Posts Tagged ‘defence cuts’

Thursday News Review

01/09/2011, 05:59:16 AM

Kick in the teeth for our best and bravest

Almost 500 RAF personnel will be told on Thursday that they are to be forced out of their jobs when the Ministry of Defence sets out the first details of its controversial redundancy programme aimed at reshaping Britain’s armed forces. The Gurkhas have also been hit hard, with infantrymen from the historic Nepalese brigade making up most of those in the army who will be told that they have been selected for compulsory redundancy. The announcement is likely to reopen bitter arguments about cuts to the defence budget that are being pushed through even though the UK is committed to fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan and has been asked to play a lead role in Libya. It will also spur on those who have demanded the government reconsiders the main conclusions of last year’s strategic defence and security review (SDSR) – calls that the defence secretary, Liam Fox, has dismissed outright. – the Guardian

Gurkhas will be among the first members of the British army to be made redundant as part of cuts to the defence budget. There will be 260 complusory redundancies in the army and among them will be 140 members of the 3,500 strong Brigade of Gurkhas. About 920 soldiers and 930 RAF personnel will be told they are being made redundant, 750 of them against their will. The cuts are being implemented to the Gurkha regiment after a change to their terms of service which put them on the same footing as the rest of the army. The Ministry of Defence, however, says he expects some of the Gurkhas facing redundancy to transfer to other regiments who are below strength. Those serving with the RAF on the front line in Libya and Afghanistan will be exempt from the cuts, however ground support and operational staff are at risk. – Sky News

Ed calls for quivker G20 action

The G20 group of leading world economies are due to meet in France in early November but Mr Miliband says it is clear the economic recovery has “stalled” and more prompt action is needed. Writing in the FT, Mr Miliband said the prime minister should press French President Nicolas Sarkozy for an earlier meeting when they hold talks at a Anglo-Frech summit on Libya on Thursday. As it currently holds the G20 presidency, France determines when meetings take place. In recent weeks, there have been a succession of warnings from key figures that the world economy is fragile and much more co-ordinated action is required to prevent a repeat of the 2009 global slowdown triggered by the banking crisis. But although IMF head Christine Lagarde said immediate action was required to boost economic growth, US central bank head Ben Bernanke signalled no immediate steps to stimulate demand. – BBC News

David Cameron is “standing on the sidelines” instead of tackling the latest wave of global economic turmoil, Ed Miliband has said. The Labour leader called on the Prime Minister to press for an early meeting of the G20 group of wealthy nations to address the crisis. He challenged the assertion made by Chancellor George Osborne that the UK was a “safe haven”, claiming it was “naive” to believe the UK was immune from the problems.” Mr Miliband said he was concerned by reports that splits within the Government and pressure from the banks could delay reform of the financial sector. “Neither should be used as an excuse for failing to deliver the change we need,” he said. In a bleak assessment of the global economy, Mr Miliband said the recovery which appeared to be taking hold a year ago “has now stalled”. – Press Association

Common sense at last

The Prime Minister and Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, will vote against the proposals put forward by pro-life groups and campaigning MPs, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. Their opposition follows claims that ministers were preparing to change long-established rules on advice given to pregnant women. The matter will still be debated in the Commons, but No?10 made it clear for the first time that Mr Cameron would vote against the amendments to the Health Bill tabled by Nadine Dorries, a backbench Tory MP. Downing Street sources said that the proposed amendments would “exclude proper choice”. It is understood that senior Liberal Democrats including Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, were angry at suggestions that the Department of Health was prepared to back the changes which would introduce a mandatory obligation on abortion clinics to offer women access to independent counselling, to be run on separate premises by a group which does not itself carry out abortions. – Daily Telegraph

Cameron’s ‘real’ U-turn

David Cameron was forced to make yet another hasty retreat yesterday – fortunately for the country, he was only reversing a Mini. The Prime Minister was behind the wheel of the 2,000,000th new-look Mini off the production line at a plant in Cowley, Oxford. He was meant to steer the silver motor on to the assembly area floor. But true to form, the MP for nearby Witney overshot his mark and was forced to back-track and try again. Mr Cameron told workers: “Minis have been a fantastic success story, not just for Oxford but for the UK. For me personally, it’s a bit of a thrill because I don’t get to drive any more, even though it was only 20 yards.” – Daily Mirror

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Thursday News Review

04/08/2011, 06:53:23 AM

The most transparent Government ever

A series of changes to ease the rules for freedom of information requests are to be examined as part of a public consultation designed to open up Whitehall. Fees could be changed and a time limit, which means that departments can refuse requests if they take more than 18 hours to process, could be relaxed under government proposals in a consultation document. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, will launch the document as he pledges to deliver “the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world”. – the Guardian

Thousands of pieces of information about public services, from warnings of delays on the railways to details of jobs landed by new graduates, will be thrown open to scrutiny under plans for a “transparency revolution” announced today by the Government. Plans have also been announced to publish data from schools, the National Health Service and the courts. Ministers hope that software developers and individuals will create phone ‘apps’ to make the information accessible and relevant to the public. But Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, last night declared he wanted to go much further and bring vast new swathes of previously confidential information into the open. – the Independent

Parliament to consider capital punishment

MPs face being forced into a landmark vote on restoring the death penalty. Capital punishment is expected to be the first subject debated by Parliament under an e-petitions scheme. The initiative allows the public to help set the government agenda and means anyone can set up an internet petition on any subject. If it attracts more than 100,000 signatures, MPs must consider debating it in the Commons. The scheme is officially launched today, but it has already backfired on the Coalition because Right-wing internet bloggers have been collecting signatures for the last few days. The restoration of hanging for the murderers of children and policemen is by far the most popular serious issue. Commons leader Sir George Young – writing in today’s Daily Mail – says Westminster cannot ignore this popular groundswell. The intervention of Sir George, who is overseeing the e-petition scheme, paves the way for the first Commons vote on capital punishment since 1998. The last hangings in Britain were in 1964. – Daily Mail

MPs must not shy away from debating the restoration of capital punishment if a groundswell of voters backs a petition demanding it, the Commons leader has said. Sir George Young warned that it would damage democracy to ignore strong opinions among members of the public “or pretend that their views do not exist”. He spoke out ahead of the publication on Thursday of the first submissions to a new e-petitions scheme which could see the most popular appeals discussed in parliament. Among the most prominent is one calling for legislation allowing child killers and those who murder police officers to face execution. It has been presented by Paul Staines, who writes the libertarian Guido Fawkes blog, and has already been backed by several MPs. If it is signed by the required 100,000 supporters or more, then the cross-party backbench business committee will decide whether it will be debated. Tory MP Priti Patel said such a debate was long overdue and that she favoured restoring capital punishment “for the most serious and significant crimes” – a position echoed by party colleague Andrew Turner. – the Guardian

MPs warn against defence cuts

Those in Westminster are fond of describing this or that report from a select committee as “damning” in its criticism of government policy. On this occasion, it’s deserved because the defence committee has essentially driven a coach and horses through the coalition’s defence of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. Maligned since its birth as driven more by cuts than capabilities, the Government has invested a huge amount of political capital in sticking firm to the controversial decisions made in last autumn’s review. The cuts will not affect our ability to defend ourselves and others, ministers claimed. Not so, says the committee. It claims that post-2015 the Armed Forces will not be able to do all that is required of them, and there is mounting concern that they are already over-stretched. The committee say uncertainty as to funding post-2015 combined with commitment to the Libyan campaign means a promised real-terms increase in the MoD’s budget is “government aspiration, not government policy”. Even the PM gets it in the neck. His assurance of “full spectrum” defence capability is dismissed. – Sky News

Who has the biggest twitter ‘klout’?

Labour MP Tom Watson, who used Twitter prolifically to raise questions over allegations of phone hacking at News International, scored highest for influence out of the members who use the social networking site. Watson scored a high 78 for Klout in a measure of online influence ranging from 1 to 100. The size of the following is just one small factor in the equation. Twitter users are also marked according to a range of variables including how well they engage with their followers, how influential their own followers are and how far their messages reach. Second to Watson was Conservative MP Louise Mensch, who also used Twitter to discuss the culture select committee hearing that took evidence from Rupert Murdoch and his son James. She scored 76, putting her ahead of Foreign Secretary William Hague (67), Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (60) and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (59). But the scores, calculated by Klout, do not reflect political power. While US President Barack Obama has a Klout score of 89, teen singer Justin Bieber scored a perfect 100. – Daily Telegraph

Labour’s financial turmoil

They were the rich businessmen who secretly backed Labour to the tune of millions of pounds. But now seven of the 12 are demanding their multi-million-pound loans back – meaning that Ed Miliband faces a major financial crisis. The donors are led by Chai Patel, the founder of the Priory Clinic, where drug and drink-addled celebrities such as the late Amy Winehouse received treatment.  This pulling of the financial rug from the Party couldn’t come at a worse time. It means that Miliband will be forced (yet again) to depend on the trade unions whose votes so controversially gave him the Labour leadership in the first place.  Indeed, figures published last month by the Electoral Commission graphically illustrate how much Labour — and ‘Red Ed’ (a nickname he so hates) — is in hock to unions who provide 85 per cent of the Party’s funds. – Daily Mail

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The government’s policy on the armed forces: giving with one hand and taking with the other

23/05/2011, 12:00:33 PM

by Michael Dugher

After months of pressure from the Royal British Legion and others, including the Labour frontbench, and in the face of certain Parliamentary defeat, the government finally agreed to enshrine the “military covenant” in law.  A year ago, Cameron had personally promised to have the covenant “written into the law of the land” in a big set speech on HMS Ark Royal, only to later back track on the pledge (and then scrap the Ark Royal for good measure).  The government’s u-turn on the covenant is welcome. At a time when more is being asked of our armed forces, it is vital that we put the government’s obligations to the armed services on a proper legal footing.  Yet the announcement is, sadly, only the latest example of the government’s approach to the armed forces: giving with one hand, while taking away with the other. Labour should expose this. We also need to recognise both the achievements, as well as the limitations, of our time in office.  And we need to be at the forefront of argument that our forces and their families deserve the very highest levels of care and support.

The truth is that Labour should have taken the covenant out of party politics at the end of the last parliament. The opportunity was there to fully commit to enshrine the covenant in law, as we had already paved the way with some ground-breaking work on armed forces’ welfare. Labour was the first to deliver a cross-government strategy on the welfare of armed forces personnel. Bob Ainsworth, in particular, deserves credit for pushing through the publication of the service personnel command paper in summer 2008, when he was minister for the armed forces. This set out improved access to housing schemes and healthcare, the doubling of compensation payments for the most serious injuries, the doubling of the welfare grant for families of those on operations and free access to further education for service leavers with six years service.


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Liam Fox is right (and George and Dave are wrong), says Michael Dugher

04/10/2010, 09:00:28 AM

In defence circles it is sometimes unfairly said that the real enemy of our armed forces is not the taleban but the treasury. The recently leaked letter from defence secretary Liam Fox to the prime minister warned of the threat to our defence capabilities if the government presses ahead with severe cuts to the defence budget in the forthcoming review. During the row that has followed, Downing Street reportedly said that David Cameron was “untroubled” by Fox’s letter. But he should be. The prospect of deep cuts that undermine our defences, and especially those that weaken the army, should worry the country too.

In his uncompromising letter to Cameron, Fox set out a dire warning that the government risks failing in its first duty if the treasury is allowed to cut the MoD budget too deeply. Fox has long been a cheer-leader for the Tory right. As such, he believes in less government and, central to that, less government spending too (though not, it would seem, when it comes to his own budget). Fox described the current strategic defence and security review (SDSR) as being like a “super comprehensive spending review”, and one driven by financial and not strategic requirements. Indeed, he said the cuts were “intellectually and financially” indefensible. He warned that if “it continues on its current trajectory it is likely to have grave political consequences”. (more…)

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