This week's most important defence-related story has been the recall of Parliament to debate UK’s involvement in the campaign against the Islamic States. The debate and vote on British participation will take place today, but it is only expected that MPs will be asked to approve action against the Islamic State in Iraq as a result of Labour reluctance to endorse action in Syria. Meanwhile, the Syrian element of the anti-Islamic State campaign began on Tuesday with US cruise missile, drone and fighter attacks against targets associated with both the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-linked Khorasan Group. The US was joined in the raids by a number of Arab states.
In other news, it has emerged that last week RAF Typhoon aircraft that have recently relocated from RAF Leuchars to RAF Lossiemouth were launched to meet two Russian Tu-95 ‘Bear’ aircraft as they approached a NATO air defence zone north of the UK. The town of Arnhem saw what is expected to be the final airdrop to commemorate 1944’s Operation Market Garden, with around 200 British paratroopers participating. And an order was placed with the US defence firm Raytheon for twenty Tomahawk cruise missiles for the Royal Navy.
“Tentative offer” made by MoD to DPF over pension terms and conditions
Police Oracle has reported that the MoD has made a ‘tentative’ offer regarding the pensions and retirement ages of Ministry of Defence Police officers, following meetings between MoD officials and the Defence Police Oracle.
No details of the possible settlement have been released, with DPF National Chairman Eamon Keating refusing to comment, beyond confirming that a tentative offer had been made, prior to meeting with Defence Minister Anna Soubry.
The Defence Police Federation has been in regular communication with the MoD since the publication on the pensions and retirement ages of MDP officers in December 2013. We will update members following discussions between the Federation and Anna Soubry.
Defence at the Labour party conference
This week saw the Labour party conference take place in Manchester. The primary defence issue debated was the potential UK role in Iraq and Syria, with Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker telling delegates “We must do everything we can to work with international partners” in the fight against Islamic State militants. His speech to the conference saw him criticise the government for what he referred to as the “financially led” Strategic Defence Security Review (SDSR) 2010 and promising to hold a SDSR that will be strategically-led and financially responsible. He also confirmed plans to make it a legal requirement for an SDSR to be held during every Parliament. However, when pressed by a Forces TV reporter, he was unwilling to commit to either increasing defence spending or meeting the NATO spending target of two per cent of GDP.
The Defence Police Federation has remained in regular contact with the shadow defence team, who are fully aware of the Federation’s concerns over the potential for future funding cuts to the MDP and the risks this might pose to the security of assets and infrastructure. Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle also attended the Federation’s annual conference in June. We will continue to liaise with the shadow defence team ahead of the General Election and subsequent Defence Review.
Data regarding theft of weapons and ammunition from MoD facilities released
Following a freedom of information request, the MoD has released data on how many weapons and rounds of ammunition have been stolen from the MoD over the last four years. The information is as follows:
Number of firearms
Number of rounds of ammunition
2014 (to end of July)
UK to face legal challenge over use of drone aircraft
The Guardian reports that lawyers working with the human rights group Reprieve have signalled their intention to bring a judicial review challenge on behalf of a Yemeni citizen against the MoD if the government does not reveal where its drone fleet will be flown outside of Afghanistan and the UK. The MoD has repeatedly refused to state what it intends to do with the 10 Reaper aircraft – controlled remotely from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and a USAF base in Creech, Nevada – once UK operations in Afghanistan finish in December. The legal threat has emerged as British officials go before the UN's Human Rights Council inquiry in Geneva. The inquiry was launched by Ben Emmerson QC, the UN's special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, to examine the legality of drone strikes.
It should be noted that there is no evidence whatsoever that the UK is operating or is planning to operate unmanned aircraft over Yemen. The most probable destination of any UK Reaper fleet post-Afghanistan deployment is Iraq.
Humberside Police to cut 700 jobs to save £31m
The BBC reports that Humberside Police has announced it will cut 700 jobs as part of its plan to save £31m by 2019. Chief Constable Justine Curran said 200 officer posts and 500 civilian jobs, including about 40 PCSOs, will be axed. The plan will also see the introduction of new shift patterns, the creation of a 'one force' model, and investment in mobile technology. The Police Federation warned the loss of jobs and shift changes would lead to a rise in fatigue and sickness.
MoD Police dog wins national honours
The Western Morning News reports that a police officer from Devon and his dog have been rated as among the best working pairs in the UK after bringing trophies home from two competitions. Ministry of Defence Police dog unit PC Simon Hill and Jura were the first ever from Devonport Naval Base, in Plymouth, to enter the National Police Dog Handling Assessment Finals where they came fourth. Jura has also been named the current British Police and Service Dog of the Year for the second year running.