Posts Tagged ‘Kevan Jones’

Unmanned “drone” technology is vital, which is why we should be open about it

11/12/2012, 02:36:30 PM

by Kevan Jones

UK defence policy must aim to meet key objectives when making decisions over military equipment and its deployment: maximising strategic advantage over our enemy; protecting UK service personnel; minimising civilian casualties; acting at all times within humanitarian and international law; ensuring value for money; and making sure that deployment is in line with our national security interest and right to self-defence, as well as our commitment to conflict prevention and the protection of universal rights.

It is the shadow defence team’s judgement that the UK’s current position in relation to the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs” or  drones) meets these criteria, but we must continually ensure this remains the case.

For the record, it is worth outlining current UK policy on unmanned technology.

The UK is one of 76 countries who operate UAVs.  Today we deploy four drones in Afghanistan only.  One of these, the Reaper, is armed.

The benefits of unmanned technology are clear.  It can be more cost effective than manned.  UAVs provide significant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability.  They can minimise collateral damage and civilian casualty through precision.  They limit danger to UK personnel by reducing the number of personnel in theatre.  By providing greater speed and height than conventional aircraft UAVs can hugely improve an equipment programme that today must prioritise adaptability and agility.

There are of course weaknesses, for example costs may rise, but while unmanned technology is no silver bullet they will be an increasingly predominant feature of UK defence, supporting all three services.


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Bringing the “service ethos” into schools is already making a difference

01/08/2012, 07:00:03 AM

by Kevan Jones

Last month Labour’s education and defence spokesmen, Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy, outlined some ideas on how the role of the armed forces and the “service ethos” could be expanded across our education system.

Their ideas included having mentoring services run by veterans or reservists, increasing the number of former service personnel trained as teachers, having more Combined Cadet Forces (CCF) in state schools and developing specialist “service schools”, including academies, all in order to boost achievement and social mobility. This week Labour released a paper on the proposals as part of our policy review.

Perhaps predictably a chorus of groans followed the announcement, much of it from the Labour blogosphere, about how this showed Labour betraying its working class origins and aligning itself with “militaristic” values.  Not only do the criticisms misunderstand or misrepresent the aims of these ideas, but they fail to understand the military in ways that can be as short-sighted as they are offensive.

Many of the criticisms also overlooked the fact that many of the ideas proposed already exist to the huge benefit of schools in the state sector. I know this from the experience of Walker Technology College in Newcastle.

Walker Technology College was set up during the last Labour Government in 2009 as a pathfinder school, with a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) contingent of 20 cadets. It now has over 100 cadets enrolled and pupils have the opportunity to choose CCF as a curriculum subject.

As part of this, students are able to achieve an army proficiency course accreditation, the Duke of Edinburgh award, a BTEC in public uniformed service and a young first aiders’ award. Since the course was established it has consistently proved to be one of the highest performing and popular awards in the school.

Hard-work, comradeship, respect, responsibility and team work are the essential “soft skills” that have the CCF contingent have brought to Walker College. The “service ethos” that underpins the CCF develops and hones this vital set of life skills, which are highly sought after in a jobs market that is only getting tougher for young people.

It is essential that we maximise the impressive leadership skills that service men and women develop during their time with the armed forces. The CCF course at Walker College has provided former service personnel with a challenging, fulfilling post-service career, which has been to the benefit of young people in Newcastle, increasing attainment, confidence and opportunity.


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Tuesday’s defence debate shows this government needs to get a grip on the figures

28/06/2012, 04:17:13 PM

by Kevan Jones

Since taking office Ministers have repeatedly told the country that Defence cuts must be quick and deep due to a “£38 billion black hole” inheritance in the MoD budget. Yet there is another story. Public body after public body has questioned the validity of the £38bn figure.  This has, of course, now become folklore, but we must scrutinise the claim that underpins the legitimacy of all the government are doing.

The Defence select committee’s report into the SDSR stated that ‘without proper detailed figures’ the government’s claims about the extent of the black hole ‘cannot be verified’.

The National Audit Office has correctly concluded that ‘the size of the gap is highly sensitive to the budget growth… If the Defence budget remained constant in real terms…the gap would now be £6 billion over the ten years. If…there was no increase in the defence budget in cash terms over the same ten year period, the gap would rise to £36 billion’. Cursory scrutiny shows that the defence budget is rising in cash terms. Ministers have said they will make public statements on this but are yet to produce any detail of how this figure has been arrived at.

Within months of this government coming into power the former secretary of state, Liam Fox, had claimed that he had balanced the budget. Now we’ve had Philip Hammond say exactly the same thing. If the ‘black hole’ is as large as they have alleged, how have two secretaries of state been able to claim twice separately that the imbalance has been rectified?

In a defence debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday not a single government minister or MP could explain how the “black hole” figure was reached.


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Shadow cabinet: Kev Jones wants your vote (and the defence portfolio)

05/10/2010, 02:01:36 PM


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