The Defence Police Federation has been continuing its dialogue over the last month with MoD officials with regards to fundamental issues such as pensions and Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS).
These represent ongoing discussions, given that officials are unable to commit to decisions beyond those approved by the former minister prior to the dissolution of Parliament, due to the civil service being in a state of purdah during the General Election campaign.
The Federation has, however, been working in preparation for the General Election and establishment of a new government. While at this stage it is impossible to determine the makeup of the government after Polling Day on 7 May, the DPF recognises and will be acting upon the need to highlight the importance of the MDP, concerns over the future security of MoD establishments and assets, and officers’ pensions and TACOS.
This will be ahead of an expected Strategic Defence and Security Review later in 2015 that will outline MoD funding and direction of policy for the coming years.
The General Election has, inevitably, dominated the news in recent weeks and will continue to do so until – and indeed after – Polling Day on 7 May. While a hung parliament has long been predicted, polls continue to show Labour and Conservatives running nearly neck and neck. Labour has insisted it will not engage in a formal coalition with the Scottish National Party (SNP), which is expected to hold a sizeable presence in Westminster. It remains to be seen whether either the Conservatives or Labour will win sufficient seats to form a minority government, or if either will enter into either a coalition or a less formal ‘consent and support’ arrangement with one or more parties.
Defence policy has received minimal attention during the election campaign – sparking criticism amongst some experts and political commentators at the lack of rhetoric from all the parties on defence issues. What discussion of defence there has been has focused on two core issues – namely spending (specifically the NATO commitment to spending two percent of GDP) and the future of Trident.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have committed to the retention of a nuclear deterrent, with its removal from Scotland being a core demand of the SNP.
The political approach
As noted above, the DPF is continuing to liaise with MoD officials on the subjects of pensions and TACOS.
Analysis of the parties’ manifestos suggests defence will continue to be vulnerable to spending cuts in the next parliament. The major parties have been reluctant to commit to the NATO target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, and remain likely to ring-fence and prioritise spending for areas such as health and education.
The consequence is that the MoD – and thus the MDP – is likely to be at risk of further demands for savings and cuts in the next parliament. This makes it vital to convey the importance of the MDP in securing the MoD estate and assets – in addition to underlining the need for future decisions to be based on the level of risk facing establishments rather than on costs.
The DPF has spent the past month preparing for the new parliament. While we cannot predict the outcome, we will be moving immediately following Polling Day on 7 May. This will involve consolidating our contacts with those previously supportive parliamentarians who are returned to Westminster, and also communicating with the new intake of MPs.
Further details of how members can and may wish to support this activity are set out below.
The Federation has continued to convey its concerns to national defence correspondents and has been responding to a number of relevant defence stories over the past month.
We will maintain our engagement with the media ahead of the SDSR that is expected later in the year, and will also be highlighting the keynote speeches at the annual conference in June to the media.
It is difficult to over-emphasise or overestimate the importance of rapidly engaging with parliamentarians following the General Election.
Our expectation is that there will be a substantial turnover of MPs. This will require the Federation to introduce itself, the role of the MDP, and the concerns of members to a significant number of new parliamentarians.
To support this engagement, we will shortly be circulating a toolkit to enable members to contact their MP/new MP to introduce the MDP and DPF. We would encourage members to make use of this document.
Separately, we will also shortly be circulating details of a survey of members we propose undertaking. Responses to this survey will be anonymous, although we would encourage members to remember that any response/comments they post would be subject to regulations.
This survey will be an important tool for the DPF’s ongoing communications. We hope that members’ feedback will give us content and data that can be used in our engagement with parliamentarians and the MoD.