The Times reports that the number of soldiers complaining about bullying, harassment and discrimination has risen sharply over the past year, which it says undermines claims by the Army about being tough on bullies. The Service Complaints Commissioner has criticised the Army for taking far too long to resolve complaints and its report showed that the overall number of complaints made by Army personnel was up 12% from 2012, of which only a quarter were resolved within a 24-week target. 118 soldiers complained about being harassed, up six-fold from the previous year and the number of soldiers complaining about discrimination was up four-fold at 66. The number of complaints about bullying rose by a third to 133.
Responding to the findings, Defence Minister Anna Soubry said the Army had made progress in dealing with complaints but said there was “still a long way to go” before there was a fair and efficient system. Ms Soubry said the MOD will consider fully the findings and recommendations made in this report.
- Answers to written questions on defence
- Conservative MPs jostle for Chairmanship of the Defence Select Committee
- Defence Select Committee publishes report on UK deterrence
Answers to written questions on defence
- Labour MP Madeline Moon asked the Defence Secretary if he will take steps to bring the Service Police Force under the remit of the IPCC.
Defence Minister Anna Soubry said she could confirm that the scope for independent oversight of complaints against the Service police forces is currently under consideration. No decisions have yet been taken, including on the question of whether the IPCC would be best placed to provide such oversight.
While the question appears to refer to the Royal Military Police rather than the MDP, it is useful to note that Madeline Moon, a member of the Defence Select Committee, has tabled numerous questions on the subject of offences committed within the Armed Forces, how they are investigated, and the oversight of these investigations. Whitehouse will prepare a letter from the Federation to Ms Moon, setting out the MDP’s governance and complaints procedures.
- Labour MP for Glenrothes Lindsay Roy asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what his policy is on the cost of the decommissioning and safe dismantling of the remains of the nuclear powered submarines anchored at Rosyth, if Scotland votes for independence.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said that the MOD’s Submarine Dismantling Project aims to deliver a safe, secure, environmentally responsible and cost-effective solution for dismantling the UK’s nuclear powered submarines, including those in afloat storage at Rosyth and Devonport dockyards.
Mr Mundell said the UK Government is not planning for Scottish independence and has not conducted work to consider the implications that independence would have for submarine dismantling. He added that it was in everyone’s interest for dismantling to take place as soon as possible.
- Shadow Defence Minister Alison Seabeck asked the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of staff in Defence Equipment and Support who will see their terms and conditions change as a result of introducing the private sector into the procurement process.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said the terms and conditions of Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) staff will not change as a result of the recruitment of managed service providers to support the acquisition process.
Conservative MPs jostle for Chairmanship of the Defence Select Committee
The BBC reports that electioneering has commenced over who will take James Arbuthnot’s place as Chair of the Defence Committee. The BBC says that there are many candidates for the job and but no clear front-runner. The political parties will be holding internal debates to help determine their preferred candidates. Under the agreement of committee chairs at the start of the 2010 parliament, the chair of the Defence Committee goes to a Conservative, but the whole house is eligible to decide which Conservative gets the job.
BBC Parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy highlights that at Defence questions on Monday 17th March, proceedings were dominated by potential contenders for the role, like Sir Edward Leigh, Dr Julian Lewis, Crispin Blunt and Tobias Ellwood. D’Arcy says he believes the front-runner is Keith Simpson, currently Parliamentary Private Secretary to William Hague, but also a military historian and former Sandhurst lecturer. Simpson is popular figure, well-liked by Conservative colleagues and able to reach across the party divide to Labour voters. Another leading candidate is Julian Lewis, a former shadow defence minister and an acknowledged defence expert.
From within the membership of the Defence Committee itself, Julian Brazier, James Gray and Bob Stewart are all said to be interested in taking the Chair. Mr Gray has credit for revamping the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, while Bob Stewart has cross-party appeal.
We will keep you updated on the progress of selection for a new chair of the Defence Select Committee.
Defence Select Committee publishes report on UK deterrence
The Defence Select Committee has published a report on Deterrence in the twenty-first century. The Committee says that any proposed reductions in conventional capabilities must be taken in the context of retaining a deterrent that is of proportionate scale to deter the attack in question and carry out any threatened response. The report lists four types of threat to the UK which require deterrence: International terrorism, cyber-attack, nuclear attack and tier three risks (conventional military threats). The report says that the deterrence of threats to national interests is made more complex by the greater significance of asymmetric threats compared to the Cold War strategic context, which is still a concept fundamental to national security. The Committee recommends that the Government use the 2015 Defence and Security Review (DSR) to analyse how asymmetric threats are deterred.
The Committee additionally highlighted concerns over comments by former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates about the UK’s value as a military partner for the US in the wake of defence cuts – which it says illustrates deterioration in perceptions abroad of the UK’s military capabilities. The Committee said that NATO was a ‘cornerstone’ of UK deterrence and recommended that the MOD set out in the 2015 Defence and Security Review the contribution provided by the NATO Alliance to the deterrence of threats identified in the National Security Strategy.
The Committee concluded that both nuclear and conventional deterrence have an important place in the defence philosophy of the UK and will increasingly be a component of a complex security strategy, designed for a world which is multi-polar, less stable, and where the certainties of identifying an aggressor may be reduced.