In the last month the news headlines have been dominated by David Cameron’s EU renegotiation, the subsequent presentation of a deal to his Cabinet, and the announcement that Britain will go to the polls on 23 June to decide whether or not to remain in the European Union.
Despite the saturation of the media by the ‘Brexit’ question, defence has still been a focus – with attention remaining on the question of whether the Trident nuclear deterrent should be renewed. Much of the debate has focused around Labour’s position on the issue, and while the Party has continued to undertake its internal defence policy review, there have been suggestions the Shadow Defence Secretary might not commit to retaining the two percent GDP defence spending target under a Labour government; and of alternatives to Trident that have also been mooted.
The question of when a vote on the renewal of Trident might take place has also been a hot topic. Critics and senior defence commentators, including Admiral Lord West, have criticised any suggestion a vote could be pushed to later in the year. However, with various other policy decisions being scheduled to avoid the EU referendum, it would be no surprised if a vote on Trident took place later rather than earlier in 2016. The Conservatives also remain acutely aware of differing views within the Parliamentary Labour Party on the issue, and are willing to schedule a vote a time that will cause most difficulty to their principal opposition.
The Federation’s activities over the last month have focused on an extensive and concerted programme of briefings and meetings intended to emphasise the importance of the MDP as part of the security provision for MoD establishments – focusing particularly on the necessity of a civilian policing capacity.
These meetings have also been with the purpose of ensuring that future decisions on security are subject to full parliamentary scrutiny to ensure the best possible provision to protect defence establishments and assets – and to ensure the view of Federation members are articulated and noted.
Our work, which is outlined is greater detail below, has included meetings with a number of prominent backbenchers and defence commentators, along with briefings for journalists in the national media and continued engagement with the influential Defence Select Committee.
The political approach
During the last month, the Federation has continued to meet with a brief influential parliamentarians including former Defence Minister Admiral Lord West, a frequent commentator on defence issues who has highlighted matters of concern regarding security for many years.
We have also continued to communicate with members of the Defence Select Committee, and have scheduled meetings with the new Shadow Defence Secretary for the coming weeks.
These meetings and ongoing dialogue are very significant. They have resulted in a series of questions – both written and oral – being tabled in the House of Commons by the likes of Madeleine Moon MP and Dr Julian Lewis, the Chairman of the Select Committee. These questions and interventions also highlight the level of parliamentary interest in matters pertaining to the MDP, and help ensure any future decisions on how key assets and establishments are secured will be subject to rigorous and constructive scrutiny.
We remain, of course, extremely grateful to all of the parliamentary supporters of the Federation and MDP for their continued attention and efforts.
Over the coming weeks, we will be continuing to meet with influential parliamentarians from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
We are additionally working on opportunities to provide further evidence to the Defence Select Committee as part of any work the Committee might undertake on security issues; will be meeting with the Shadow Defence Secretary; and are also liaising with influential think tanks such as the Royal United Services Institute and Henry Jackson Society about opportunities to brief their audiences, which include respected, prominent and influential defence commentators and thinkers.
During the past month, the Federation has briefed a number of national journalists to highlight the importance of a civilian police presence as part of the MoD’s security provisions.
This has included responding to articles in the national media regarding shortages of MDP officers at individual establishments – resulting in a follow-up article in The Independent on Sunday based on an interview with National Chairman Eamon Keating. The content of the article can be accessed via the link below:
The significance of these contacts is that they provide opportunities for the Federation to constructively highlight the importance for the MDP; demonstrating how it is uniquely placed to engage with the public in a way that members of the Armed Forces would be unable to do so due to their specific training.
The Federation will be continuing to brief journalists where appropriate in the coming weeks.
As noted in previous newsletters, we would like to highlight to members that any correspondence – should they wish to contact their local MP – is subject to MDP regulations.