Parliament was recalled by the Prime Minister on Thursday to debate the Government’s motion on Syria and the use of chemical weapons. The motion expressed support for military action in Syria if this was backed up by evidence from the United Nations’ weapon inspectors, who are currently investigating an apparent chemical attack against civilians which took place in that country. The motion was however defeated, with 285 MPs voting against and 272 voting in favour. David Cameron has said he will respect the result of the vote and the Government “will act accordingly”, as reported by the BBC.
The House of Commons will now officially return from its summer recess on Monday, while the House of Lords will remain in recess until October 8th.
Notice of Written Questions on lost or stolen equipment
Labour MP Madeleine Moone has tabled a number of written questions asking the Secretary of State for Defence:
(1) how many items were lost at COD Donnington and COD Bicester since September 2012;
(2) what the value of items lost at COD Donnington and COD Bicester was since September 2012;
(3) at what point lost items of equipment are considered to have been stolen;
(4) what criteria are used for determining whether lost items should be written off or considered a theft; and
(5) if he will publish details of the auditing processes for COD Donnington and COD Bicester.
Latest round of Army redundancies prompts concerns of falling morale
The Daily Telegraph published an article highlighting that a breakdown of the statistics on the latest round of Army redundancies shows how there were more soldiers applying for a redundancy package in June (6,210) than actual redundancies (4,450). Commanders were said to be “surprised” by the number of applications for voluntary redundancy, which was far higher than in earlier rounds; and according to the newspaper, army insiders argued this could be due to falling morale amongst troops. The demand to leave was higher amongst officers, with 380 applications and 240 redundancies.
Former commander Col Richard Kemp was quoted in the article saying that “many soldiers now viewed the Army as a declining industry”, and warning that it would be “incredibly difficult” to replace the experience held by those now leaving. An MOD spokesperson was also quoted saying that the last round of redundancies had been the largest to date, and it was to be expected that more soldiers would apply for this tranche.
Fire Brigades Union’s members vote for industrial action over pensions
The BBC reports that members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have voted in favour of industrial action, potentially triggering the first national firefighters’ strike in more than a decade. The union is protesting against changes being brought in by the Government, which would see firefighters getting their full pension at 60. The FBU argues that many firefighters would not be able to maintain the required fitness until that age and could potentially lose “thousands of pounds” by retiring early.
The Government is opposing the FBU’s action, arguing that firefighters would “still get one of the most generous public service pensions available”, but industrial action could take place by the end of September if the FBU decided to go ahead with their protest.
Around 900 Army personnel prosecuted in the past 20 months, figures reveal
The Daily Mirror reports that new figures released by the MOD show that around 900 forces personnel have been prosecuted since November 2011. Absence without leave is the most recurring offence in military courts with 407 cases, but more serious cases include a sergeant sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexual activity with a child, and a lance-corporal jailed for seven years for rape. The full data on court martial results is available here.