The Government has relaunched the competition to build ‘budget frigates’ for the Royal Navy, after the process was halted last month due to the high number of “insufficient compliant bids”, according to Naval chiefs. The Defence Equipment & Support organisation has issued notice that it plans to hold a short period of market engagement with companies that have expressed an interest in the type 31e program. The type 31e is a key part of the Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy which aims to create local competition across UK shipyards. Major contenders include Harlan and Wolff and Cammell Laird, based on the river Mersey.
The first type 31e is expected to go into service in 2023, with the last joining the fleet five years later, With the Ministry of Defence determining that the class must be built in UK shipyards. The type 31e is planned to carry out maritime security tasks, releasing larger warships for more complex roles. Originally the Navy were planning to build 13 Type 26 vessels, but the scheme was abandoned following the 2015 Strategic Defence Review.
- Strength of UK Forces Service Personnel tumbles
- Home Secretary at loggerheads with Commissioner over spit hoods
- Police warn society beginning to breakdown
- BTP – Police Scotland merger halted
Strength of UK forces tumbles
New figures released show that the total strength of the UK Forces Service Personnel declined between July 2017 and 2018 by over 3,500, whilst the number of individuals joining the Regular Armed Forces dropped by seven per cent in the same period. UK Forces Personnel now has a strength of just 192,000, with over 15,000 soldiers, sailors and pilots leaving the UK Regular Armed Forces over the year to July. In part, the reduction in numbers correlates to the ambitions of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, as well as Future Force 2020, both of which planned to reduce the size of Service Personnel with the aim of achieving an “agile, capable and globally deployable Armed Force”.
The Armed Forces are currently mid-way through a recruitment drive. Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said that the “horrific bureaucracy” involved in the recruitment process meant many new applicants hadn’t yet been processed through the system. In response to the statistics, the Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffith, called on the Government to review its contract with Capita, which she claimed was failing to deliver sufficient recruits for the Armed Forces.
As part of its key messaging, the DPF highlights the importance of ensuring the Armed Forces are well-manned, and that the Ministry of Defence has the capacity to protect the UK. As ever, we will continue to liaise with the MoD and Nia Griffith, to ensure that increasing the number of recruits and successfully processing them remains a priority.
Home Secretary at loggerheads with Commissioner over spit hoods
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is at loggerheads with the Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Cressida Dick over the use of spit hoods on frontline policing. Speaking to the Police Federation, Mr Javid said that it was “ridiculous” that the Metropolitan police had not fully adopted the use of spit hoods, especially given that 30 of the 43 forces in England and Wales had already issued the equipment to front-line officers. Commissioner Dick recently confirmed that spit guards would be limited to their current use in custody suites, after the London force ran a lengthy trial.
The decision to limit their use has caused widespread outrage amongst some staff and politicians. Ken Marsh, the Metropolitan Police Federation Chair, branded the decision “absurd” and insisted that his colleagues “deserve as much protection as we can give them”. British Transport Police operating within London are authorised to use the spit hoods, but Commissioner Dick refused a city-wide rollout, a move welcomed by the civil liberties group Liberty. Gracie Bradley, Advocacy Manager at Liberty, said police officers already had “many tools at their disposal to defend and protect themselves.”
Susan Hall, a Conservative member of the London Assembly, has called on Sadiq Khan, who has oversight of policing, to step in and reverse the “deeply disappointing” decision. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s office said that the use of spit guards would continue to be monitored.
Society is breaking down, warns Police
Police officers are operating amid a “breakdown in society” in which violence and anti-social behaviour are commonplace, and the public has become immune to the rising crime around them, the chief of London’s Police Federation has warned. Ken Marsh, who was speaking after a case of anti-social behaviour in the Hackney branch of McDonald’s led to an attack and heckling of police, demanded stronger punishments for individuals who attack officers. He also branded cuts to police budgets as “bonkers”.
Mr Marsh said, “There is an element of people out there who just have no respect whatsoever”, adding “Social workers go home at five o’clock and we are left to pick up the pieces, mental health patients are all thrown out on the streets and we are left to pick up the pieces”. The news of the attack, as well as Marsh’s comments, come in the same week that it has been revealed that one third of neighbourhood police officers had been reassigned to other duties or left their jobs altogether.
In response to the rise in crime, London MP Chuka Umunna, said that violence should be treated as a pubic health issue. Mr Umunna, a member of the government’s Serious Violence Taskforce, suggested that the increase in dangerous behaviour, drug charges, and violent crime was a product of the environment young people are growing up in, saying “A lot of the young people involved in this [violence] are excluded from schools”, adding that society needed to make sure that “they have access to opportunities”.
Police merger on hold
We reported last week that there was widespread speculation about whether the Scottish government would abandon plans to merge Police Scotland and the British Transport Police. The Scottish government has now confirmed it is putting the restructure on hold, and is instead launching a review to “explore further options” on how to deliver devolution on railway policing.
Scottish Justice Secretary, Hamza Yousaf, added that the “absolute priority of all involved is the safety and security of officers, and those who use Scotland’s railways”, adding that he “remain committed” to the goal of full integration of the two forces. However, he has been accused of a “humiliating climbdown” by Scottish Labour, and now the Scottish Justice Committee is calling on Mr Yousaf to come forward and explain his decisions to place the merger on hold.
Staff associations have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to scrap the integration, and have claimed that no substantive business case had been made for the merger. Whilst the Scottish Government has claimed that any move to join the two forces together would create more transparent and accountable police forces, it has been argued that the process could be costly, with the merged force relying on the British Transport Police for technology, funding and data access.