less safe and warned that forces across the country had reached a point of no return.
Additionally, the BBC reports that Policing in England and Wales could be at “significant” risk if resources are diverted to fight terrorism, the UK's top counter-terrorism officer has said. Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley has asked ministers to reassure officers that funding will not be diverted from mainstream policing as a result. The BBC understands that Mr Rowley has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, warning that the counter-terrorism policing network was not able to operate at “full strength”. “The demand for increasing numbers of detectives in areas such as child abuse has prevented this,” he wrote. He also suggested that prioritising counter-terrorism work would involve “difficult choices” about where to put resources
The pressure on regular and armed policing units makes the MDP’s ability to support Home Office forces during major incidents more critical than ever. Now Parliament has returned to business, we will recommence our programme of maintaining and further building a base of support amongst MPs and peers to ensure that the Government is held to account over its management of the MDP.
PC Keith Palmer receives posthumous honor
The Evening Standard reports that PC Keith Palmer is to posthumously receive the George Medal for Bravery after giving his life to protect members of the public during the Westminster terrorist attack in March. The award was announced with the release of the Queen’s Civilian Gallantry List, which in a break with tradition was this week released alongside the Queen’s Birthday Honors list.
Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said PC Palmer, who had served as part of the Force for 16 years, “acted on that day with no thought for his own safety, intent simply on doing his job and protecting members of the public and Parliament”. She said she and the Met staff are “immensely proud” of the officer and added: “He paid the ultimate price for his selfless actions. We continue to grieve the loss of a much-loved and respected colleague and friend while supporting his family through this truly difficult time.”
Man arrested after suspected terrorist attack on London mosque
The Guardian reports that a man from Cardiff is believed to be responsible for a terrorist attack that left one person dead and 11 injured when a van he was driving ploughed into a group of worshippers near Finsbury Park mosque in London. Darren Osborne, 47, is alleged to have shouted “I want to kill all Muslims – I did my bit” after the hired van hit a crowd that had gathered to help an elderly man who had collapsed near a mosque. The Met said a 47-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.
Osborne’s neighbours in Pentwyn described him as “aggressive” and “strange”. They said that over the weekend he told a 10-year old Muslim neighbour he was an “inbred” and had been thrown out of a local pub for getting drunk “cursing Muslims and saying he would do some damage”. Theresa May said that the “hatred and evil” seen in the attack would never succeed.
The incident has raised questions over the threat posed by far-right terrorism. The Daily Telegraph reports that following the attack, Security Minister Ben Wallace warned of the rise of far-Right extremism in Britain, as the latest Home Office figures showed a five-fold in arrests for domestic terrorism offences. The minister said: “What I can say on this case is this individual, so far as we know at the moment, was not known to us, but we are aware of a rise in the far-Right”, adding that online propaganda was helping fuel far-Right radicalisation, just as it was feeding Islamist extremism.
Met to increase number of officers with Tasers
The Guardian reports that the Met Police will significantly increase the number of officers carrying Taser electronic weapons, to offer them more protection against a rising tide of violence. Under the plans announced on Tuesday, another 1,867 officers will carry the devices, taking the total in the Met to 6,400 of its frontline officers, who police chiefs hope will be better able to defend themselves and the public. About 4,000 out of 31,000 Met officers are currently trained and authorised to carry the devices. The Met aims to have more than 1,000 officers armed with stun guns on the streets of the capital at any one time, The Guardian understands.
To justify the decision, the Met cited figures showing that knife crime offences rose 24% in the past year. Attacks on officers have also increased, from 2,211 in 2014 to 2,676 in 2016. In the attack this month on London Bridge and Borough Market, police with batons were the first to try to stop three terrorists armed with knives who stabbed five people to death, ahead of the arrival of firearms officers.
Soldiers who died in tank training accident named
The BBC reports that the two soldiers who died at a Ministry of Defence base in Pembrokeshire have been named as investigations continue. Royal Tank Regiment corporals Matthew Hatfield, 27, from Wiltshire, and Darren Neilson, 31 from Lancashire died when an ammunition round exploded as they were in a tank at Castlemartin Range. Two other soldiers remain in a serious condition in hospital.
Lt Col Simon Ridgway, Commanding Officer of The Royal Tank Regiment, said they were both “exceptionally talented soldiers who loved what they did”. “The regiment has lost two real characters and feels truly honoured to have served with them. They will both be sorely missed,” he added.
EU army inevitable, says senior German official
The Daily Telegraph reports that one of Germany’s most senior defence officials has become the latest to add his voice to calls for a European army. Hans-Peter Bartels, Germany’s national defence commissioner, on Monday called for NATO’s EU members to organise their militaries into a single force. “In the end, there will be a European army,” he said. His comments, on the same day Brexit talks formally began, are a sign the rest of the EU is preparing to press ahead with further defence integration.
Britain has repeatedly blocked plans for an integrated European defence policy, but other member states have warned it cannot expect to have a say in the issue post-Brexit. France and Germany have led calls for a European army. The Netherlands and Germany have already merged some units, while the Czech Republic and Romania have expressed interest.