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Parliamentary Report w/c 17th November 2014

By DPF Admin24th November 2014August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

This week’s main UK defence news has principally emerged from developments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even as the final detachment of Hercules transport aircraft left the former country it was revealed by The Daily Telegraph that around one hundred British Special Forces troops and military intelligence experts will remain in Afghanistan next year after conventional combat forces withdraw, in order to assist elite US troops in their fight against extremist leaders. The decision follows an about-face by Prime Minister David Cameron, who had originally wanted to pull out all Britain’s Special Forces troops from the country when the UK’s combat mission ends next month.

Meanwhile in Iraq, RAF Tornados took part in a raid against an ISIS bunker complex. The attack, supporting a Kurdish ground offensive, took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning in a rural area northwest of Kirkuk. Aircraft armed with Paveway IV precision guided bombs were sent in after intelligence revealed a hidden network of fighting positions and underground facilities.

Also this week, the MoD signed a contract to upgrade the radar of a number of Typhoon fighter aircraft. The RAF took delivery of its first A-40M transport aircraft. And the Daily Mirror reported that an RAF investigation had found that a Voyager in-flight refuelling aircraft almost crashed into a helicopter after an RAF air traffic controller became distracted by the Red Arrows.

Contents

·      Ministry of Defence clarifies role of older recruits to Army Reserves

·      Preferred candidate for MOD Service Complaints Commissioner announced

·      Senior officers warn that one in six police jobs could be cut

·      British troops in Poland warned not to use personal electronic equipment over spy fear

·      Women lack “killer instinct” for combat, says retired Army commander

·      Preferred bidder to run Defence Support Group announced

·      New figures show 25,000 diagnosis of obesity in Armed Forces over last four years

·      Consultation launched on changes to police disciplinary system

Ministry of Defence clarifies role of older recruits to Army Reserves

The Daily Telegraph reports that following last week’s announcement that the upper age limit for former regular army soldiers who wish to join the Army Reserves has been raised from 43 to 52 and the limit for former commissioned officers is now 57 rather than 35, the Government has further clarified how it intends to use older recruits. Defence Minister Julian Brazier MP (Canterbury) (Con), told the House of Commons that older recruits for the Army Reserves will be used for “intelligence” roles, rather than on the battlefield.

The news emerged as the result of a question asked by John Baron MP (Basildon and Billericay) (Con) which requested that the Minister provide an update on Army Reserve recruitment. Mr Brazier told MPs in the House of Commons: “We make no apologies at all for recruiting older people for specialist roles like intelligence, medics and so on where they have specialist skills”, adding: “There is no suggestion, with the new standards we are introducing for medics, for fitness and so on, of having them in the combat arms.” It has recently emerged that the Army Reserve has only increased its net trained strength by twenty individuals over the last year. During the same parliamentary exchange, Shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones MP (North Durham) (Lab) said the poor success rate meant each net new reservist had cost around £2.5 million, given the £50 million contract handed to Capita to run recruitment.

Preferred candidate for MOD Service Complaints Commissioner announced

Your Defence News reports that Nicola Williams, the current Complaints Commissioner for the Cayman Islands, has been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate for the post of Service Complaints Commissioner (SCC). Commenting on the announcement, Defence Minister Anna Soubry MP (Broxtowe) (Con) said: “The MoD is currently taking a Bill through Parliament to strengthen the role of the Service Complaints Commissioner into that of an Ombudsman. This will add a powerful, independent voice to the Armed Forces complaints handling system and ensure all our personnel can have the confidence to raise matters of concern.” 

A pre-appointment scrutiny hearing will be held by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in due course. Hearings are in public and involve the select committee publishing a report setting out their views on the candidate’s suitability for the post. Pre-appointment hearings are non-binding, but Ministers will consider the committee’s views before deciding whether to proceed with an appointment.

Senior officers warn that one in six police jobs could be cut

The Guardian reports that more than 34,000 police jobs – one in six of the total – are expected to go as a result of a new round of deep public spending cuts after the general election, senior officers have warned. Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), says official projections show that a further 20 per cent cut in Home Office funding would inflict much greater damage on frontline policing than so far seen. The expectation that police will face a 20 per cent cut in funding is based on grant reductions recommended by the police watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). But senior Home Office officials have privately told the police in England and Wales that this will not be enough and they should expect and prepare for a deeper 25 per cent cut in Whitehall funding after next May’s election.

The number of police officers has fallen from a peak of 141,600 at the time of the last election to 125,400 in March this year – a loss of 16,000 uniformed officers.

British troops in Poland warned not to use personal electronic equipment over spy fear

The Daily Telegraph reports that British troops on military exercise in Poland have been ordered not to take mobile phones or computers amid fears they will be targeted by Russian cyber spies. Troops have been warned of a “very clear and evident counter-intelligence threat” while they take part in Exercise Black Eagle in south western Poland this month. An armoured battle group of more than 1,300 troops, Challenger tanks and Warrior fighting vehicles is taking part Britain’s biggest Eastern European manoeuvres since 2008.

Women lack “killer instinct” for combat, says retired Army commander

Writing in The Times, Colonel Richard Kemp, who led troops in Afghanistan, has claimed that women lack the “killer instinct” needed to serve on the frontline. He also said that he believed that allowing women to join combat formations – a move which he describes has having a “transparent political agenda” – would “damage the fighting capabilities” as unit “cohesion” would be disrupted. The Daily Mail has this week reported that the government review into whether women should be allowed into front line combat roles is set to be published within weeks.

The Independent reports that when asked for comment on the Colonel’s claims, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: “The review process into women in combat roles is ongoing: no decisions have been made and so any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate. As such, it would be wrong for the department to comment further at this stage.” Women currently make up around nine per cent of total British Armed forces personnel and are integrated into all roles, aside from those on frontline who engage with the enemy.

Preferred bidder to run Defence Support Group announced

The MOD has announced that Babcock is the preferred bidder for the Defence Support Group’s land business. The Defence Minister Philip Dunne MP confirmed that the MoD had selected the 123-year-old engineering services company as the preferred bidder for the Defence Support Group’s (DSG) land business, which maintains the Army’s armoured vehicles and tanks. A sale was first mooted in 2010. DSG’s 2,800 engineers work on servicing, repairs and storage. The MoD has been looking to outsource significant elements of its work in order to save money, but unions and senior personnel in the military are concerned that this could compromise national security.

New figures show 25,000 diagnosis of obesity in Armed Forces over last four years

The Sunday Times reports that more than 25,000 British military personnel have been diagnosed as obese during the past four years. The paper claims that the problem is so serious in the Army that officers have established an “obesity working group” of experts who will look at how to boost fitness and improve soldiers’ knowledge of healthy eating.

Of all service personnel checked between January 2010 and September this year, more than 16,400 soldiers were found to have a body mass index equal or greater than 30kg/m2, the official threshold of obesity. There were a further 3,000 obese sailors and 5,570 obese members of the RAF. Overall, 1,560 obese service personnel were women.

Consultation launched on changes to police disciplinary system

The Home Office has launched a consultation on changes to the police disciplinary system. The consultation proposes:

·      a power for disciplinary hearing panels to remove or adjust the compensation payments due to chief officers on termination of their appointment, where a disciplinary finding is made against them

·      the introduction of legally qualified chairmen/chairwomen to conduct police disciplinary hearings

·      changes to regulations to clarify that whistle-blowers should not be subject to disciplinary action for taking the necessary steps to report a concern and that reprisals against whistle-blowers should be treated as a conduct matter

·      holding police disciplinary hearings and appeals in public

This consultation focuses on reforms that can be made in the short term through changes to the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012. A second consultation later this year will set out longer term reforms to the police disciplinary system, police whistleblowing and the police complaints system. 

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