Last week’s main UK defence and security news has been the continuation of the controversy surrounding the treatment of local interpreters who supported British Forces in Afghanistan. The Telegraph reports that more than sixty Afghan interpreters who worked alongside British troops have contacted UK lawyers in recent months for help to get out of the country because of Taliban death threats. A law firm challenging the Government’s decision not to give Afghan interpreters the same right to settle in Britain as those who served in Iraq says it is now receiving several calls a week from Afghans trying to flee Taliban reprisals. A former British General, who did not wish to be named, said the Government’s refusal to give them asylum and policy of hiding behind bureaucracy was “curmudgeonly and ungraceful”, adding: “I know that immigration is a real problem, but the number we are talking about is so small that actually making a fuss about it is a real embarrassment. We have a debt of honour.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that generals, decorated war heroes, grieving families and politicians last night urged soldiers and members of the public to sign a petition to save Afghan interpreters from the Taliban. General Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the Army, led the calls as he pledged to sign the petition, which asks David Cameron to give all translators a safe haven in Britain.
Also this week, James Arbuthnot, a Conservative Party MP, has been made a life peer as part of the post-election Dissolution Peerages. Mr Arbuthnot was chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee from 2005-2014.
· DPF raises concerns surrounding impact of future cuts on security
· ‘Jihadi John’ vows to return to Britain
DPF raises concerns surrounding impact of future cuts on security
The Daily Record reports that Eamon Keating, the National Chairman of the DPF, expressed concern over security a MoD sites in Scotland ahead of the publication of the Strategic Defence and Security Review later in the year. Mr Keating has suggested that security is on “a knife edge” and warned that any further cuts to the MDP would result in reduced levels of security. Mr Keating also advocated an increase in the number of MDP officers, suggesting that cuts made since the last Defence Review in 2010 had gone too far.
There has been growing concern recently about security at Scotland's nuclear sites. Two campaigners from a peace camp at Faslane were arrested last year aboard a Royal Navy submarine. The MoD said: “Keeping our personnel and our assets safe is our absolute priority and our security arrangements are kept under continual review and frequently tested.”
'Jihadi John’ vows to return to Britain
The Daily Telegraph reports that Mohammed Emwazi – better known as 'Jihadi John' – has apparently revealed his face for the first time in a new video and vowed to return to Britain. Emwazi is thought to have carried out dozens of beheadings for the terrorist group, including the murders of Britons David Haines and Alan Henning. Apparently shot in the Syrian desert, the clip was obtained by rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army opposing the Islamic State, and sent to a contact in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The US has placed a $6 million bounty on Emwazi after the murders of three Americans.
Additional MoD spending “comes with strings attached”
The Financial Times reports that whilst the pledge to spend two per cent of GDP on defence in the Summer Budget gave the MoD breathing space, it is far from being a money bonanza, as much of the 'new' money will come from accounting methodology changes. But perhaps more importantly, Downing Street is now making clear that it comes with some significant strings attached.
Even though there is now the money to pay for many of the “pipeline” projects the MoD has been working on for the past few years, not everyone agrees all of those projects should go ahead, or at least not to the extent planned. “This is an important opportunity for the MoD,” said Malcolm Chalmers, director of UK defence policy at Royal United Services Institute. “The expectation from [Number 10] is that in a world that is rapidly changing, this is an opportunity to realign and address the new risks.” Projects that may be at risk of being reduced in scope include the F-35B fighter programme and plans to procure thirteen new Type 26 frigates.
Chilcot inquiry: blame will be spread, sources say
The Guardian reports that Sir John Chilcot is to apportion blame for mistakes made during Britain’s participation in the Iraq war much more widely than had been expected, going well beyond Tony Blair and his inner team, according to sources involved with his six-year inquiry. It had been assumed that Chilcot would concentrate on Mr Blair and his closest advisers in Downing Street. However, The Guardian understands the inquiry intends to criticise a much bigger circle of ministers and officials, including Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary at the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003.
The inquiry team is also reportedly dismayed about sustained media attacks in the last few weeks over the delay. The media coverage has increased pressure on Chilcot to agree a date for publication. David Cameron also expressed frustration last week over failure to complete the report.
Scotland Yard plans to move hundreds of Met police jobs out of London
The Evening Standard reports that hundreds of Metropolitan Police jobs are to be moved outside London to cut spending by a further £100 million in an outsourcing deal. Documents show that up to 445 roles will be shifted out of the capital – and that the Force expects staff affected will not accept the move, and will be made redundant instead. Roles in HR, finance, payroll and IT-related departments would move to locations “outside of the London area” controlled by the Shared Services Connected Limited outsourcing firm, which has recently signed a deal with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. It is the Force’s latest cost-cutting move, amid expectations that it will lose up to £800 million more in the Government’s autumn spending review. The Met says it will already have cut £600 million from its £3.5 billion budget by the end of this financial year as a result of previous reviews, and the new jobs plan will save in excess of £100 million over the maximum contract length of ten years.
Lack of access to social media cited as reason for poor Submarine Service recruitment
The Daily Mail reports that the Royal Navy is struggling to recruit young people as they are no longer willing to tolerate the isolation of underwater life. The news has emerged as part of research by PA Consulting which has been trying to help the Royal Navy tackle its staff shortages. Nick Chaffey, head of defence consulting at the firm, said that society has moved faster than we think over the last few decades: “For example, the fact that if you are a submariner, you are locked in a tin can under the water and that's it for at least a considerable chunk of time…. 'The fact that you are disconnected from the World Wide Web and Twitter is actually a significant barrier to recruiting young people.” The firm claims that young people now expect more from their employers, change jobs more often and look for a better work life balance.