The first of the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers was named by the Queen at Rosyth today. The BBC reports that the event comes just over two months before the Scottish independence referendum, with a number of Scottish shipyard workers saying they will vote ‘No’ in order to safeguard their jobs. There has been continued speculation of the impact separation will have on the Scottish defence industry, which largely relies on contracts from the MOD. The UK government says it will not build any future warships in an independent Scotland but nationalists point out that the UK already buys planes and other elements of its defence arsenal from other countries
· Answers to written questions on Defence
· UK must remain a nuclear power to ward off potential threats says cross-party commission
· Defence Select Committee announces scrutiny of Future Force 2020
· Civil servants to be encouraged to join Army Reserve
Answers to written questions on Defence
· Green Party MP Caroline Lucas asked the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons a review of the scope of Project Pegasus is being undertaken at the Atomic Weapons Establishment; and what changes he expects to be made to the scope of the project as a result of the review.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said that Project Pegasus is the replacement of the highly enriched uranium component manufacturing and storage facility, and forms part of the Government’s programme of investment in the AWE sites. Dunne said that in accordance with normal industry best practice, the project is under regular review to ensure that the facility will meet the MOD’s requirements while also achieving the optimum balance of performance, cost and schedule. No changes to the approved scope of the project have been made.
· Caroline Lucas asked the Defence Secretary, on AWE, what his most recent estimate is of the (a) anticipated out-turn cost and (b) projected in-service date of each of the new build projects in the AWE Site Development Context Plan.
Philip Dunne provided tables which showed the current new build projects, with approved costs and in-service dates, at the AWE. Projected in-service dates are shown in bandings to avoid prejudice to national security and defence. Dunne said that no costs are attributed to projects detailed in table two as these have yet to be approved.
UK must remain a nuclear power to ward off potential threats says cross-party commission
The cross-party Trident Commission, co-chaired by Sir Malcom Rifkind, Lord Browne of Ladyton and Sir Menzies Campbell has said that the UK must remain a nuclear power to ward off any future threat of nuclear warfare posed by Russia. In a report on nuclear weapons policy the Commission rejected any suggestion that an alternative to ballistic missile submarines would be a credible deterrent. It said that the prospect of Britain being threatened with biological or other weapons of mass destruction was another reason why the government must invest in a new, multibillion-pound nuclear deterrent after the election.
The Commission did concede that there was a possibility of the UK reducing the size of its nuclear fleet when the country replaces the four Trident submarines that currently deliver a continuous at-sea deterrence – a decision due to be made in 2016. It said that the UK could talk with America and France, as well as fellow NATO members, to see whether the responsibility for protecting (NATO) member states could be better co-ordinated.
The Times says that a decision on the future of the nuclear deterrent will be a key issue in the next election. The Conservatives and Labour are in favour of a like-for-like replacement of the four nuclear submarines, which would cost up to £20 billion, while the Liberal Democrats have said they would prefer reductions to the fleet.
Defence Select Committee announces scrutiny of Future Force 2020
The Defence Select Committee has announced that it will be scrutinising the MOD’s plans for the future of the Armed Forces – Future Force 2020. The Committee says it is particularly concerned about the size and capability of the Armed Forces and intends to examine:
· The impact on the plans for Future Force 2020 in the challenging global political and security context that includes the Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa.
· Whether the implementation of Future Force 2020 will provide the flexible, agile and operationally capable force required.
· The impact of the Levene Reforms on the Armed Forces, to create a Joint Forces Command.
· The cost of all current reforms.
Civil servants to be encouraged to join Army Reserve
The Daily Telegraph reports that thousands of civil servants are to be encouraged to join the Army reserves to help the government fill a gap in numbers caused by sacking thousands of full-time troops. The newspaper says that cabinet ministers have been told by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to redouble their efforts to ensure one per cent of staff in their departments are part-time soldiers, sailors or airmen. Given that there are 450,000 officials employed by the Government, this means that 4,500 could be deployed into the reserves.
The news comes after the National Audit Office recently criticised the Army for failing to properly assess the feasibility of the transition to a larger reserve force. The Daily Telegraph says that Mr Hammond told other secretaries of state at a cabinet meeting that he wanted to see all departments signing up to a “one per cent challenge”. Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said more civil servants should join the reserves but said the government was attempting to salvage what was obviously “a fundamentally flawed recruitment plan”. The MOD said that the move would help the Department reach its target of 35,000 Reservists by 2018 and would set a better example for other employers.