The Defence in the media blog has moved to our new Gov.uk page. Please view the page here and subscribe for alerts.
The Sun has reported on this morning’s front page that the Defence Secretary will tell MPs that he is ordering a significant increase to the South Atlantic islands’ garrison, pre-empting his statement to the House. The Sun speculates that an unstable Argentina is re-arming 33 years after the Falklands War with the help of Vladimir Putin. The Russian President is said to be working on a deal to lease 12 long-range bombers to Argentina - boosting fears of a new Falklands invasion. This story has also been picked up by The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail which all combine this with coverage of a defence select committee report that spending should be kept at 2% of GDP to counter an unstable world.
Further detail on the Falkland Islands Defence Review will follow in the Defence Secretary’s statement to the House later today. Our position is that: “As you would expect, the UK reviews the defence support for all of its overseas territories on a regular basis. This review is part of that ongoing process.”
Following the publication of the Defence Select Committee report titled ‘Re-thinking Defence to meet new threats’, The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain must maintain spending at 2% of national income to stop ‘chaos spreading from the Western Mediterranean to the Black sea’. The article states that the rise of ISIL and the increase in Russian aggression mean Britain’s 2010 defence plans ‘no longer reflect the new threats to peace around the world’. Committee chairman Rory Stewart has said that UK personnel might be needed in a dozen different theatres concurrently and it is vital to rethink defence planning. The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s response is carried, arguing that the need to rebuild forces is ‘nonsense’. There is further coverage of this topic in the Financial Times, while the Daily Star focuses on Ukip becoming the first party to commit to the NATO level of funding.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, said:
“The suggestion that we need to rebuild our defence capabilities is nonsense. Under this government we have gone from the £38 billion black hole in the defence budget that we inherited to a properly funded £34 billion annual budget. That means we have been able to commit to spending over £160 billion on equipment over the next decade to keep Britain safe - including new joint strike fighters, hunter killer submarines, two aircraft carriers and the most advanced armoured vehicles.
“The UK has the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU. We are the US’s largest partner in the coalition air effort against ISIL - bearing more of the load in terms of strikes in Iraq than we played in either of the Gulf Wars. As US Defence Secretary Carter told me earlier this month, ‘the UK military has the ability to act independently, to be a force of its own in the world’. Our rapid reaction to events in the Middle East, Sierra Leone and Ukraine recently highlight that the flexible strategy adopted under the 2010 SDSR and Future Force 2020 is working.”
Off payroll fines
The front page of The Independent this morning has trailed the story that fines from the MOD for off-payroll payments have been given to military charities including the paper’s Homeless Veterans campaign, which has received £250,000. Separately the Government is donating £750,000 to help veterans from across the country travel to London to mark VE commemorations in May.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson, said:
“We acknowledge the errors made in tax compliance checks and are strengthening our procedures to prevent this happening again. The fine will be donated to military charities and will make a valuable contribution to the great work they do.”
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.
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.”
As part of an Institute of Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) analysis of the pre-election Budget, the Telegraph, Times and Guardian lead with the angle that in order to protect defence spending at 2 per cent of GDP, other public services including the courts, police and councils could face budgetary cuts. According to the economic think-tank, cuts to government departments needed between now and 2020 could rise from £18.3 billion under Conservative plans to £26.6 billion if the NATO promise is met. There are various comment pieces arguing that the defence budget should be maintained at 2% in the face of likely predicted post-election pressure.
As reported last week, the UK continues to deliver the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU and is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence with decisions on spending after the financial year 2015/16 to be determined in the next spending review. Over the next decade, the Government has committed to spending £163 billion on equipment and equipment support to keep Britain safe. That includes new strike fighters; more surveillance aircraft; hunter killer submarines; two aircraft carriers; and the most advanced armoured vehicles. Furthermore, Future Force 2020 means that are Armed Forces are now more flexible and more able to adapt to evolving threats and the Prime Minister has made clear that he does not want to see our regular armed services reduced below the level that they are now and we remain on track to deliver the Reserve force needed to counter the wide range of threats we face.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Report
The Public Account Committee (PAC) report on the subject of the MOD’s Major Projects Report, the Equipment Plan and the Reform of Defence Acquistion receive some coverage in the Guardian and the Sun. The Guardian says that the MOD could face a bigger budgetary challenge than anticipated after the general election. The chair of the PAC, Margaret Hodge, is quoted, welcoming the progress the MOD has made in getting to grips with its budget, but stating that risks remain to the affordability of the 10-year equipment plan.
Responding to the PAC report, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The £163 billion we plan to spend over the next 10 years on cutting edge equipment is a landmark investment and I welcome the Committee’s acknowledgement that this government has got to grips with both MOD budget and military equipment costs. The Committee’s concerns on costs are overstated – our major project costs were reduced by £400 million last year and we are confident of delivering the further savings. For the third consecutive year we have a realistic and affordable equipment plan with substantial contingency funding.
“The greater freedoms afforded to Defence Equipment & Support are already allowing us to recruit and retain people with the right skills to manage major procurement projects and ensure good value for the taxpayer. We have set ourselves challenging recruitment targets, but Army 2020 plans are on track to deliver the Force we need to counter the wide range of threats we face, and retain the capability to bring to bear on the battlefield. Recruitment is moving in the right direction – the number of Army reserve new entrants enlistment in the first nine months of the financial year is 2,270, up 120% on the equivalent period last year.”
It was also reported in The Metro that the MOD had admitted the bill for its ten-year equipment plan could rise by at least £5.2billion from the original £163 billion. This is not correct - the statement ignores a £4.6 billion contingency which is already part of the £163 billion plan to deal with unexpected cost growth, should it occur.
Royal Navy uniforms
As well as widespread coverage across BBC outlets yesterday, The Times, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Independent report on the unveiling of the Royal Navy’s first new uniforms in 70 years. The working uniforms will give Royal Navy personnel greater comfort and utility for their daily tasks, serving in environments from the Antarctic or the Gulf. An infographic comparing the 1890 and 2015 uniforms and the developments in materials is included in the Telegraph.
News this morning is largely focused on the Chancellor’s pre-election Budget, which was announced yesterday.
Elsewhere, BBC News is reporting that British military personnel have begun training members of the Ukrainian army fighting pro-Russian rebels, and there is widespread coverage of the deaths of 17 tourists in an attack by gunmen at a museum in the capital of Tunisia.
There is various follow-up coverage of what the 2015 pre-election Budget means for the military. The Daily Mail reports that tens of thousands of British servicemen who suffered illnesses after being exposed to nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s will share in a compensation fund. The Daily Telegraph, the Independent and the Guardian all report that as well as £25 million to help veterans, including nuclear test veterans, the Chancellor has earmarked up to £2 million for marking the 70th anniversary of VE Day, millions on renovating the RAF Museum in Hendon and Libor fines on banks to fund Afghan veterans’ regimental charities. Meanwhile The Sun reports that some of the cash will support the paper’s campaign for a memorial for British troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The BBC reports that British military personnel have begun training members of the Ukrainian army fighting pro-Russian rebels. It is reported that 35 trainers are teaching non-combat skills in the southern city of Mykolaiv and will spend about two months in the country. The British government is also providing non-lethal equipment for the Ukraine Armed Forces including sleeping bags, protective helmets, medical kits and laptops, but the BBC reports that many want the government to go further and provide weapons.
The MOD can confirm that the team arrived in Ukraine last week, and will be helping with logistics and basic medical training.
Our position is that the UK is committed to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s aggression. The gifting of non-lethal equipment is designed to prevent further Ukrainian fatalities and casualties and to help improve situational awareness on the ground. Our overall aim is to strengthen the defensive capability of the Ukrainian armed forces and build the resilience that they need.
The Daily Mail reports that families of Iraqis shot dead or wounded on the battlefield by British soldiers could sue the MOD following a High Court ruling. The judgement states that such cases fell within the jurisdiction of the ECHR and could lead to more than 1,200 claims – brought by Phil Shiner’s “controversial” Public Interest Lawyers – being investigated in UK courts. The piece includes comments Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, the judgment was ‘absurd’.
The MOD’s position is reflected in the piece, which is that while the Court has rejected all but one of Public Interest Lawyers’ attempts to expand our investigative obligations, we are concerned that it has taken such an expansive view of ECHR jurisdiction. The judgment does not require any change to conduct of UK military operations but it is likely to encourage large numbers of opportunistic claims which must be investigated and litigated at heavy cost to taxpayers. We will therefore be seeking leave to appeal the jurisdiction issues to the Court of Appeal.
After initial speculation several days ago, Prince Harry has confirmed that he will be leaving the army after a 10 year career in which he experienced two tours of Afghanistan. The Times, Telegraph, Mail and BBC website report that Prince Harry is looking forward to a "new chapter" in his life after he departs in June after a four-week secondment to the Australian Defence Force, starting in April.
He said: "I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the chance to do some very challenging jobs and have met many fantastic people in the process. From learning the hard way to stay onside with my Colour Sergeant at Sandhurst, to the incredible people I served with during two tours in Afghanistan, the experiences I have had over the last 10 years will stay with me for the rest of my life.” General Sir Nicholas Carter, Chief of the General Staff, is quoted praising Harry’s contribution and referencing that he insisted on being treated the same as his peers.
Following on from the news of Prince Harry’s departure from the Army, Colonel Ben Farrell has written a short opinion article on page three of Daily Telegraph about how soldiers have “loads to offer in civilian life”. Col Farrell says that “They have an innate understanding of the purpose of an organisation, strong analytical skills and the ability to get to the heart of an issue, combined with commitment, energy and an ability to adapt. Above all else, given the nature of the military, they have highly developed interpersonal skills.”
UK anti-ISIL fighters
The Evening Standard has reported that an eight-strong team of former British Army soldiers is preparing to leave Britainto join the fight against ISIL in Syria. The Sun and The Times follow up the article reporting on it in this morning’s papers.
The articles report that the team is training to fight as a single volunteer unit alongside the Kurdish militias on the front line in northern Syria. Social media channels host images of the group posing in combat fatigues and clutching high powered assault rifles on a training exercise in Europe.
Air strikes against ISIL
The Daily Mirror has reported on the latest RAF air strikes on ISIL over Iraq. The piece on page two of today’s paper highlights that Tornado pilots bombed ISIL positions neat the Kurdish city of Sinjar. The article references David Cameron’s comments yesterday that the three schoolgirls who went to Syria to join ISIL may face arrest if they return to the UK.
We publish regular updates on the RAF air strikes on our website including video footage of the strikes by Tornado and Reaper aircraft.
The weekend saw lots of coverage of the Afghanistan service of commemoration, which took place on Friday. There was also continued coverage of potential cuts to Defence spending and a variety of articles covered the situation in Vanuatu this morning. Cyclone Pam has caused widespread devastation and the Government has announced that a C-17 RAF plane carrying aid has flown out this morning to help relief efforts.
Afghanistan service of commemoration
Saturday’s papers saw widespread and positive coverage of the commemoration service held at St Paul’s Cathedral to honour the sacrifices of Britain’s armed forces who fought and died during operations in Afghanistan. This included pieces in the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express.
“The service at St Paul’s and the parade were incredibly moving. Seeing the Bastion cross rededicated today brought home the enormity of the contribution and sacrifice that Britain has made to helping Afghanistan become a safer country. This was the right way for the whole country to pay tribute to everyone who worked so hard and achieved so much in Afghanistan over 13 years, especially those who sustained life-changing injuries, and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
“I am delighted that large numbers of our Armed Forces, veterans, their families, and representatives of charities and aid organisations, were able to pause and remember those we have lost, and to recognise the extraordinary courage and dedication of all those who served.“
In one form or another, the issue of military spending and speculation around future levels of investment remained a prominent focus for many papers over the weekend.
A number of papers on Saturday, including the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror, covered the NATO Secretary General’s meeting with the Prime Minister after he issued a press statement saying NATO “counts on” Britain’s “leadership in the future”.
On Sunday, the Sunday Express included an article which speculated that Britain’s Gurkha Brigade could be cut,targeted under MoD cost-cutting plans which may see the Army shrunk to 60,000. The piece reflected the fact that the MoD has “categorically denied” that there are any intentions to cut the Gurkhas under the Future Force 2020 initiative. Our full statement for reference is as follows:
An Army spokesperson said:
"We can categorically deny that there are plans to make cuts to the Gurkhas under Future Force 2020 structures."
The Sunday Times included an article claiming that a group of senior military officers are considering resigning because they cannot face leading the British Army through, what the paper speculates, will be another round of defence cuts. The article also included an interview with Douglas Lute, the US Ambassador to NATO, who says that whilst there is no lack of confidence in Britain as an ally, what could be in jeopardy is Britain’s standing within NATO.
The MoD position is that whilst tough decisions had to be taken to balance the MOD budget, the UK continues to benefit from the second largest defence budget in NATO, and Ministers and senior officers from across the three services remain committed to ongoing operations and deployments.
The Sunday Express and Daily Star Sunday said that our Armed Forces will soon have the “oldest tanks and planes in the NATO alliance”. The pieces went on to say that the MoD has confirmed the Army's Bulldog fighting vehicle which entered service in the 1960s, will not be scrapped until 2030, whilst the RAF’s Tornado jets will have their service life extended by at least five years to 2025. The Daily Star Sunday’s story includes critical comments from former serving personal about the Bulldog vehicles, but both pieces reflect the MoD’s position:
An MoD spokesperson said:
“The Bulldog vehicle with its new upgrades will be able to support the British Army until at least 2030. It proved its worth on operations in Iraq, where it provided troops with substantial protection, and huge improvements to the 900 vehicles including power upgrades and enhanced armour protection, boosting the performance, reliability and endurance on the battlefield.”
The Sunday Times carried a positive article, following a speech given by Brigadier Steve McMahon at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, about the fact Britain's mission to help contain the Ebola epidemic in west Africa succeeded despite scientific advice that there was nothing troops could do to bring it under control. The Brigadier spoke of the “frightening warning” by medical experts that the arrival of 700 British troops was too late to stop Ebola raging through Freetown – and their relief as it became obvious they were beating the Ebola curve. The piece also included Brigadier McMahon’s praise for the Sierra Leonean people and their remarkable efforts in tackling the disease.
Elsewhere, the Sun on Sunday reported that British troops tackling Ebola will be awarded bravery medals.
The Sun on Sunday includes a large article about the fact that LIBOR donations that will help to fund a new memorial for veterans of the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. It is mentioned that Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon are backing the paper’s appeal ‘Dig deep for our desert heroes’, which aims to raise £1 million for the memorial.
On tonight: Dispaches
Tonight at 19:30, Dispatches will air a programme about Defence’s capability and performance since the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
Our overall position is carried below, and we’ll also be live tweeting during the programme – don’t forget to follow us @DefenceHQ
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said:
“Since 2010 the Ministry of Defence has proven more than capable of protecting UK interests and we continue to play a leading role on the world stage, deploying 90,000 servicemen and women last year alone on more than 300 commitments in 50 countries. Since 2010 we have delivered sustained contributions to operations most notably in Afghanistan, including the successful transfer of security to the Afghan National Security Forces, and since the autumn have been the second biggest contributor of air strikes against ISIL as part of the coalition effort. More than 1,300 UK military personnel have also deployed to Sierra Leone to date to help fight Ebola. In Europe, we routinely monitor and track foreign warships and aircraft entering sovereign waters and airspace and have contributed thousands of personnel to reassurance exercises aligned to NATO’s objectives.
“In terms of capability, we have the second largest defence budget in NATO, the largest in the EU, and are investing £163 billion on equipment including new strike fighters; more surveillance aircraft, hunter killer submarines, two new aircraft carriers; and the most advanced armoured vehicles. Future Force 2020 means that are Armed Forces are now more flexible and more able to adapt to evolving threats and the Prime Minister has made clear that he does not want to see our regular armed services reduced below the level that they are now and we remain on track to deliver the Reserve force needed to counter the wide range of threats we face. Therefore we are confident the decisions made in the 2010 Strategic Defence & Security Review (SDSR), though tough, were the right ones”
There continues to be widespread coverage of the UK military healthcare worker who returned to the UK on a military plane yesterday afternoon after being tested positive for Ebola. The Guardian, The Times (p4), The Sun (p6), The Mirror, The Express and The Star all write that Public Health England has said that four further healthcare workers have come into contact with this colleague.
Mark Francois, Minister for the Armed Forces, said:
“The wellbeing of our Service personnel remains our overriding priority. This includes the individual directly affected and their four colleagues, for whom precautionary measures are now being taken. I have seen for myself the courage and dedication of our personnel who are doing such a vital job in Sierra Leone. They are helping to protect not only those inWest Africa from this unprecedented outbreak but also us at home by working to combat the spread of the virus. We are very proud of what our servicemen and women are doing and our thoughts are with their five colleagues and their families at this time.”
There is continued media discussion on the future of the UK’s Defence spending. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Deputy Prime Minister has disclosed that David Cameron and George Osborne have not raised the prospect of protecting defence spending in next week's Budget despite a brewing backbench rebellion. Nick Clegg is reported to have said he had expected defence spending to be covered in planning meetings for the Budget, but 'not a dicky-bird' has been said about the issue.
Many of the papers, including the Financial Times (p3), The Times (p16), The Sun (p2), the Daily Mail, The Mirror andThe Guardian report that Downing Street is coming under increasing pressure from MPs to commit to 2% of GDP to Defence as they endorsed the target in a House of Commons debate which took place yesterday. Conservative MPs have reportedly criticised the Government for being 'blind' to the soaring threats Britain faces and have accused it of “freeloading” off the US. During the debate, John Baron MP criticised the Government for an "incompetent" restructuring of the Army, and said that the UK was “ignoring the lessons of history at our peril” by refusing to commit to spend 2% of national income on Defence. Meanwhile former defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind claimed the military was in a "serious condition" and that the Prime Minister was in danger of causing permanent damage to the Britain's international standing unless he increased military spending.
As reported earlier in the week, the UK continues to deliver the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU and is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence with decisions on spending after the financial year 2015/16 to be determined in the next spending review. Over the next decade, the Government has committed to spending £163 billion on equipment and equipment support to keep Britain safe. That includes new strike fighters; more surveillance aircraft; hunter killer submarines; two aircraft carriers; and the most advanced armoured vehicles. Furthermore, Future Force 2020 means that are Armed Forces are now more flexible and more able to adapt to evolving threats and the PrimeMinister has made clear that he does not want to see our regular armed services reduced below the level that they are now and we remain on track to deliver the Reserve force needed to counter the wide range of threats we face.
The future of the UK’s defence spending continues to generate news coverage today. The Financial Times has splashed on a story, followed by The Daily Mail, claiming that Downing St has asked Oliver Letwin, head of policy at No 10, to investigate if Britain’s intelligence agency budgets can be counted as NATO spending, amid anxiety in Washington that conventional defence spending will drop below 2% of GDP. The piece also alleges that MoD officials have already managed to boost the amount included in NATO calculations this year, adding war pensions, a total of just over £800m annually, to its NATO submission for 2015-16.
As we reported yesterday, the Government has said the UK continues to deliver the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU and is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence with decisions on spending after the financial year 2015/16 to be determined in the next spending review.
Over the next decade, the Government has committed to spending £163 billion on equipment and equipment support to keep Britain safe. That includes new strike fighters; more surveillance aircraft; hunter killer submarines; two aircraft carriers; and the most advanced armoured vehicles.
The Wall St Journal covers an interview with UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in which he says that Britain’s ability to work with the U.S. on foreign missions is unhindered, in a rebuttal to US concerns that the U.K.’s efforts to trim its deficit could hinder its military capability. Ahead of his first meeting with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Mr. Fallon said the British army would still be able to contribute significant forces to military missions after it reaches its target to reduce the number of regular personnel by about one-fifth by 2020. Mr. Fallon added that Britain agreed with the U.S. that European allies needed to increase their military spending. “We’re alongside the United States in wanting other European allies to do more,” Mr. Fallon said.
The Sun ran a small story following the NAO’s report into government travel expenditure, referencing the MOD as spending £69m on plane tickets last year.
The MOD outlined its policy on travel expenditure, explaining that “First class air travel is prohibited except for exceptional circumstances and the criteria for using business class tickets have been tightened to ensure we get the best value for money for the taxpayer. Travel is an essential part of MOD business, either to MOD sites across the UK and overseas or to hold meetings with Government and military officials.”
Discussion around the level of defence spending over the next Parliament continues to attract media coverage. A Daily Telegraph front page features comments by former Chief of the General Staff General Sir Peter Wall, who argues that the UK cannot respond to Russian threats because budget reductions after the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review were based upon the assumption that there would be a “benign security environment” after combat operations ended in Afghanistan. Discussion around 2% spending is covered elsewhere, with editorial and comment pieces featured in theIndependent and Times.
The Government has said the UK continues to deliver the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU and is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence with decisions on spending after the financial year 2015/16 to be determined in the next spending review.
Over the next decade, the Government has committed to spending £163 billion on equipment and equipment support to keep Britain safe. That includes new strike fighters; more surveillance aircraft; hunter killer submarines; two aircraft carriers; and the most advanced armoured vehicles.
The Independent carries a feature-style article about the training of the Pershmerga forces in Northern Iraq. Along with several hundred members of the German, US, Italian, Norwegian and Dutch militaries, around 100 British are among the foreign forces operating in region, with around 40 of them instructing Peshmerga fighters in vital infantry skills.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (6.34am) carried a feature by Sima Kotecha on an anonymous former Royal Marine commando, who plans to go the Syria to fight with the Peshmerga against ISIL. He said he wants to pass on the skills he has been taught to those on the frontline.
The piece highlighted the fact that the Government has made clear on numerous occasions that we advise against all travel to Syria and parts of Iraq. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger.