MoD Perm Sec: EU Operationally Irrelevant to UK Security

Before the referendum Downing Street coordinated a letter from 12 former military chiefs to the Telegraph claiming that remaining in the EU was “in our national interest”. It quickly fell apart when it emerged one of the generals hadn’t actually signed it and another had decided to back Leave. The letter argued:

“Will Britain be safer inside the EU or outside it? When we look at the world today, there seems to us only one answer. Within the EU, we are stronger… In a dangerous world, it helps us to safeguard our people, our prosperity and our way of life. We therefore believe strongly that it is in our national interest to remain an EU member.”

11 months later, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Stephen Lovegrove says the EU is operationally irrelevant to Britain’s security. This is an extract from Lovegrove’s interview with the new issue of Civil Service World:

EU membership is operationally irrelevant to the multinational and binational arrangements through which the UK currently insures itself, Lovegrove stresses. And, to demonstrate the primacy of NATO over the EU in the UK’s military relationships, he points to a map showing the flag configurations of recent NATO deployments in Poland and the Baltic states. “These are obviously all European countries, but you will see that of the four lead nations, two of them – Canada and the USA – are not European nations. And, before too long, three of them won’t be.”

Lovegrove adds that there is little administrative burden on the MoD caused by Brexit and that few defence policies are “directly affected”Almost as if the last government got the whole establishment to put their names to a load of Project Fear nonsense…

MoD Spends More on Accountants Than Fighter Jets

jet accountant mod no ttext

The MoD spent £4.2 billion on “Technical, Financial Services and Other Services”. A handy statistical bulletin released today itemised the £20 billion of the defence budget spent within the UK in 2014/15:

“The industry group that received the highest level of expenditure from the MOD was ‘Technical, Financial Services and Other Business Services’, at just over £4.2 billion. This covers services for legal, accounting, management consultancy, and technical testing and analysis.”

The amount spent on pen pushers is nearly twice the level of expenditure on “Aircraft and Spacecraft” and approximately 350% more than on “Weapons and Ammunition”. Maybe the MoD is developing “keyboard warriors”…

MoD Forced to Fight Russian Aggression… With Tweetdeck

navy twitter

The MoD is glued to Tweetdeck, scouring Twitter for sightings of Russian ships off the coast of Scotland, according to SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, who made the claim in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute:

“In recent years we have seen increasing foreign military operations close to UK territorial waters and airspace, and the UK armed forces have been known to rely on intelligence from Scottish fishing vessels and social media as they have not had the appropriate assets in place in time.”

The MoD’s surveillance capability have been wiped out by the shelving of the RAF’s Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft programme. £3.8 billion was spent on procuring the Nimrod MRA4 before the airframes were cut up and sold for scrap. #PunchingAboveOurWeight…

Black Humour at the MoD

The joke doing the rounds in MoD circles is “we now have what we didn’t have in 2003: a valid reason to invade Iraq.”

With the defence budget slashed, they don’t have much else.

SPEAKER WATCH: Every Little Helps

An exceptionally well-placed source whispers to Guido that the Speaker has tried, perhaps successfully, to broker a meeting between Julian Lewis with Dame Joan Ruddock to help him seek Labour support for his bid for Defence Select Committee Chairmanship. Also, Bercow called Lewis in Defence Questions yesterday, despite  him not being on the Order Paper – just as he did at last week’s PMQs. It would appear the neutral Speaker of the House is doing his utmost to help out his old chum and campaign manager.

Labour Defence Select Committee Hustings Read OutStewart ‘Burns’, Simpson ‘Attacks PM’, Lewis ‘Edges It’

It was a Tory invasion of the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting last night, as the candidates for Chairman of the Defence Select Committee unveiled their cross party battle plans. The verdict of the room was that Julian Lewis, Bob Stewart and Keith Simpson did well with their opening speeches, where Crispin Blunt and Tobias Elwood were “fairly poor”. Things got interesting in the questions stages though with Rory Stewart ‘crashing and burning’.

When asked by Thomas Docherty how many questions each of the candidates had tabled in the House about defence, a tetchy Stewart attacked ‘Tom’ for previous ding dongs the pair have had, before claiming he preferred to make “long speeches on foreign policy instead of asking questions”. The room did not like that.

Keith Simpson went on to attack the Prime Minister on Syria, suggesting that just because Libya had worked there was no reason to presume another intervention would hold the same level of success. This pitch for lefty votes is some what undermined by Simpson’s behaviour at the time of the vote last year when he was revealed by Guido to be the anonymous “Government source” who made front page news raging that “No. 10 and the Foreign Office think Ed Miliband is a f**king ***t and a copper-bottomed s***”. 

The verdict from Labour? “Consensus is Julian Lewis 1, followed by Bob, then Keith.” The vote is tomorrow after PMQs.

Latest MoD Figures: 604 Spinners

Always keen to help, this morning Guido pointed out the vast  numbers of communications staff employed by the MoD, should Philip Hammond be looking around for something to “streamline”. Guido quoted the 2009/10 figures which showed 697 spin staff, though MoD sources are keen to stress that only 23 are based at Whitehall and many of the rest have other jobs. This afternoon they have coughed the latest figures:

“As of 31 March 2012 the total number of military and civilian MOD personnel spending at least 50% of their time on communications related activities was 604. This figure is on course to drop again to 515 by 2015.”

Going in the right direction, slowly. 

Hammond Surfaces to Defend MoD Bureaucracy

Phillip Hammond popped up for a passive aggressive performance on the Today programme:

“We can look for efficiency savings which everyone should be seeking all the time. If we need to go beyond our efficiency savings, we would need to have a discussion over how and where these would be achieved.”

It sounds like defence secretary would make sure that conversation happened in public. He might not want to cut more troops, but there are still savings to be made. The MoD has 400 press officers and communications staff, for example. There is a battalion of cuts there Mr Hammond.

UPDATE According to data obtained by Think Defence

The latest figures for the numbers involved in specialist communications roles are for financial year 2009-10 and were produced in support of a Cabinet Office led exercise to capture such information across Government. They are as follows:

MOD/armed forces Trading funds Non-departmental public bodies
Press officers 112 8 1
Internal communications officers 52 8 0
External communications officers 365 26 0
Communications strategy officers 67 2.5 0
Other 101 7 3

Presumably these numbers have been reduced over the last three years.697 spin-doctors of one kind or another is 600 too many…

See latest update: Latest MoD Figures: 604 Spinners

Fingers Pointed at Hammond for Cuts Confusion

It’s no surprise that the MOD was missing from George Osborne’s ‘nice list’ of departments behaving themselves over further cuts. Nor was it surprising to hear the Chancellor pouring water on this morning’s Telegraph story about IDS offering to serve up more cuts in order to protect Hammond’s department. Further cuts aren’t going to happen; not least in part due to the LibDems, especially in an election year. Guido is told any discussion has not happened recently. IDS may have enjoyed the Telegraph’s “not for the first time, Mr Duncan Smith has shown the way” leader, but it seems that is a far as it’s going to go. Fingers are being pointed at Hammond this morning for stirring things up. With this Telegraph leak,  suddenly last week’s manoeuvres speculation does not look quite so ridiculous…

See also: Daft Draft Hammond Plan

U-Turn Number 41

Last week a government source said in reference to Afghan interpreters: “What sort of message would it send if these people were bundled into the back of a Chinook and flown out of the country? It would say we don’t think there’s a future.” Phillip Hammond said on the record that he believed “Afghanistan has a future”. This morning the government announced that former Afghan interpreters will be granted asylum after all. At least the welcome u-turn came quick enough to avoid Joanna Lumley getting involved… 

Long Arms in the MoD

deal

Employees from arms dealers and defence firms that have recently signed huge government contracts are currently working at the MoD. Guido has learned that BAE Systems and Rolls Royce, who have been awarded billions of pounds worth of MoD contracts over the last few months, have five employees inside the department. The MoD is also employing a staffer from Babcock, who were awarded a £65 million contract in December. The full list of MoD employees on secondment from private firms that have recently signed multi-million pound contracts with the department is below:

  • 3 BAE Systems employees- £1.2 billion contract signed in December
  • 2 Rolls Royce employees – £1 billion contract signed in June
  • 1 Babcock employee – £65 million contract in December
  • 1 Carillion employee – £45 million deal last year
  • 1 Lend Lease employee – £17 million deal in June
  • 1 GVA employee- appointed to identify contractors for Deepcut relocation in July

Intriguingly, the MoD is refusing to disclose the employers of a further ten staff members currently working in the department. It wouldn’t be the MoD without a cosy relationship between ministers, taxpayers’ cash and private defence interests…

Boulter Wades In Again: Werritty Loved First Class Travel

Harvey Boulter isn’t the most reliable of witnesses but he raises some intriguing points. He just did an interview with the BBC that could only be described as a hand-grenade. He described Fox’s version of events around their meeting in Dubai as “half truths”. He said Adam Werritty boasted of his love of first class travel…

Boulter also said he told the Guardian to go and “do their homework” when they told him Werritty wasn’t working for them. Given Boulter discussed sensitive information regarding his business and legal disputes, he is demanding to know who paid for Air Miles Adam, but stopped short of accusing him of outright corporate espionage. Petrol on the fire…

Fox: MoD Initial Findings

“A grey area”…

Ed's PPS and MoD Lobbying Links Dugher Denies Defence Meetings Dodgy

Barnsley MP Michael Dugher was chosen to be Ed’s PPS for a reason. It quickly became clear Chuka Umunna was way out of his depth in the role, so who better to replace him than a man who knows the party inside out and has worked in Downing Street, the MoD and various other government departments? However it’s not just Ed who has spotted Dugher’s talents in the past…

Though he ended up as Gordon’s Moussa Ibrahim at the end of the last government, between his days as Geoff Hoon’s Special Adviser at the MoD (2002-’05) and becoming Gordon’s last spinner in October 2008, Dugher took time out in the private sector, becoming Head of UK Public Affairs for global data giants EDS. He left the MoD just before the 2005 election and went to EDS in 2006, via a role in the Leaders of the House’s office overseeing Privy Council matters.

When Dugher took the role of EDS’s top UK lobbyist, the company said he bought a ‘wealth of experience from his under-standing of the parliamentary process’. However that’s not all he had to offer. A rather interesting FoI shows that EDS’s public affairs team, headed up by Dugher, lobbied MoD officials and Ministers some thirty-three times between 2006 and 2007. Crucially Dugher was meeting with Lord Drayson, who was in charge of procurement of equipment and support.

The relationship built up between the MoD and EDS paid off handsomely for the latter. In government Labour paid EDS a total of £4.2 billion for IT during their years in government. Including £2.3 billion for the troubled Defence Information Infrastructure contract which was signed when Dugher was still Hoon’s SpAd. The MoD paid EDS a further £570 million during the period Dugher worked for them. All very cosy. 

Surely there are rules against this sort of thing, Guido hears you ask. Well yes there are:

‘Under the terms of their contract, special advisers are required to submit an application to the head of their former Department for any new appointment or employment they wish to take up during the two year period after their last day of paid service.” 

Guido spoke to Dugher last night who claimed that the move was cleared by the Cabinet Office. However this clearance was only in relation to his last role working for the Leader of the House/Privy Council. Dugher says that the both the Cabinet Office and EDS were well aware of the move and possible conflicts of interest. However, the MoD tell Guido:

“We do not hold any data to confirm that Mr Michael Dugher has submitted an application to the MoD under “The Business Appointment Rules for Civil Servants” for permission to seek an appointment with EDS as a lobbyist. The requirement for Michael Dugher to notify the department of his intention to commence employment with EDS under Business Appointment Rules only applies for two years after his last day in service and therefore this requirement ceased from 2007’

Though he cleared it with the Cabinet Office, Dugher was back lobbying the MoD within two years of leaving as a SpAd, which doesn’t look so good. This is often the way with the giant revolving door of government and Guido only raises this all for one particular reason. Dugher is currently in charge of Labour’s own long-overdue defence procurement review. We all know how badly Labour’s spending on MoD contracts went. Dugher certainly has some inside knowledge of what went wrong…

When Dave Liked The Generals Talking

As the Prime Minister tried to slap down his turbulent generals with a well rehearsed, off-the-cuff, “you do the fighting and I’ll do the talking”, Guido was trying to remember when he last heard Dave in such a combative mood. The last time the upper echelons of the armed forces spoke out so distinctly against the government was when Richard Dannatt hounded Brown’s handling of the Afghan war. Did Cameron tell the soldier to stay out of the politics then? No, he made him a Peer.

He then appointed the daughter of  General Sir David Richards, Danatt’s successor as Chief of the Defence Staff, to his personal office. Funny how General Richards has been putting a bit of stick about with those who have spoken out. However with more and more critics lining up left, right and centre to brief against the PM in the Telegraph, Miliband should be rubbing his hands as he prepares for PMQs. Unless he’s got some gimmick to try pull again this week…

A Battalion of Spinners

The MOD isn’t having a good day. They are rightly being hounded after news emerged that thirty eight soldiers had been sacked by email, Andrew Neil asked Patrick Mercer on the Daily Politics “Is the MOD run by a bunch of numpties?” There was an awkward laugh and a notable pause before the denial.

As troop numbers are being slashed, who is responsible for mopping up these PR disasters? Well according to research by Think Defence, a battalion of spinners. They conclude that there are 697 personnel from both the military and civil service engaged in MoD spinning. Perhaps Fox should look again at where the axe is falling. Maybe send them an email.



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