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Archive for the ‘Defence’ Category

Jul 5,2010

I am not looking for any recognition, as you know these things don’t matter to me at all and I am profoundly disinterested in where this blog comes in the annual Total Politics ranking of political blogs, so I really am not asking for you to vote for me or my blog ……..

but ……..

should you be so inclined (and I repeat I really, really don’t mind one way or the other), this is what you have to do:

The rules are:
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name.
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.

So I’m not asking you to do it, but I really won’t mind if you do……

Jun 14,2010

Ken Clarke, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, has said that Bloody Sunday inquiry conducted by Lord Saville has been a “disaster in terms of time and expense” and got “ludicrously out of hand”.

I doubt whether there will be many people (apart from the many lawyers who have done extremely well out of the process) who would disagree with the sentiment that the inquiry has taken an extraordinary length of time and has therefore been monumentally expensive.

However, Ken Clarke’s timing is interesting.  His comments were made just 48 hours before the report was due to be published.  Is this part of a process of softening-up, so that, when David Cameron does introduce the report, the Coalition Government is able to distance itself from the inquiry’s twelve years of deliberations and the conclusions it has reached?

Jun 13,2010

Apparently, an elite jihadi forum with strong Taliban links has been warning subscribers that it has been “infiltrated”.  It is not clear who has done the infiltration nor what the nature of it is (although potentially it would enable the infiltrator to obtain details of those logging into the site and identify their location).

There has, of course, been a large amount of discussion in the United States about the importance of building not only a defensive cyber capacity but also an offensive capacity.  Usually, the offensive role is described as being available for retaliation against an individual, organisation or nation that threatens US cyber space.  However, the principle might easily be extended to others – such as the Taliban – who threaten US interests and troops.  So is this the first example of the talked-of US offensive capacity in action?

Jun 9,2010

Over the last few months, I have been doing some work on the danger of nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists and had the opportunity to raise the issue during Lords Question Time this afternoon.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer had tabled the following question:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what contribution they will make to the work required to achieve progress on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons following the resolution passed at the review conference in May.”

Lord Howell of Guildford, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, answered as follows:

“My Lords, as we promised on taking office, we pushed hard for agreement of a final document at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. We will give the highest priority to reversing the spread of nuclear weapons, keeping them out of the hands of terrorists and cutting their numbers worldwide, and we will work with partners to translate those commitments into action.”

I came in with the following supplementary:

“My Lords, the IAEA’s illicit trafficking database has recorded 336 incidents involving unauthorised possession of nuclear materials and associated criminal acts in the past 15 years. There have also been incidents of terror teams carrying out reconnaissance of nuclear weapon trains in Russia. Can the noble Lord tell us, first, whether Her Majesty’s Government are satisfied with the security arrangements around the nuclear facilities in this country and what steps they are taking to protect them? Secondly, what steps are they taking to ensure that security arrangements around both civil and military nuclear facilities elsewhere are being properly maintained?”

And this elicited the following response:

“I thank the noble Lord for his question. We are satisfied, but we are always on guard and always watchful for any need for improvement. The international security of nuclear materials was discussed, analysed and strengthened at the Washington conference in April that preceded the nuclear NPT review conference. A whole series of measures was put forward there and agreed. In so far as one can, one can say that these measures are a step forward in what is undoubtedly, as the noble Lord fully realises, a very dangerous situation.”

I will be returning to the issue later in the Session.

Jun 8,2010

I am hearing rumours that the Coalition Government has ordered a 30% cut in the budget of the National Police e-Crime Unit in the current financial year.

If true, this will have a potentially devastating impact on the Police Service’s ability nationally to tackle the serious organised criminal gangs that are behind much e-crime in this country and to support initiatives to prevent and deter e-Crime.  

In any event, the Home Office support for the Unit was already small: only £3.5 million – so it will not even save very much.

This is in sharp contrast to the policy of the Conservatives before the General Election (when they pledged to “wage war on cyber-crime”) and the priority given to the issue by David Cameron.  It will also be a particular embarrassment to Baroness Neville-Jones, the Minister for National Security, who has taken a particular interest in cyber issues and was speaking at an event on the subject this morning.

May 2,2010

The Ipsos MORI analysis in The Observer gives some interesting analysis of public perceptions of the three Party Leaders.

Actually, interesting is not the word – it is devastating for Nick Clegg and pretty awful for David Cameron.

When asked which of the three Party leaders would be best in a crisis, only 12% rated Nick Clegg (33% favoured David Cameron and 40% Gordon Brown).

On who is the most capable, Clegg only scored 17% (with 33% and 36% for the Cameron and Brown respectively).

And on who best understands world problems, Clegg could only muster 14% and Cameron 23%, while Gordon Brown scored 45%.

So with bombs in New York, melt-down in Greece, climate change, a fragile economy, and troops in Afghanistan, the message is quie clear:

“It’s no time for a novice.”

Apr 15,2010

I have just spoken at the Counter Terror Expo, an enormous exhibition and conference at Olympia.  I was standing in for Patrick Mercer who was apparently taken by surprise by the fact that there was going to be a General Election campaign going on when he agreed to speak.

My main theme was that we could envisage that we would be living in a much riskier society over the next twenty-five years.  The UK would be in a world:

“in which there will be greater political extremism and conflict and where radicalisers can flourish with a volatile and disaffected population in whose minds their ideas can take root.  This will be an environment in which international crime will be stronger and the restraints on it from the international community will be weaker.  There will be problems in building an international consensus as to what needs to be done as the current international certainties dissolve into a multi-polar future.

This will be a riskier society as state and city authority break down in many places and where international crime and terrorism can flourish and be nurtured in such lawless areas.

At the same time, society itself will become more vulnerable through its increasing reliance on ICT.”

I recognised the success of the Government’s CONTEST strategy with its four strands: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare.  I pointed out that:

“This has been accompanied by substantial investment.  By next year, there will be £3.5 billion spent on counter-terrorism.  The number of  police engaged in CONTEST has risen by 70% and the Security Service has doubled in size.

The strategy has been effective.  Since 2001, 200 people have been convicted of terrorist related offences and over a dozen significant plots have been disrupted  In addition, in the last four years, some 250 people have been excluded from the country on national security grounds or on the basis of their activities.”

But went on to point out that in the future more will need to be done:

“to ensure that the CONTEST strategy builds in expecting the unexpected.  We must be ready to look beyond al Qaeda, recognising the developing picture of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland, other political and regional struggles elsewhere in the world (certain in the knowledge that the diaspora from those struggles will be here in London) and new challenges such as those holding extreme ecological views who may have come to believe that mankind is so bad for the future of the planet that that future would be improved if mankind’s population was dramatically reduced.

We must be constantly vigilant about symbolic and iconic sites, economic targets, and all places of mass resort.  We must recognise the risks posed by terrorist groups or individuals seeking to have access to CRBRN weapons or materials and the implications of both our greater cyber-dependence and the opportunities that that provides to an increasingly cyber-aware opposition.

And at the same time we must continue to work with all our communities to build support for and trust in the responses that are being made.”

And as I said:

“Whoever is responsible for taking counter-terrorism forward after 6th May is going to have their hands full.”

Apr 13,2010

It is not a surprise, given the Manifesto launch yesterday and the Leaders’ Debate later this week, that the prime Minister is not able to attend president Obama’s summit co0nference in Washington on nuclear security.  However, given the Prime Minister’s skill at brokering deals at international summits, it is a real pity that he is not able to be there.

There are real concerns about nuclear materials falling into the hands of international terrorists and the UK Government is one of those with a real commitment to trying to make progress on this issue.

A few weeks ago I asked specifically about the summit:

Nuclear Disarmament


Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government who will be representing the United Kingdom at the United Nations nuclear security summit in Washington in April; and what outcomes they will be seeking at that summit. [HL2151]

Baroness Crawley: The Prime Minister plans to attend the nuclear security summit in Washington DC in April.

The Government set out their aspirations for nuclear security in last summer’s Road to 2010 White Paper. Consistent with that vision, the UK will be seeking to: increase international awareness of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism; agree a robust set of guiding principles for nuclear security that will set the tone for developing international norms over the coming decades; secure commitment by participating nations to undertake a wide range of actions, domestically and in collaboration with other states, to improve the security of fissile material and sensitive information, and to prevent them from falling into the hands of malicious actors.

And I had also asked about some of the other initiatives that were being pursued by the UK:

Nuclear Disarmament


Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made in establishing the United Kingdom’s nuclear centre of excellence. [HL2153]

1 Mar 2010 : Column WA328

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Road to 2010 White Paper (Cm7675) set out the Government’s commitment to establish a nuclear centre of excellence. Since publication of the White Paper the National Nuclear Centre of Excellence Steering Group, chaired by the Government’s chief scientific adviser, has overseen development of the centre, including the appointment of an interim director and agreement on the business model to be adopted. The project has strong support from key government, industry and academic stakeholders including the Technology Strategy Board, the National Nuclear Laboratory, the Nuclear Industries Association, UK research councils and universities. There has also been international interest in the centre of excellence.

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government what other countries support the Global Threat Reduction Programme; and what are its achievements so far. [HL2154]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The Global Threat Reduction Programme delivers the UK contribution to the Global Partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. The Global Partnership was established at the G8 summit in June 2002. The contributions made by other states are set out in the G8 Global Partnership Working Group 2009 annual report, annex A consolidated data sheets (http://www.g8italia2009.it/static/G8_Allegato/ GPWG-Report-2009-AnnexA-Consolidated-Data-Sheets,2.pdf)

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many countries have now ratified the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material; and what changes are being implemented in the United Kingdom following ratification. [HL2155]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Thirty-four countries have ratified the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM).

Mar 22,2010
  • Created a new right of pedestrian access to the English coast, so that every family has the opportunity to enjoy the length and breadth of our coastline.
  • In the last four years Labour’s work overseas has helped over 7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa access clean water and sanitation.
  • In Europe we signed the Social Chapter and introduced measures including four weeks’ paid holiday, a right to parental leave, extended maternity leave, a new right to request flexible working, and the same protection for part-time  workers as full-time workers.
  • We led efforts to agree a new international convention banning all cluster munitions.
  • We introduced the first ever British Armed Forces and Veterans Day to honour the achievements of our armed forces – both past and present.
Mar 10,2010

Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former Dame Eliza and Director-General of the Security Service (MI5), gave the Mile End lecture in the House of Lords a few hours ago.  Her topic was “Reflections on Intelligence” and I understand that the text of this will shortly be available on the Parliamentary web-site.

In the Q&A after the lecture one Jack Bauer enthusiast asked her about torture.  She was unequivocal in her reply:

“Nothing – even saving lives – justifies torture.”

She’d earlier made some comments about US “waterboarding” activities at Guantanamo Bay and she added the caustic comment:

“The sad thing is that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush watched “24”.”