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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 28th March 2016

By DPF Admin1st April 2016August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

This week’s main security and defence news has been the impact that a potential collapse of the UK steel industry could have on the UK defence sector. Lord West, former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff told that BBC that it would be “unforgivable” and “extraordinary” if large scale steel production ended in the UK. Lord West said that all countries that are members of the United Nations Security Council had major steel plants to support their defence industry, and that “when push comes to shove and our backs are to the wall we can still produce things vital to ensure the survival and safety of our population”.

Unnamed senior figures in the defence industry told the BBC that keeping steel production in the UK is “preferable” to sourcing supplies from abroad, and that the manufacturing skills base in the UK would be undermined if the steel industry was wound down. The Government is currently holding talks to find a resolution to the problem, but Prime Minister David Cameron has already made clear that renationalisation is not his preferred option.

Parliament is in recess and will return on 11th April 2016.


Ministry of Defence publishes estate rationalisation plan

The Minister of Defence has published its estate rationalisation plan, which it argues will “create a smaller and significantly better estate that effectively supports our armed forces, and their role in protecting the security, independence and interests of the UK at home and abroad.”

The plan sets out a further ten sites to be released by the MoD, following the initial 12 that were announced on 18 January 2016. The majority of these sites will be sold off for housing development. Included in the list is MoD Wethersfield (Essex), which is the MoD Police’s training facility, and will be redeveloped into 4,850 homes by 2020.

A spokesperson for the MoD told the Essex Chronicle that MoD Wethersfield was identified as a site for potential disposal following consultation with “infrastructure representatives from the site’s users”. They added that releasing MoD Wethersfield “provides an opportunity to increase operational effectiveness through the co-location of similar capabilities”, suggesting that the functions of MoD Wethersfield will be transferred to other yet unspecific locations.

Below is a summary of the other nine sites:

  • Thornhill Barracks (Part of Clayton Barracks, Aldershot)
  • Burgoyne Barracks (Part of Shorncliffe Barracks, Folkestone)
  • Clive Barracks (Tern Hill, Shropshire)
  • Fitz Wygram House, Royal Army Vet Corps (Aldershot)
  • Army Officer Selection Board Westbury (Wiltshire)
  • Defence Training Estate Land near Cove, East of Fleet (Farnborough)
  • Rylston Road Army Reserves Centre (London)
  • Chetwynd Barracks (Chilwell, Nottinghamshire)
  • MOD Cheadle Hulme (Greater Manchester)

In justifying the new wave of estate rationalisation, the MoD said that the current defence estate was established from a “very different era of military capability and need”, with the requirements for the defence estate changing.

The changes follow November 2015’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which directed the MoD to reduce the size of the built estate by 30% by 2040. This included an allocation of £1 billion for estate rationalisation, and £550 million of capital investment to address critical issues in the MOD’s estate infrastructure. The SDSR followed a 2010 report by the National Audit Office, which found substantial reductions in operating costs were required and that a more systematic approach to estate rationalisation should be taken.

The announcement that MoD Wethersfield is to be sold off is significant in the context of questions over the future role of the MDP. We will be highlighting this issue in future dialogues with the MoD and with parliamentarians to help ensure no negative impact on the MDP.


Public sector workers face take-home pay cut from April 2016

Five million public sector workers and one and a half million private sector workers will see their take-home pay cut from April, after a decision made in Budget 2013 to introduce a flat-rate state pension a year earlier than initially planned comes into effect.

The move will see the Treasury raise £5.5 billion because the new system stops people from contracting out the state second pension, which means that workers will have to pay an extra 1.4% of National Insurance on their earnings – the equivalent to a deduction of up to £37 a month. Employers will now have to pay higher National Insurance as well, amounting to 3.4% of their employees’ relevant earnings, as the current practice whereby employees get an NI rebate of 3.4% for contracting out of the second state pension to enter final-salary schemes will be abolished.


Office for Nuclear Regulation warns of attacks against Britain’s nuclear industry

The Office for Nuclear Regulation’s (ONR’s) 2016-20 strategic plan has warned that Britain’s nuclear industry is under threat from cyber-attacks, terrorism and state-sponsored espionage. The ONR said that the capabilities of potential adversaries to operate in cyberspace will “continue to grow”, identifying the risk of “failure to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive information and assets from both known and emerging security threats to the UK nuclear infrastructure”. However, it recognised that the Government and “duty-holders” have “well-developed security capabilities to deter and defend against organisations and individuals that might conspire to attack or exploit the nuclear estate”, adding that the ONR will “continue to work with the Government to ensure that security-focused regulations evolve to remain fit for purpose and align with safety regulation”.

Shadow Energy Minister Clive Lewis responded that, “just as the nuclear regulator is acknowledging the all-to-real threat from terrorism, the Government is cutting back on the police we need to prevent it. He added, “we need investment to ensure energy security in every sense”.

The warnings of cyber attack risks and the security of the UK’s nuclear industry underlines the importance of credible and effective security of nuclear resources – as does the item below regarding updates to the cyber protection of Trident. We will be continuing to highlight the role that civilian policing must play in security through our meetings with parliamentarians – particularly given the potential for civilian protests to coincide with parliamentary debates over the renewal of the deterrent.


Trident software to be upgraded to protect against cyber attack

The Daily Telegraph has reported that the software for the Trident nuclear deterrent system will be updated to protect it from a potential cyber-attack, amid “legitimate concern” amongst defence officials about hackers from Russia, China, groups such as ISIS or organised crime gangs. John Daniels, a spokesman for the US Navy’s nuclear deterrent programme, said that “cyber has become even more important in our national security” – comments that follow warnings by former Defence Secretary Lord Browne of Ladyton that a failure to update would lead to an unreliable deterrent. The software security work will be carried out by BAE Systems.


Ministry of Defence errors cost £344 million in one year

The Daily Star has published an article criticising the Ministry of Defence for wasting up to £344 million in one year, using data from the MoD’s 2014-15 annual report published in December 2015. The Star highlighted that £60 million was lost on bomb detectors, with most of them being destroyed due to technological obsolescence; as well as a £19 million compensation bill for 1,400 service personnel who were wrongly demoted or fired because the MoD failed to implement a law change which meant that troops should not be punished for having a police caution. The Star also identified that £127 million “vanished”, with £1.8 million lost on a cancelled contract. An MoD spokesperson said, “writing off expenditure is sometimes the right decision to take in the interests of value for money in the long term”.

The figures demonstrate the continued susceptibility of the MoD to theft and loss, necessitating a credible civilian police capacity. We will be highlighting this need in future meetings with the MoD and with parliamentarians.


Prime Minister David Cameron announces more armed people to prevent terrorism

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a recruitment drive for 1,000 more armed police in England and Wales by spring 2018 to combat the threat of terrorism. Of the 1,000, 600 will be deployed in London and 400 will be deployed to cities including Manchester and Birmingham. Funding for the increase will come from the £143 million set aside in the Strategic Security and Defence Review (SDSR) to increase armed response capacity. Cameron said that “our police and intelligence agencies work round the clock to keep us safe and it is absolutely vital that we support them with the right resources and kit”, noting that the plans arose from the aftermath of the Paris attacks last November.

The Government has previously announced plans to recruit more armed police officers. It should be noted that this will be an expansion of armed policing capacity rather than reducing the role of non-Home Office forces, i.e. the MDP will still have a critical role in any response to a major incident. We will be continuing to highlight this requirement and resulting need for MDP capacity to also meet MoD security needs in future political engagement.


Ministry of Defence secures improved contact for the operation of nuclear weapon sites

The Ministry of Defence has announced that it has secured an “improved contract” with AWE Management Limited (AWEML) for the management and operation of nuclear weapons sites at Aldermaston, Burghfield and Blacknest. The renegotiation follows a review of the contract and a drive to make the MoD’s commercial partners “perform better”. The updated contract promotes greater risk sharing between the MoD and WEML, with performance incentives as well as penalties if targets are not met.

The contract sees US defence contractor Lockheed Martin, US engineering group Jacobs, and Serco, the UK outsourcing company, continue to play a role in managing the country’s nuclear deterrent. However, Serco and Jacob’s role in the contract has been diluted from a 33.3% involvement each to a 24.5% involvement each, with Lockheed Martin’s stake increasing to 51%. Serco has stressed that the dilution should not impact on its financial performance, and that it hopes to increase its profit margins up to 14%.


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