Strategic Defence and Security Review Submissions

The MoD recently invited suggestions for the Strategic Defence and Security Review however submissions were to be no longer than 1,500 characters, or around 200-300 words.

Former senior officers and academics have accused the Government of insulting defence experts by asking for their suggestions but limiting them to just a few hundred words.

Vernon Coaker, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said the Government’s “entire approach to the SDSR is wrong”. 

He said: “They promised an open process but instead have delivered a sham consultation where submissions can be no longer than 300 words. The MoD’s methodology is an insult to the wider defence community whose expertise should form the foundation of the Government’s review. The 2010 SDSR did not survive contact with reality and all the signs are that the Government will repeat the mistakes they made five years ago, leading to a further decline in Britain’s global influence.” 

Following pressure from Vernon Coaker and Defence Synergia, the website for submissions has recently been updated and no longer has a word limit. Here is the link to the consultation should you wish to be involved: SDSR & NSS Submission.

Vernon Coaker responding to conclusion of inquest into SAS deaths

Vernon Coaker MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, responding to the conclusion of the inquest into the deaths of three Army reservists on an SAS test march in 2013, said:

“The Coroner’s conclusion that neglect played a part in the deaths of Lance Corporal Edward Maher, Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Corporal James Dunsby, who were taking part in a SAS test march in 2013, raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of Ministry of Defence procedures and their application on such exercises.

“The Coroner states that she does not believe that the MoD has a proper plan and guidance to deal with heat-related illness. This is unacceptable and a full review of how such exercises are organised needs to carried out immediately.

“Those who seek to meet the incredibly high standard set by our Special Forces are naturally driven and, in many cases, unwilling to countenance failure. The Coroner’s conclusion that had organisers strictly followed the MoD code of practice, the march should have been cancelled – following the withdrawal of two men from the exercise due to heat sickness – shows how important it is that MoD procedures for such exercises are overhauled without delay.

“The deaths of these three Army Reservists were a tragedy that should have been avoided. The Ministry of Defence needs to ensure that its guidance and their application addresses the concerns raised by the Coroner in this case straightaway.”

Labour Sets Out Position On Further Action Against ISIL

Yesterday afternoon the House of Commons debated the issue of ‘Britain and International Security’. The debate had been in place for a number of weeks and was planned prior to the recent and tragic events in Tunisia however with these developments much of the debate focused on ISIL.

You can read the full transcript of the debate here: Yesterday’s Debate

Harriet Harman, Labour’s Interim Leader, and Vernon Coaker, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, set out Labour’s position on further action against ISIL.

Harriet Harman MP, Labour’s Interim Leader, speaking on ITV News, said:

“ISIL brutalise people, they murder people and they are horrifically oppressive. So everything that can be done to stop them must be done, and any proposals that the Government bring forward which will help tackle the growing horror of ISIL, of course we will look at them very very seriously.”

Vernon Coaker MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, in the debate on Britain and International Security in the House of Commons today, said:

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“This has to be the time when the democratic nations of the world come together with those battling this threat wherever it occurs. Terrorism cannot be allowed to succeed and the terrorists have to know that our will to defeat them remains undiminished.

“Mr Speaker, let me respond directly to the comments of the Secretary of State regarding the possibility of further action against ISIL.

“We are all horrified by what has happened in Tunisia and by the growing threat that ISIL poses.

“We must tackle this threat to our citizens both at home and abroad.

“So we stand ready to work with the Government to defeat ISIL and will carefully consider any proposals that the Government decide to bring forward.

“We all need to be clear about what difference any action would make to our objective of defeating ISIL, about the nature of any action, its objectives and the legal basis.

“Any potential action must command the support of other nations in the region, including Iraq and the coalition already taking action in Syria.

“This is a time for a considered assessment of the best course of action we can take to defeat this deadly threat to the UK, an objective that unites us all.”

Defence Questions

This week the Shadow Defence Team had their first questions session in the Chamber since Dissolution began. Departmental Questions take place once every six weeks and are a key opportunity for the Opposition to hold the Government to account on important issues. This week, the Shadow Defence Secretary, Vernon Coaker, asked the Government about the lack of transparency regarding the upcoming SDSR.

Here’s a link to Hansard where you can read the questions the Shadow Defence Team asked in full:

8th May 2015 – Oral Defence Questions

Here’s a snippet of the exchange betweenVernon Coaker and the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon.

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab): I congratulate the Defence Secretary on his reappointment and wish him and his ministerial team well for the future. I also pay tribute to all the crew on HMS Bulwark who are doing such a fantastic job in the Mediterranean at this time.

Due to a lack of transparency—almost secrecy—nobody outside a small inner circle in the Government has a real clue about what is going on with respect to the forthcoming strategic defence and security review. At a time when Britain is being accused of resigning as a world power, should the Government not get a grip, abandon warm rhetoric and set out a clear timetable for discussing how we address our role in the world and the military capability that we need to match it.

Michael Fallon: I am grateful to the shadow Defence Secretary for what he said and congratulate him on hanging on in there, at least for the moment. I thank him for his tribute, which I hope the whole House will echo, to the crew and the air crew on HMS Bulwark. I visited Bulwark myself on Saturday afternoon and saw at first hand how the crews were preparing to cope with this extraordinary number of migrants who need rescuing from the sea.

As far as the strategic review is concerned, I have set out the timetable to the House today, and the scope and the ambition of the review, which has already started and will be concluded towards the end of this year. We will also consult key external voices, such as academics and those in other areas who have something to contribute to the review. I hope that will include the hon. Gentleman.

Vernon Coaker: That answer really shows just how complacent the Government are. Just yesterday, the US President spoke to the Prime Minister. The US Defence Secretary said that our actions seemed to indicate disengagement. I ask the Secretary of State again: when will the Government set out their plans to discuss, with Parliament and the rest of the country, the threats we face, our global role and the military capability we need? For example, when will they discuss the lack of a maritime patrol aircraft and what the availability of two aircraft carriers actually means—just two examples of the decisions facing the country? This is the Defence Secretary’s chance to launch a wide-ranging debate about the forthcoming SDSR. Will he do it?

Michael Fallon: Yes, of course we will engage with Parliament and I look forward to engaging with the newly established Select Committee on Defence. However, the hon. Gentleman has chosen two rather odd capabilities to put on the table. We are addressing the gap in maritime patrol aircraft because the previous Labour Government were supposed to deliver 23 Nimrods but, when we came into office in 2010, the programme was eight years behind schedule, £800 million over budget and not a single Nimrod had been delivered. He then went on to mention aircraft carriers, but it is this Government that are building two aircraft carriers and this Government that are committed to sailing them both.

Week 5

Week 5

Vernon Coaker, the Shadow Defence Secretary, this week appeared on the Daily Politics Show alongside representatives from the other main parties to debate the issues of defence and security.

Coaker questioned the SNP’s policy to disarm whilst remaining in NATO and therefore part of the nuclear umbrella, and Michael Fallon, the current Defence Secretary, refused to say how his party would vote on deterrent.

Here’s a link to the debate: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05sjgtg/daily-politics-2015-election-debates-defence-and-security

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On Thursday, the Shadow Defence Team visitied Barrow and met with the Labour candidate, John Woodcock. As part of the visit Coaker went to the dockyard and spoke with both management and TU reps; he reassured workers of the Labour Party’s position on the deterrent.

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Today, Coaker is visiting Sophy Gardener, the Labour candidate in Gloucester. You may remember from previous posts that Sophy is a former wing commander in the RAF and was awarded an MBE for her role in charge of all RAF transport and refuelling assets at the time of 9/11.

Week 4

Week 4

Another busy week for the Shadow Defence Team who have been on a number of visits to key seats and met with veterans from across the country.

Vernon Coaker, the Shadow Defence Secretary, was in Plymouth to support candidates Luke Pollard and colleague in the Shadow Defence Team, Alison Seabeck. They campaigned in key wards and met veterans from across the services on Plymouth Hoe.

Separately, on Friday, Ed Miliband delivered a speech on foreign policy and defence at Chatham House in front of hundreds of experts and academics where he set out Labour’s vision for Britain’s global role.

Here’s a few pictures from the week:

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Weeks 2 & 3

The Shadow Defence Team has again this week and last been all over the country campaigning in key seats.

Last Thursday Vernon Coaker, the Shadow Defence Secretary visited Col. Simon Diggins OBE, the Parliamentary Candidate for South West Hertfordshire for a CLP social event. You’ll recall from an earlier post in January that Simon left the Army in August 2014 after some 35 years in service.

Here’s a couple of pictures from the evening:

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On Tuesday Vernon Coaker visited Brigg & Goole to campaign with the candidate, Jacky Crawford. Whilst there the pair met with Public Service students from the local college who are looking at careers in the Armed Forces as well as veterans. The discussion centred around Britain’s role in the world and how we can best support those who keep up safe, both in service and as veterans.

Here’s a picture from the discussion:

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