The US is confident that Britain remains a "force of its own in the World", the Defence Secretary says today amid a growing backlash over the Conservative's failure to commit 2 per cent of national income on the armed forces. In an article for The Telegraph, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says that the Government's commitment "to defending the world order" is "unstinting" and that his message to Britain's enemies and allies is that the "UK armed forces are forces to be reckoned with". In an op-ed, He says that a recent conversation he held with Ash Carter, the new US Defence Secretary, brings into "sharp perspective the pre-Election conjecture over future defence spending. Mr Fallon says that "wherever you look" Britain is helping to defend the world order, from challenging Russian incursions intoUkraine to taking on the ISIL "death cult". At the same time Britain's armed forces are working in Sierra Leone to combat Ebola.
USS Theodore Roosevelt
The 100,000 tonne aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has anchored off Portsmouth on a round-the-world deployment. She weighs in at an impressive 100,000 tons and is longer than The Shard is tall, writes the Daily Mail. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The USS Theodore Roosevelt’s visit shows yet again that UK/US relations are as close as ever. Ten days ago, I was the first of his counterparts to meet incoming Defence Secretary Ash Carter. Having the Roosevelt in Portsmouth today is yet another example of the world’s broadest, deepest and most enduring defence relationship at work. I’m thrilled to be going aboard today to welcome the crew personally.”
The Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, said: “It is excellent to see US Navy carrier steel inPortsmouth. And in barely two years we will see UK carrier steel here too. We warmly welcome the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group - a reflection of the close partnership between our nations and navies, and the value of credible seapower in support of our shared national interests. Across the spectrum – from Type 45 destroyers providing area air defence for US carriers launching air strikes against ISIL, to generous US support as we regenerate our own carrier strike capability – our common bond has never been richer.”
The Mirror writes that ISIL fanatics returning to Britain could be plotting horrifying attacks using chlorine gas, which killed thousands of troops during the First World War. The warning has been given by an expert in chemical warfare, Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the retired head of chemical and biological weapons for the British Army and NATO. Mr de Bretton-Gordon has advised the UK government, Iraqi government and Free Syrian Army. Next month is the 100th anniversary of the first use of gas in modern war. The German Army deployed chlorine at Ypres, killing 6,000 Allied troops, mainly from asphyxiation and lung damage.
Nuclear test veterans
The Sunday Mirror writes that nuclear test veterans feel betrayed by George Osborne's £25m health fund, saying it fails to recognise the horrific effects of the tests on their families. Campaigners fear they are being “fobbed off with a useless fund”, presented as a victory by the Chancellor in the Budget. An MOD spokesperson said: “The Government continues to recognise and be grateful to all the Servicemen who participated in the British nuclear testing programme. They contributed to important tests that helped to keep our nation secure during the Cold War.”
Jimmy Savile's funeral
The Star on Sunday report that Defence Chiefs tried to cover up a decision to use taxpayers’ money to pay for Royal Marines to attend Jimmy Savile’s funeral is untrue. As was made clear to The Star, an original FOI request for details of the event was unforthcoming due to an administrative error which was subsequently corrected following an internal review, after which the full details of the Marines’ involvement in the event were made clear. Jimmy Savile was a strong supporter of the Royal Marines and their charities; the Marines, in line with many other organisations including news outlets, acted with the best intentions at the time. A MOD statement, issued to the Star on Sunday but not printed in full, said: “The Royal Marines regularly support high profile public events. On this occasion the criminal activity of Mr Savile, subsequently uncovered as part of Operation Yewtree, was unknown and the Royal Marines acted with the best intentions at the time.”