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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 26th January 2015

By DPF Admin3rd February 2015August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

This week’s UK defence news has centred on the issue of the MoD’s finances. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon MP has stated that the MoD must prepare to sell off airfields, old barracks, military vehicles and some of its fifteen golf courses to help keep the Armed Forces “fighting fit” and supply those on the front-line with the equipment they need. Speaking to the Institute for Government in London, he said: “We have got rid of old property we don’t need. Whether it’s an old barracks, a country house, some polo fields, the Old War Office or Brompton Road tube station sold for £53m. That approach has generated sales of nearly £380 million.” He added that the MoD also needs to “ask more questions about our assets”, including its ownership of 57 separate sites within the M25, whilst asking how many airfields and military vehicles are needed. The plan provoked an editorial in The Daily Telegraph, which warned the Defence Secretary that whilst he is right to concentrate on cutting waste, he must take care not to lose sight of the bigger picture with regards to necessary military capabilities.

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph also reports that the MoD has been accused of financial mismanagement for giving back nearly £400 million of unspent budget to the Treasury. Ministers have previously admitted an underspend of more than £3 billion since 2010, but have said they were able to roll the money forward into the defence budget for future years. The MoD did not deny handing the money back and did not explain how the underspend had happened. The £400 million is equivalent to at least five new F-35 stealth fighters or at least one new Type 26 frigate. According to government estimates, it is enough to run a light infantry battalion for nearly 14 years.

Contents

·       Plan to train additional armed police for deployment in London

·       Major cuts to Army senior officer numbers planned

·       Survey suggests majority of Scottish public support arming police

·       Questions on the Ministry of Defence Police pensions answered in the House of Commons

·       Question on Ministry of Defence Police activities in France answered in the House of Commons

·       Chairman of DPF raises concerns over security of Armed Forces families

·       Protection Command officer to sue over excess work hours

·       Rally against Trident wraps MoD main building in giant scarf

·       Report that MoD spied on injured personnel over fraud fears

Plan to train additional armed police for deployment in London

The Evening Standard reports that Scotland Yard is set to train hundreds more officers as a reserve firearms unit to deal with a possible terrorist gun attack on London. Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the force was reviewing the number of armed officers in the wake of the Paris attacks. He admitted the number of police marksmen had fallen in recent years and said one option was to train members of the Territorial Support Group as a firearms reserve. Sir Bernard said the Met had deployed more armed officers on London’s streets to protect key sites. He added that there are ongoing discussions with the Government over more funding for counter-terror operations. Police need “tens of millions” of pounds more, he said.

Major cuts to Army senior officer numbers planned

The Times reports that plans are being drawn up to reduce the number of Army senior commanders. General Sir Nicholas Carter, the new head of the Army, intends to make the force more professional and reduce bureaucracy; this means that many of Britain’s roughly 500 colonels and 200 brigadiers and generals will be cut. The move will ensure that the Army, which is shrinking to 82,000 from 102,000 five years ago, is more streamlined, like its United States counterpart. The 500,000-strong US Army has only about 310 officers ranked brigadier-general (the US equivalent of brigadier) and above. General Carter also wants to stop the rise of “yes men”, who are rewarded for conforming rather than daring to tell their military and political masters uncomfortable truths. Parts of the force are thought at present to operate like a “self-licking lollipop”, with officers and civil servants generating work for the sake of it. In addition, the general is seeking to break a culture of loyalty to regiments that prompts some senior officers to put the interests of their “tribe” before those of the wider force, the senior defence sources and Whitehall insiders told the newspaper.

Survey suggests majority of Scottish public support arming police

The BBC reports that just over half of respondents have backed the routine arming of firearms officers in a study commissioned by a police body. The survey of 1,000 people by the Scottish Police Authority suggested 53 per cent were supportive of the policy. Almost one in three said it increased their confidence in the police.  In October last year, following growing criticism from politicians and civic society, Police Scotland decided to back down on the controversial policy, which had allowed trained firearms officers to carry side arms while on routine patrols on Scotland's high streets. The survey, carried out in November of last year, found one in five people said it had had a negative impact on their view of the police. Some 48 per cent said it had not affected their confidence in the force.

Meanwhile, the report into the impact on the public of Police Scotland’s decision in 2013 to authorise its trained Armed Response Vehicle officers to operate under a Firearms Standing Authority which prompted the survey has been published. The report stated that Police Scotland had failed to adequately communicate the policy change to the public, and underestimated the community feelings that would be generated among a significant minority of the population from armed police officers being sent to routine calls and incidents. The report recommended that Police Scotland increase its engagement with both the Scottish Police Authority and the communities in which it operates in any similar future ‘non time-critical’ adjustments to the standing authority, deployment, or mode of carriage of firearms.

Questions on the Ministry of Defence Police pensions answered in the House of Commons

This week has seen a series of questions concerning the state of negotiations over MDP pensions answered, all of which were submitted on behalf of the Defence Police Federation (DPF) by Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP. Three of the questions were asked of the Defence Secretary, and enquired as to what assessment had been made of the suitability of the new Civil Service Pensions Scheme for MDP officers; what assessment has been made of the proposals of the DPF on MDP pensions; and when the department plans to confirm future arrangements for MDP pensions.

Answering on behalf of the Defence Secretary, Defence Minister Anna Soubry MP said that a review conducted by the department on the likely effect of the new Civil Service Pensions Scheme on the MDP had been published in 2013. With regards to the negotiations themselves, Ms Soubry said that the proposals put forward by the DPF in respect of MDP pensions have and will be reflected in ongoing consultations, and that she hoped that the department would be able to confirm the future arrangements for MDP pensions soon.

While disappointing that the Minister was either unwilling or unable to commit to a firm timeline, the questions tabled by Ms Doyle are helpful in demonstrating to the Government that it can expect continued scrutiny over its inability to resolve the pensions issue within a reasonable period. The DPF is continuing to engage with parliamentarians on this issue and recently briefed members of the Defence Select Committee. We are aware that the Committee’s chairman has subsequently written to the Minister on the issue to pursue an urgent resolution.

A fourth question, also tabled by Gemma Doyle MP, asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office what discussions Ministers and officials in his department have had with their counterparts in the MoD on MDP pensions. Francis Maude MP responded by saying that details of such internal discussions are not normally disclosed.

As part of the DPF’s ongoing parliamentary activity, we are engaging with parliamentarians to encourage them to demand a firm timeline for a decision from the Minister.

Question on Ministry of Defence Police activities in France answered in the House of Commons

UKIP MP Douglas Carswell has had his written question to the Defence Secretary, asking how many MDP officers were tasked in support of border controls for the UK Border Agency in northern France during 2013, answered by Defence Minister Anna Soubry MP.

Ms Soubry said that a total of 98 Ministry of Defence Police officers were deployed to Northern France at various times during 2013 in support of border controls for the UK Border Force.

Chairman of DPF raises concerns over security of Armed Forces families

Following his interview by The Mail on Sunday’s defence correspondent Mark Nicol, the newspaper has featured a story on DPF chairman Eamon Keating’s fears regarding the vulnerability of forces families to attack by terrorists and criminals whilst in their homes. The MDP used to provide security to 60 married quarters, but after 1,800 posts were axed by the MoD in 2012, security patrols ceased at 44 of those. Mr Keating told The Mail on Sunday: “I am incredibly concerned about how easy it would be for someone to attack a soldier’s home”, adding that “Married quarters have been put last in the list of security priorities, even though personnel and their families are the foundation of our Armed Forces.”

This interview took place as part of the DPF’s ongoing efforts to highlight the value of the MDP via the media.

Protection Command officer to sue over excess work hours

The Mail on Sunday reports that an officer from the Royal Protection branch of the Met’s Protection Command is to sue the organisation, claiming he is being forced to work too many hours. The officer triggered a probe into the Metropolitan Police by the Health and Safety Executive after complaining his shifts were longer than EU rules allow. Now he has launched an unprecedented case against the Met about his hours and overtime pay. Sources told the newspaper that the officer, still working for the Met, is likely to win a substantial out-of-court settlement in order to prevent the sensitive work of the Royal Protection squad, SO14, being discussed in open court. Britain’s largest force admitted it had not been good enough at checking officers’ hours, with a spokesman stating that: “The Metropolitan Police Service acknowledges that the monitoring of officers’ hours was not as robust as it could have been”.

Rally against Trident wraps MoD main building in giant scarf

The Evening Standard reports that thousands of anti-nuclear activists called on the Government to “wrap up” the Trident nuclear programme this week during a major demonstration in central London.  They wrapped a huge pink-coloured scarf, knitted by people across the world, around the MoD main building as part of the protest. Thousands of supporters of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) joined the protest, which also involved a rally opposite Parliament. The protest came just days after a debate was held in the Commons on the future of Trident. Only 37 MPs backed a motion urging the Government to abandon plans to renew Trident, which CND said showed the “gulf” between Westminster and the British public.

Report that MoD spied on injured personnel over fraud fears

The Daily Express has reported that official figures have revealed that nearly 100 injured military personnel and civil servants have been spied on since 2008, with each surveillance operation costing the taxpayer £1,800 and usually run over a two-day period. Defending the practice, Defence Minister Philip Dunne MP said: “Surveillance in public places only, or monitoring of publicly available social online networks, is occasionally undertaken to establish the true extent of injuries alleged in common law compensation claims in cases where there is a reasonable suspicion about the veracity of a claim, or where medical evidence suggests the claimant’s disability is wholly inconsistent with the type of injury.” The occasions where surveillance was used represent less than one per cent of military compensation claims brought against the MoD, he added.

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