Queen’s Speech 2015: The foreign affairs, security and defence parts

Well, not too shabby Brits may put it. The Queen’s Speech 2015, written by a Conservative majority government, did not just focus on Osborne’s cuts, debt and deficit reduction and the European Union (EU) plans or exit. There was a substantial but still not that detailed section on foreign affairs, security and defence. I paste the relevant part of the speech below, with my brief comments in bold:

My Lords and members of the House of Commons

My government will continue to play a leading role in global affairs, using its presence all over the world to re-engage with and tackle the major international security, economic and humanitarian challenges. (This is more a reference to the work and challenge of the Department for International Development (DFID), along with say the Stabilisation unit, the 77th Brigade, the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff.)

My ministers will remain at the forefront of the NATO alliance and of international efforts to degrade and ultimately defeat terrorism in the Middle East. (Note: Ministers, not military leaders.)

The United Kingdom will continue to seek a political settlement in Syria, and will offer further support to the Iraqi government’s programme for political reform and national reconciliation. (FCO work, along say with DFID but FCO first.)

My government will maintain pressure on Russia to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and will insist on the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. (FCO, plus maybe, just maybe, military might. No mention whatsover about a committment or some adherence to the NATO 2% target.)

My government looks forward to an enhanced partnership with India and China. (Military? Remember this post I made? There’s conflicting information which brigade is aligned to India. The British Army Journal said 11th Infantry Brigade but now 8th Engineer Brigade says 22 Engineer Regiment, a smaller unit. In any case, the “enhanced partnership” with India will primarily be foreign affairs, economic/commerical and non-aid development. China? No British Army units appear to be aligned with China. Links will China will be diplomatic and economic/commerical. Once in a while, maybe a Royal Navy ship visit or maybe, maybe RAF Typhoons.)

Prince Philip and I look forward to our state visit to Germany next month and to our state visit to Malta in November, alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. We also look forward to welcoming His Excellency the President of The People’s Republic of China and Madame Peng on a state visit in October. (See the linkage with China will be diplomatic.)

My government will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change, including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year. (Amber Rudd’s purview.)

My government will undertake a full strategic defence and security review, and do whatever is necessary to ensure that our courageous armed forces can keep Britain safe. (The famous and dreaded Strategic and Security Defence Review 2015. Cuts? Increases (haha), you name the gloom and doom.)

My government will work to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons, cyber attacks and terrorism. (Vague, but remember the Joint Cyber Reserve?)

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and members of the House of Commons

I pray that the blessing of almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

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Where’s your new Shadow Team, Labour?

The anti-nuclear weapons/Trident Scottish National Party has finalised their front bench teams–seethis link. The infamous/famous Angus Roberston, who used to ask a gazillion questions on defence, has handed the role to a certain Brendan O’Hara. Along with him aresome other SNP Members of Parliament. Their backgrounds? I don’t know.

What I do know is the SNP has a group of MPs ready to shadow defence and other key government topics. Labour? Labour has only chosen Shadow Ministers in the Commons and in the House of Lords. The big-sized Vernon Coaker is still Shadow Defence Secretary. But where is his team? (as of 22 May 2015 ) I know two former MPs, Gemma Doyle and Alison Seaback lost their seats in the 2015 General Election. But there are still 200 plus other old and new Labour MPs. Hurry UK Labour, form form your front bench team for defence and other departments.

The all-blue UK National Security Council

Many “defence” bloggers like to think the UK will be safe with gazillions of bullets, fighter jets and nuclear warheads. Many of them forget that defence isn’t my military might or strategy alone, but the collective efforts of different foreign affairs teams. One relatively positive move David Cameron and his Conservative Party made in 2010 was to form a National Security Council (NSC). Not exactly a mirror image of the one from the country across the Atlantic, this “council” drew together all the main foreign affairs ministries and agencies so as to improve (as is the case in bureaucracies) government decision-making/action/reaction to any potential or occurring security threat. Of course there’s the famoous Cabinet Office Annex (COBRA) meetings, but this now not so new UK NSC is all blue, since there’s a single party as the government (last time there were Liberal Democrats on the council). While the actual NSC website has no names, let me help you by stating who is now in the UK’s all blue NSC (drawing names from this and positions from this:

Prime Minister (Chair)–David Cameron,(Our young, Oxford trained, new Thatcherite. He will gain advice from others but use his own believes to decide how to respond to security threats.)

Chancellor of the Exchequer (and also First Secretary of State, definitely Deputy Chair)–George Osborne (Another sharp (neo)-Thatcherite, he is known to reduce the UK’s ability to respond to security threats but cutting funding and thus capabilities to departments like Defence, Home Department, Energy and Climate Change (basically all the non-ringfenced departments) in order to achieve his Conservative/Monetarist goal of an economic surplus and almost non-debt and deficit. He will also likely be the Deputy Chair since he’s the First Secretary of State and there’ no Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) in the new all-blue frontbench and Cabinet.

Leader of the House of Commons–Chris Grayling (I’m not sure if the new all-blue NSC will have the Leader of the House of Commons in the UK NSC, so I’ll skip.)

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Deputy Chair)–Philip Hammond (used to be Defence Secretary, and before that Transport Secretary. Eurosceptic. That’s my main worry about him.

Secretary of State for Defence–Michael Fallon (got his promotion because Philip Hammond was moved to the Foreign Office. Was first Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, then Minister of State for Business and Enterprise and then Minister of State for Energy. Is he a good Defence Minister? Basically, he’s doing what’s he’s told to do and is constrained by Osborne’s plan for cuts.)

Secretary of State for the Home Department–Theresa May. Looks fierce. I frankly don’t know much about her and her views. As with the others, her department will be constrained by Osborne’s economic plans.

Secretary of State for International Development–Justine Greening. She was there (as was Andrew Mitchell) in the Coalition Government NSC. Basically, she has the responsibility and privilege of using aid to improve global/international development but also to a) effect development by non-aid means and b) use aid to secure the UK’s national (security) interests (without violating Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rules). I wonder if George Osborne hates it he has to let her have a ring-fenced department.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change–Amber Rudd. She’ll be new to the NSC, but not the new to DECC. Thatcherite ( or so she claims), but the new Tories aren’t exactly anti-climate change (unlike extreme right wing US Republicans).

Chief Secretary to the Treasury–Greg Hands. Like Rudd, he’ll be a new member to the NSC, but his role won’t be much since George Osborne is the man with the “cuts” plan. Or maybe he’ll do something in the NSC…

(I’ll skip the post of “Minister for Government Policy” since I believe this has been removed).

So all the “Apostles” are listed above. The NSC (when it was formed) although had sub-committees: The Nuclear Deterrence and Security sub-Committee and the Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingencies sub-committee.

The Nuclear Deterrence and Security sub-committee consists of:

Prime Minister (Chair)

Chancellor of the Exchequer (and now First Secretary of State) (Definitely Deputy Chair)–wonder what’s he going to do? Give less money to disarmament negotiations?

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Deputy Chair)–I rather he be the main Deputy Chair.

Secretary of State for Defence

Secretary of State for the Home Department

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change–this person will definitely have a lot to do if there’s a nuclear explosion!!!

The Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingencies sub-committee

Prime Minister (Chair)

Chancellor of the Exchequer (and now First Secretary of State) (Definitely Deputy Chair)

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Deputy Chair)

Secretary of State for Defence

Secretary of State for the Home Department

Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills–Sajid Javid. He will be yet another new to the NSC. First time in BIS, not first time in Cabinet. We shall see what he brings and what he does during a crisis/for a potential crisis.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Secretary of State for Justice–Michael Gove. The previous SoS for Justice was “blue”. Don’t see much of a change but lots of people (not Conservatives) hate Gove.

Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities–Nicky Mogan. I again don’t know her but her role in this sub-committee is to ensure school kids don’t get radicalised or run away to fight for terrorist groups.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government–Greg Clark. His predecessor was a Tory. I again don’t know his character. SoS Communities and LG basically has to handle communities during times or crisis.

Secretary of State for Transport–Patrick McLoughlin. Again same old “blue” SoS as last time. Transport was a key signatory to the 2014 The UK national strategy for maritime security and should be a key member for any transport-related crisis–air, land or sea.

Secretary of State for Health–Jeremy Hunt. Another hated Tory by many. In any case, health is coming to prominence especially since the Ebola Outbreak.

Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs–Elizabeth Truss. First time in cabinet I believe. I also don’t know her style. It’s quite obvious what this SoS is needed if there’s a crisis or to prevent crises.

Secretary of State for International Development

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport–John Whittingdale. Not sure why the SoS for CMS is needed in this sub-committee. To broadcast news during national emergencies?

Minister for the Cabinet OfficeOliver Letwin and Matt Hancock (maybe Letwin will sit in the sub-committee). Needed for (guess) the British version of continuity of government.

There it is ladies and gentlemen, your all blue (Conservative/Tory/whatever name) UK National Security Council. (Any Clapping?)

From SDSR 2010 to 2015: The “positives”

Well the Conservatives are in full power and they will dominate the decision making for the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). People of course will remember the Treasury-led 2010 SDSR which was more of a review to find monetary savings, not to instruct defence plans and to consider security threats. Inasmuch as it wasn’t really a review, the years after until 2015 saw several “positives” for UK defence assets and policies. Below is a (quite incomplete) list of UK defence procurement and initiatives that hae take place, due to the 2010 SDSR as well as the security threats subsequently.

Royal Navy/Royal Marines

* The creation of the annual COUGAR task force/the Response Force Task Group (RFTG)

See for example COUGAR 11

COUGAR 12

COUGAR 13

COUGAR 13

* The ordering of the four MARS Tankers (under the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA))

* The ordering of the Lynx Wildcat

* The ordering of the Sea Venom and Martlet missiles

* The planning of the Type 26 Frigate

* Bringing both QECs into active serivce.

* Arming up to 4 x Type 45 Destroyers will Harpoon ASuW missiles

British Army

* Forming Army 2020

* Bringing Herrick Urgent Operational Requirements (UOR)s into core

* SCOUT SV planning and contract

* The ordering of the Lynx Wildcat

Royal Air Force

* Planning and ordering of support aircraft such as the Voyager, A400M, Rivet Joint

* Typhoon enhancements

* Chinook JULIUS project

* The Taranis demonstrator/Unmanned Combat Aircraft (UCAV) project

Joint Forces

* The creation of Joint Forces Command (JFC)

Defence 

* Levene Reform (which resulted in the the creation of the JFC)

To be updated