Parliament is still on recess for conference season this week, as the Labour Party took forward their annual conference in Liverpool. Defence did not feature heavily on the agenda as delegates and politicos focused primarily on Brexit and workers’ rights. While nothing of note was decided with regards to Labour’s position on Brexit, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell announced that in Government Labour would give workers the right to 10% shares in the companies they worked for, put workers on boards, and implement a 20:1 ratio cap on the wages of the highest and lowest earners in a company. The Conservative Party Conference begins this weekend in Birmingham.
Police Scotland receives 6.5% pay rise
The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has confirmed that Scottish police officers below the rank of Assistant Chief Constable have secured a 6.5% pay increase as part of a three year pay deal. The Scottish officers’ increase equates to a £125 million increase in officer wages, and means that a mid-point constable will receive a £2,300 salary increase. This is in comparison to officers in England who were recently awarded a 2% rise, 1% of which was a one-off payment and unconsolidated, and the Police Federation calculated the remaining 1% rise as being only a 0.85% increase when accounting for inflation. The announcement also included a commitment to resolve working practices in relation to night and court shifts.
Chair of the SPA, Susan Deacon, said that the investment “recognizes the significant and valuable work that our police officers do” noting that the certainty it provides will help plans to improve policing “to meet the needs of a changing Scotland.” Police Scotland Chief Constable, Iain Livingstone, commended officers as being Police Scotland’s “most valued asset.”
The Police Federation of England & Wales has said that this announcement is salt in the wounds of other UK officers whose pay rise they dismissed as “derisory” as they calculated the rise applicable elsewhere amounted to a mere £2.50 a week increase.
Eamon Keating – National Chairman of the Defence Police Federation said “Whilst we welcome the deserved award made to our colleagues in Scotland, this proves very divisive for our members, especially those that work alongside them in our Scottish stations. It is impossible to defend a position that sees our officers paying higher tax in Scotland, whilst receiving lower pay and we will be looking to engage with the Ministry of Defence on this issue on behalf of our membership over the next week”.
Metropolitan Police property sales top £1 billion
The UK’s largest police force, London’s Metropolitan Police, has sold more than £1 billion of property in the last six years, the Daily Star has reported. The data, obtained by the Press Association under a Freedom of Request project, included the sale of some assets which had been owned by the force since the 19thCentury, and New Scotland Yard for £370 million to investors from the UAE who have plans to convert the complex into luxury flats. The Force has had to make £600 million of savings since 2010, and another £400 million is being demanded of it by 2021, according to the London Mayor's office.
Chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, Ken Marsh, said that the force had run out of things to sell which was “really, really worrying” in light of rising rates of violent crime and what he termed a “breakdown in society”. He noted that officers across the country were relying on food banks to get by. He said that officers’ expanding role was not reflected in the resources available, and that officers were not social workers or mental health specialists but were increasingly having to deal with such matters.
The Metropolitan Police responded to the news saying that the sales freed up money to be allocated to delivering “effective and accessible policing.” The Home Office said that “Police have the resources they need to carry out their vital work” but that the Government has nevertheless given increased investment into the police system by over £460 million in 2018-19 and that the Met is receiving £2.5 billion in direct resource funding.
When raising the savings being demanded of the MDP to policymakers, the DPF regularly highlights that the MDP has no resources other than its officers, and does not have the luxury of reducing its workload. As this is an issue with forces across the country, it will become increasingly difficult for the Government to deny.
MPs highlight MoD’s challenges of delivering nuclear deterrent
The Public Accounts Committee has published a report on the challenges to the financial sustainability of the MoD’s nuclear programme. The report found that UK’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent, which has supported British defence policy since 1969, faces “significant pressures” to provide all the resource that comes under the Nuclear Enterprise, including a £2.9 billion affordability gap. Other challenges include filling the skills gap in the Enterprise, sustaining the supply chain, and decision-making with regards to “significant, high-profile projects” such as infrastructure upgrades and defueling and dismantling 20 UK submarines.”
The Committee recommended that the MoD puts together a timetable for likely risks and milestones across programmes, regularly review structures, and continue to push for high performance across contractors. When launching the report, the Committee’s Chair, Labour MP Meg Hillier, said that “The pressure bearing down on the Ministry of Defence have been laid bare by my Committee this year” calling on the MoD to “get on top” of the situation as a matter of urgency.
Defence Chief calls for greater military union with French
British Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, has penned an article in The Times championing the “old alliance” between military heavyweights France and the UK as “key to meeting modern threats.” This comes shortly after Sir Nick met his French counterpart, General François Lecointre and British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also met his French counterpart, Florence Parly at the French Embassy in London.
Sir Nick highlighted France and the UK’s joint work in preventing illegal chemical weapon use in the UK and Syria, and in countering Russian military aggression. He said that the current global climate “requires the British armed forces to recreate the capacity we had in time of war for innovation and rapid integration of new technology”. In a time of instability in NATO, Britain has also discussed strengthening military alliances with Scandinavian countries, and is working on researching and developing technologies with the Five Eyes alliance of the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
France and the UK last strengthened their military relationship in 2010, when they signed the Lancaster House treaties increasing cooperation between their armed forces and nuclear weapons. There have been recent discussions on transforming their Combined Joint Expeditionary Force into a battle-ready unit. British helicopters are currently supporting French counterterror forces in North Africa, and their navies are working together on security in the Atlantic.