Speaking in a debate on defence in the House of Commons, the Defence Minister with responsibility for the MDP, Tobias Ellwood, said in that two percent of GDP, referring to NATO requirements for member countries’ defence spending, is not enough to cover the needs of the MoD. This was followed two days later by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond giving his first indication that he would increase defence funding, as he answered an oral question in the Commons by Defence Select Committee member Johnny Mercer. This news comes as the Modernising Defence Programme gets underway, which is reviewing defence spending and priorities and is due to report in July. The Defence Select Committee has also announced the launch of an inquiry on the Modernising Defence Programme and issued a call for written evidence that the DPF is reviewing.
Prominent military figures have publicly called for more defence funding in order for the Armed Forces to be able to fulfil its duty if protecting the UK and her allies. The Vice Chief of Defence Staff, General Gordon Messenger and former Chief of Defence Staff Lord Richards have both said that a continued lack of funding could result in the UK losing its military standing in the international arena.
The British Transport Police Authority has appointed a new chairperson this week. Former RAF Officer Ron Barclay-Smith will begin a four-year term from the 5th March. He was previously a non-executive director at the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and has also worked in the health and legal sectors.
Parliamentary question on MDP pensions arrangements answered
DPF supporter Stewart McDonald, the SNP defence spokesman and MP for Glasgow South, tabled a written parliamentary question to the Cabinet Office which has been answered this week. Mr McDonald asked “with reference to the Ministry of Defence Committee Report 2017, what assessment has been made of the potential merits of introducing an enhanced effective pension age of 60 years for Ministry of Defence Police officers.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office, Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, answered on behalf of the Government saying, “Treasury and Cabinet Office Ministers have previously given consideration to the merits of introducing an enhanced effective pension age of 60 years for Ministry of Defence Policy Officers, but have not been minded to make such a change.”
This question raised the MDP Committee’s most recent report, published in January 2018, to the Cabinet Office. The report recommends that Treasury reconsiders implementing an enhanced effective pension age of 60 years “at an appropriate stage” in the future, and expressed “disappointment” that it had not chosen to do so this year.
While the Government’s response is undesirable, the tabling of the question will help ensure MDP pensions remain an issue for the MoD, Treasury and Cabinet Office – particularly giving the staying of legal proceedings on public sector pension cases last month, pending appeals on cases regarding firefighters and the judiciary. Stewart McDonald sponsored the DPF’s parliamentary reception in December and we are grateful for his continued support.
Defence Minister demands more money for MoD
During a debate about defence estimates in the House of Commons this week, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood – who has responsibility for the MDP – said that “two percent is just not enough” referring to the NATO requirement that members spend a minimum of two percent of their GDP on defence. Mr Ellwood noted that the UK needed to acknowledge that “the world has become more dangerous since the publication of the 2015 SDSR,” and that Government spending and policy needed to reflect that. He said that “it has always been in our nation’s DNA to step forward […] to help to shape the world around us. However, to continue to do so will require investment” as he referred to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s words to the Defence Select Committee last week that two percent was a floor and not a ceiling.
Mr Ellwood thanked HM Treasury for providing an “extra £200m window” to allow the MoD to “close the books” on the 2017-18 financial year, but highlighted the increased “financial pressure” stemming from a devalued pound increasing the price of international equipment procurement. This had resulted in reduced hours of military helicopter flying time and a delay in the repair of Type 45 destroyer engines. The MoD’s annual defence budget is due to be published in the coming months, and a delay of publication could further delay the Department’s activity and subsequently undermine its capability.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “The Chancellor cares deeply about defence.”
Vice Chief of Defence staff calls for more funding for the Armed Forces
Sir Gordon Messenger, Vice-Chief of Defence Staff, was interviewed by Deborah Hayes, Defence Editor at The Times this week in which he said warned that the lack of funding for the Armed Forces could lead to a military defeat in future disputes. He said that spending on defence and equipment by other states, such as Russia and North Korea, “need to be countered” in order for the UK to fulfil its “duty” as “a key influential nation.”
General Messenger, who is a frontrunner to succeed Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach as General Chief of Defence Staff this summer, warned that the country must be prepared for a “deterioration in the international arena” within the next 10 to 15 years. He said: “Defence affordability is not something we should shy away from […] We should be making the case for a bigger defence budget in order to respond to those types of threats that are changing all of the time.”
He said that the UK needed to “wake up to the idea” of using data and data protection in defence matters in order to empower the UK to “respond faster through clever decision-making.” This was followed by a suggestion that troops could be trained to use Twitter. He said having a “variety of means” by which to target the enemy means that “you are able to write the rules of the battlefield.” Information being appropriated as a weapon would also result in some military equipment becoming less relevant.
In response to the interview, an editorial in The Times says that the UK “has to fight against the pernicious idea that defence spending is a mere footnote to the chunky health and welfare budgets” as it calls for “investment in cyber and electronic warfare, fusing together all the information it produces and channeling it as useful intelligence to British troops to give them the edge on the battlefield and beyond.”
Former Chief of Defence Staff claims a fifth of British troops are unfit for combat
The Daily Express has reported that Former Chief of Defence Staff Lord (David) Richards has criticised proposed further defence cuts as “a serious mistake” as he claimed that the UK was at risk of becoming “militarily and strategically insignificant,” likening it to becoming “Belgium with nukes.” He said that the Government should be investing in the Armed Forces as part of “a post-Brexit grand strategy.”
Lord Richards highlighted figures recently published by the MoD that show that 20 percent of full-time military personnel are not “medically fully deployable,” which equates to 27,000 troops of an Armed Forces whose size is already under threat because of proposed funding cuts.
Lord Richards said: “There’s always a proportion not deployable on operations, usually around 10 per cent. Actually, the figure is nearer 20 per cent. It’s only now we realise the situation is worse even than we had feared and the Armed Forces and our political leaders must factor that into their strategy.”
Chancellor indicates military will get more money
When answering oral questions to HM Treasury in the House of Commons a day after the debate on defence spending, Chancellor Philip Hammond made his first indication that he might increase defence funding in order to reduce the hole in the defence budget. Defence Select Committee member, Johnny Mercer, who is an outspoken advocate of increasing the defence budget, asked the Chancellor whether he would “confirm that he has agreed with the Secretary of State for Defence that there will be no further reductions in capability while the modernising defence review takes place, and that the money required to do that, in the region of £2 billion, will be forthcoming?”
Mr Hammond referred to his three years as Defence Secretary from 2011 to 2014 in explaining that he understood the complexity of managing the defence budget. He said: “I yield to no one in my admiration for the work of our armed forces” before saying he is working with the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary to “ensure that defence has the funding it needs to continue to defend this country appropriately.”
Soar in Metropolitan Police firearms transferees
The number of Metropolitan Police firearms officers transferring out of the Force has significantly increased in three years. The figures, which were disclosed in the Metropolitan Police’s submission to the police pay review body, show that one officer transferred in 2015, compared with 15 in 2017. The number of constables transferring out of the Met increased 183 percent and the number detective constables transferring has increased by 59 percent. Overall, the Met has experienced a 126 percent increase in officers transferring to other forces, compared with the national average which is a decrease of 44 percent. The average service is just over nine years, which equates to over 7,300 years of policing experience.
The cost of losing expertise and retraining “can be considerable” according to the submission, which also said that the figures are a “worrying indication of the potential underlying issues” such as pay and pension conditions.
Chief Executive of the Police Firearms Officers Association, Mark Williams, said that a primary motivator for officers leaving is their search for cheaper house prices. He noted that firearms officers are in demand and transferring is a smooth process, which also encourages officers to leave the capital.