First and foremost, a very Happy New Year to all Federation Members.
With Parliament rising (and at time of writing still being in recess) for the Christmas break, the Federation’s activity has been largely focused on media engagement during the past month.
But, even with MPs and the House of Lords leaving Westminster for Christmas, the Federation has still been able to meet with the new Shadow Defence Secretary and pursue meetings with influential parliamentarians for the early part of this year. Further details are listed below.
Our media work has also been extensive – but, to summarise, in the past month we’ve met with a senior national journalist, had a letter from National Chairman Eamon Keating published in a national newspaper; secured a briefing with the defence correspondent of the Daily Telegraph; respond to a raft of press enquiries; and influenced (albeit not commented within) an article in The Sun on levels of theft and lost materials from the MoD.
All of this work had highlighted the importance of the MDP and demonstrated the demands on the Force’s current resources. It has also left us well placed to engage our media and political contacts on issues such as the ongoing Infrastructure Policing Review to ensure such measures are carefully considered, are in members’ best interests, and at least maintain – but preferably improve – current security arrangements for MoD assets and critical infrastructure.
A consequence of the Christmas period has been comparatively little defence policy news. The main story of the past month, of relevance to Federation members, was the suggestion that the Strategic Defence and Security Review could be reopened and reconsidered barely a year after its publication. The suggestion, made in a front-page story in the Daily Telegraph and supported by defence policy experts, follows the inclusion of a range of expenditures by ministers to achieve the NATO target of spending two percent of GDP on defence. Many of these costs were not previously included in defence budgeting, and the consequence is understood to be renewed pressure on MoD finances.
The political approach
As noted above, the Federation is in the process of confirming a raft of meetings with a number of MPs – including those with MoD establishments within their constituencies; vocal defence policy commentators; members of the Defence Select Committee; and members of cross-party groups on defence and policing.
The standout point of our ongoing parliamentary engagement during the past month has been meeting with the new Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith MP. Ms Griffith was appointed to the role following Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as Labour leader in December.
The meeting and its timing is significant. As Shadow Defence Secretary, Ms Griffith is effectively the parliamentarian most responsible for scrutinising government defence policy (with the possible exception of Defence Select Committee Chairman Dr Julian Lewis MP, a longstanding supporter of the Federation). And as a newly appointed member of the Shadow Cabinet, Ms Griffith has been very amenable to briefings by the Federation that highlight the importance and continued need for the MDP.
As noted above, our parliamentary engagement is ongoing and we will be continuing to secure meetings over the coming weeks.
Over the past month, the Federation has met with Helen Warrell, the public policy correspondent at the Financial Times and the journalist who first reported on the Infrastructure Policing Review.
This was a highly desirable meeting, with the Financial Times likely to report on any government moves to create an infrastructure police force – positioning the Federation to immediately offer comment and analysis on any proposal, as a leader amongst the federations that could be affected by such a move. This in turn will help in ensuring the needs of the MDP and its officers are heard.
As noted above, the Daily Telegraph suggested over Christmas that the Strategic Defence and Security Review could be reopened. The Federation responded immediately with a letter to the newspaper that was published just before the New Year. Unfortunately, the letter section of the Daily Telegraph is behind a paywall and for copyright reasons we’re unable to circulate a copy of the newspaper page. Should any members have a subscription to the newspaper, it can be accessed via the following link.
We also secured interest in a meeting or call from the defence correspondent at the newspaper.
A number of newspaper also published reports on levels of theft and loss within the MoD – with an example from the Daily Mail accessible via the following:
While the Federation did not provide comment for these reports, the focus is encouraging: while levels of theft and loss are of course deeply troubling, the reports demonstrate the importance of the MDP and that (as noted in a number of the articles) reductions in the number of officers have consequences to the MoD.
As with previous newsletters, we would like to remind members that if you wish to contact your local MP or councillors for any reason, any communication would be subject to MDP regulations.