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Parliamentary Report w/c 28 October

By DPF Admin5th November 2013Latest News

The BBC reports that the 91% of police officers believe the Police Federation has to change. The survey of 12,500 police officers also found 64% are dissatisfied with the performance of the federation. The BBC says an independent review on the Police Federation has found that members are “appalled” at the damage the ‘plebgate affair’ is doing to policing. The police federation called the initial findings “worrying”. The review is examining whether the Police Federation acts as a credible voice for officers, genuinely serves the public food and functions as an organisational democracy. The final report on the Federation is expected in January 2014.

Answers to written questions on MDP pensions and nuclear incidents

  • Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP asked the Secretary of State for Defence:
  1. whether the Government review of the MOD Police and Defence Fire and Rescue Service will take into account the physical implications of a higher retirement age for MDP and DFRS officers;
  1. whether the Government review of the MDP and DFRS pensions will include analysis of the effect of bringing officers’ pension age in line with Home Office officers on those joining the MDP in the future.

Defence Minister Dr Andrew Murrison MP responded that the MOD is currently preparing a report that will be laid before Parliament by 24 December 2013. It will consider the likely effect of section 10 of the Public Service Pensions Act:

  • on the health and wellbeing of members of the DFRS and the MDP
  • on the ability of the DFRS and MDP to continue to meet operational requirements, and
  • the extent to which members of the DFRS and MDP are likely to take early retirement in consequence of section 10 (and on the consequences of taking early retirement for the persons taking it and the taxpayer).
  • Scottish National Party MP Angus Robertson asked the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions code A and code B nuclear incidents have occurred at (a) HM Naval Base Devonport and (b) HM Naval Base Clyde; and what happened in each case in each of the last five years

Defence Minister Philip Dunne MP responded that Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Devonport uses a system that clarifies nuclear events according to even consequence; with code A being the most severe and D the least severe. Mr Dunne stated that a code A event is:

“major impact on safety, environment, or operation and there is no dispute that a detailed investigation will be required”.

Mr Dunne stated that a code B event is:

“significant impact or potential for significant impact on safety or regulatory compliance. Investigation would be required to maintain compliance. Includes Health and Safety Executive reportable events”

Mr Dunne said there have been no code A and five code B nuclear events at HMNB Devonport in the last five years. Mr Dunne provided a table with a summary of the code B events.

Mr Dunne further said that he was withholding details of one further event in 2011, as disclosure would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces. Mr Dunne said that HMNB Clyde uses a similar classification system, but definition of A and B are different. In this case, a category A nuclear events is defined as:

“actual or high potential for radioactive release to the environment or over exposure to radiation”

A category B nuclear event is defined as:

“actual or high potential for a contained release within building or submarine or unplanned exposure to radiation”.

Mr Dunne provided a table with summarised the six code B events at HMNB Clyde.

“actual or high potential for a contained release within building or submarine or unplanned exposure to radiation.”

The International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) is an internationally recognised scale for classifying nuclear events, with Level 7 being the most severe and Level 1 the least severe. A Level 1 event is defined as being one of the following:

“Overexposure of a member of the public to excess of the statutory annual limits. Minor problems with safety components with significant defence-in-depth remaining. Low activity loss or stolen radioactive sources, device or transport package.”

All of the nuclear events listed for HMNB Devonport were assessed as “below scale” on INES with the exception of the nuclear event in 2010. This was assessed as Level 1, indicating that there were other levels of safety inbuilt into the process. All of the nuclear events for HMNB Clyde were assessed as “below scale” on INES. In retrospect, both of the crane events in 2009 were over-categorised and should have been Category C events.

  • Scottish National Party MP Angus Robertson asked the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 16 October 2013 on nuclear submarines, on what dates the power failure incidents occurred; what the rating was for each incident on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale; which submarines were involved in each incident; and if he will place in the Library the lessons learned the review conducted for each incident.

Defence Secretary Philip Dunne MP provided a table with details of the four events involving the loss of electrical power to a nuclear submarine’s reactor cooling systems, when in port. Mr Dunne said that all the events were rated as ‘below scale; on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), because they had no safety significance when assessed against the criteria for rating events on the INES.

Mr Dunne also said that he was withholding placing the reports into the Library of the House as their release would prejudice the capability, effectiveness and security of the armed forces.

Questions on MDP pensions awaiting written answer

Subsequent to our correspondence, Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid has tabled the following questions:

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether the review of the pension ages of the MDP and the DFRS will consider the cost of individuals’ pension contributions and existing net pay deductions; and if he will make a statement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Answer of 9 July 2013, on pensions, when he intends to place in Library the terms of reference for the review of the pension ages of the MDP and DFRS.

Short debate on redundancies in the Armed Forces

This week, the House of Lords held a short debate on redundancies in the Armed Forces. Introducing the debate, Labour Peer Lord Touhig highlighted the huge personnel challenges facing the Armed Forces as described recently by Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Houghton.

  • Lord Touhig said there had been an ill-conceived approach in the treatment of soldiers and highlighted the circumstances of personnel being made redundant days before qualifying for a full pension. Lord Touhig also mentioned the difficulties being encountered in reservist recruitment.
  • Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Palmer said that in terms of morale, “it’s not about individual happiness but the ability to endure in times of real austerity, endure through times of hostility, in times of pressure”. Lord Palmer praised the Armed Forces for showing resilience.
  • Lord West of Spithead, the former First Sea Lord and a former security minister, said the “shabby” treatment of troops had made “nonsense of the military covenant”.
  • Responding to the debate on behalf of the Government, Defence Minister Lord Astor of Hever said that ministers “have work to do” to address unhappiness among military personnel. Lord Astor said it would be wrong not to admit that headcount reductions and pay restraint “have impacted adversely on morale”. Lord Astor also said that he took the issue “very seriously” but warned that exempting soldiers from redundancy in order to enable them to reach pension points would involve selecting others to go in their place, which was “not considered fair”. He went on to say that the Armed Forces redundancy schemes recognise those who miss out on immediate incomes “by paying them specifically enhanced tax-free redundancy compensations schemes”.

Hammond confident of reserve recruitment plan

The Times reports that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond MP is confident in the ability of the Army to ensure sufficient reservist recruitment. Mr Hammond said the target of 30,000 reservists by 2018 was reachable and that the force would be “critical to mounting military operations in the future”. Mr Hammond said the Army was used to challenges and over time more interested individuals will be converted into trainees in the pipeline and will be delivered as trained reservists in a couple of years’ time.

The comments come as last month, a leaked MOD memo warned of the impact of defence cuts and a “hostile recruiting environment” on reserve recruitment. Several high profile defence figures, including former Defence Secretary Liam Fox MP have also made warnings over the pace of recruitment. The former head of Britain’s Armed Forces, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, is the most recent figure to add his name to the debate, by warning that cuts in the ranks of the Army should be put on hold until more reservists can be recruited. Former Defence Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP has also recently said that there are “serious questions marks” about the Army Reserve plan.

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