The past month’s defence news has been focused on the continuing debate and criticism of UK defence spending. Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Budget statement this month, which included no mention of the MoD.
This was, however, largely expected, as newly appointed Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson had made it known he would not approach the Chancellor for additional funding prior to the publication of the review of the 2015 Strategy Defence and Security Review, led by National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill.
This situation has, however, been further complicated by suggestions that Sedwill’s review is unlikely to include further funding for the Armed Forces and could instead prioritise cyber-warfare capabilities. There have also been suggestions within the media at disagreements between the Chancellor (himself a former Defence Secretary) and Mr Williamson on issues of funding.
The situation is likely to continue to rumble into the New Year, but was brought sharply into focus prior to the Budget on 22 November with the intervention of around 22 Conservative MPs (largely mobilised by Defence Select Committee member Jonny Mercer), who suggested in letters to the Defence Secretary that he could face a rebellion from within his own party were anticipated cuts – including to the Royal Marines and amphibious landing capability – undertaken. Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood (who has responsibility for the MDP) was also reported to be considering his position in the face of the proposed cuts.
The past month has also been a highly busy one for DPF, both in terms of media and parliamentary engagement. Details are included below, but in summary the Federation has in the past month publicly warned of the impact of further cuts to MDP numbers and resources; also engaging with the team undertaking the review of the SDSR; and has organised a parliamentary event to brief MPs and peers on the role of the MoD Police.
Parliament will rise for the Christmas recess on 21 December, prior to which the Federation will be managing the follow-up with the parliamentarians who attended the briefing event, and confirming existing and outstanding acceptance for one-to-one briefings.
The political approach
The focus of the Federation’s parliamentary activity in the past month has been the hosting of a reception to further raise awareness among MPs and peers of the MDP and its role securing and protecting critical assets and infrastructure.
The reception was sponsored by SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald MP, and was addressed by the Minister for Defence Persons and Veterans Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP.
The Federation is of course extremely grateful to both Mr McDonald and Mr Ellwood for their time – and to the other parliamentarians who joined DPF National Executive members and regional representatives for the event.
Attendees at the reception included members of the influential Defence Select Committee and Shadow Defence Minister Gerald Jones, with whom the DPF met (along with his colleague, Shadow Defence Minister Nia Griffith) earlier in the year.
In addition to the parliamentary reception, during the past month the DPF met separately with Stewart McDonald to brief him on the consequences of cuts to the MDP budget and planned reset of the workforce size, following up on a meeting with him earlier in the year.
We have additionally followed up on outstanding requests for meetings with senior parliamentarians and officials. This has resulted in the Federation being offered a meeting with Julian Smith MP, the Government Chief Whip (coincidentally he succeeded Gavin Williamson when the latter moved to the MoD), albeit in a constituency capacity. We are also working to confirm a meeting with members of Mark Sedwill’s (National Security Advisor) team taking forward the review of the 2015 SDSR.
Our upcoming activity will focus on follow-ups with attendees of the parliamentary reception, with additional work to secure one-to-one briefings in the New Year as appropriate.
The Federation will additionally be working with those parliamentary guests who said they would be happy to take action, and will highlight issues that warrant the tabling of parliamentary questions on issues including officers’ pensions and TACOS.
We will additionally be working to confirm the offer of a meeting with Julian Smith MP.
In the past month, the DPF issued an open letter to new Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, warning of the unacceptable threat to critical assets, sites and personnel should the MDP be pursued for further cuts to its numbers and/or budget.
The letter prompted a significant response from the national media and was reported in the Financial Times, The Independent, Daily Mirror, and Police Professional amongst others.
A sample of the media coverage relating to the letter can be accessed via the links below. With apologies to members, the Financial Times content is accessible only to those with a subscription – and copyright prohibits us from circulating the article in full.
We also engaged at length with the defence correspondents at the BBC and Daily Telegraph regarding the implications of cuts to the MDP.
While our focus in the coming weeks will be on parliamentary engagement, we will remain in contact with national defence correspondents and will keep them apprised of the challenges for the MDP.
As per previous newsletters, we would like to remind members that any communication with their local MPs is subject to MDP regulations.
Finally, we would like to take the opportunity to wish members a very happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.