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Parliamentary Report w/c 28th April

By DPF Admin15th May 2014August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

 

The Houses of Commons returned from Recess for three days this week before rising for May Day Recess on Thursday. Both Houses will resume business on 6 May. 

A Defence Select Committee report has urged the Government to set out a “clearer indication of the circumstances in which the Armed Forces could be committed to military interventions. The Committee urged ministers to clarify the role of Parliament in making decisions about military action, following the Commons vote on Syria. “We do not consider it appropriate for the Government to wait until the next possible military deployment to resolve this issue” the MPs said.

Contents

·      Labour seeks to life “shroud of secrecy” over 2015 strategic defence review

·      Defence Minister says culture of boozing in armed forces has to be reined in

·      MOD moves towards new air defence missile system

Labour seeks to life “shroud of secrecy” over 2015 strategic defence review

The Financial Times reports that Labour is seeking to lift the “shroud of secrecy” placed by ministers over Britain’s next strategic defence review, demanding the publication of 60 questions being posed by officials to determine future threats to the country. Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker wants an open and inclusive debate over Britain’s future role in the world and says the Opposition must be told the parameters of a review scheduled for next year. Jon Thomson, the MOD’s top civil servant, caused surprise in Whitehall when he said last month that the review was being guided by 60 or so questions that need to be explored.

The FT says that Mr Coaker has submitted a FOI request to try to secure the publication of the questions which he believes would be invaluable to public debate. Coaker said that so far the criteria for the review had been shrouded in “secrecy”. He said the last SDSR in 2010 was too rushed and driven solely by “financial considerations”, ignoring significant preparatory work by Labour. However, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has argued that Labour only needed a green paper before the last defence review because it had failed to carry out such an exercise for 12 years, while the Government is committed to a new one every five years. Hammond said that Labour had a “total lack of policy proposals on defence”.

David Cameron has said that Labour can have access to civil servants to advise on preparations for a future government from October, giving the party six months of access to the Whitehall machine before the next election. The move is standard practice before an election, although in previous years – before the introduction of fixed-term parliaments – the times allowed for such contact was as short as three or four months. The Coalition’s last defence review was heavily criticised, including decisions to proceed with the construction of two aircraft carriers – one of which may immediately be mothballed.

Defence Minister says culture of boozing in armed forces has to be reined in

Anna Soubry attended a Defence Select Committee hearing this week on the subject of military casualties. This hearing forms part of the Committee’s inquiry into the Military Covenant in Action. Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter was also in attendance and the inquiry discussed a range of topics, from the treatment of PTSD, domestic violence against armed personnel, and how far reservists were at the same fitness levels as their regular counterparts. There was no specific mention of the MPGS, despite the report in The Independent last week that this would be raised during the hearing.

However, during the hearing Defence Minister Anna Soubry told MPs that a military culture of heavy drinking had seen service personnel drinking to the “point of oblivion”. The Daily Telegraph says this could mark the beginning of the end of heavy drinking culture in the Armed Forces and Soubry admitted to MPs that the Government should do more to rein in the drinking culture. Madeline Moon MP said that one major problem was the prevalence of cheap alcohol on military bases and said that ending the “high level of subsidy” would curb drinking at military bars.

Soubry told the Committee that the incidences of binge drinking, and the quantities of alcohol consumed, were diminishing in society and that she therefore hoped this would be the same in the Armed Forces. Her concerns have been heightened by a coroner’s report into the suicide of a serving service member.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) has been tasked by the MOD with finding ways to cut problem drinking in the forces – and its report is due later this year.

MOD moves towards new air defence missile system

The MOD has announced that the Army is a step closer to receiving a new multi-million-pound air defence missile system. Missile company MBDA UK has been awarded a £36 million contract to explore what capabilities a land version of an air defence system could offer the UK Armed Forces. The future local area air defence system (FLAADS) is a ground-based missile system whose missiles can travel at 1,000 metres per second and is able to simultaneously defend UK territories against a number of threats, including jets or cruise missiles travelling at supersonic speeds. Following the assessment phase, a decision on whether to buy FLAADS as a replacement for Rapier is expected to be made next year. 

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