Armed Forces Bill will have Radical Impact

Michael has welcomed the news that the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill has now become law, saying that this “modest change” will have “radical consequences”.

The Bill was introduced by Michael when he was defence secretary to make provision for members of the Regular Forces to serve part-time or subject to geographic restrictions.  Following agreement by both Houses on the text of the Bill it received Royal Assent on 8 February. The Bill is now an Act of Parliament (law).

Michael said: “This is a modest change that will one day be seen to have had radical consequences.  Anybody considering a career in the armed forces – male or female – will now know they’re changing expectations over their careers will be recognised.  The new law will enable employees in the armed forces, for the first time, to apply for work for the days and hours that suit them best, removing barriers to female work and ensuring we don’t miss out on more talent and expertise.”

Fallon on Importance of Diversity in Defence

Michael has criticised the lack of female defence ministers, saying it is a “mistake” that all five are male following Theresa May’s recent reshuffle.

The former defence secretary told of his “regret” at the “gap” left by the decision to move Harriett Baldwin from the Ministry of Defence to the Foreign Office.

As he spoke of the need for more women and ethnic minorities in the armed forces to reach top ranks, Michael said:

“If we are to attract more people from outside, more people where we are short, then we’ve got to show them that you can not only have a worthwhile career but that you can get on to the very top.

“And finally of course that applies to Government itself.  I too regret that after the recent reshuffle – and I’m not going to comment on how successful or not that reshuffle was – there is now no female defence minister.”

Speaking as MPs debated the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill at third reading in the Commons, he added:

“And as the matter has been raised, the House might wish to know that when the Prime Minister formed her first administration back in June 2016 and she was moving [Penny Mordaunt]

“I made it very clear that we needed to have at least one woman minister on the team and I was delighted that [Harriet Baldwin] was appointed as a defence minister.

“Now I congratulate her of course on her promotion to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but that does leave a gap – and it is a mistake, if I may put it as boldly as that to the Treasury bench, it is a mistake to have five defence ministers and to have them all male.

“If we are to get more women, and in the fullness of time more people from the ethnic minorities to join up, then we have to show that this kind of change is embedded there from the top.”

Measures in the Bill will give staff the choice to temporarily work part-time or restrict the amount of time they are posted away from their home base and their families.

Michael also said that the Government needed to work harder to bring women leavers back into the Armed Forces and not missing out on their experience, as well as ensuring those women can quickly recover the rank and entitlements they would have achieved had they not taken maternity leave.”

The Minister responded: “It was remiss of me not to have acknowledged the work of the former secretary of state who pioneered in this area – I know this is something he has long and continues to be passionate about, and that is reflected in his speech.”

Michael: ‘Defence Needs More Money’

Michael has called on the government to give defence “more money” in the House of Commons today during a statement on the new defence review.

He said: “Is my Rt Hon Friend aware that he would have the support of the whole House if he were to secure additional funding for the pressures this year and next year Defence Review Statement 25th January 2018 standingbut then put the defence budget onto a more sustainable footing that allows our armed forces to tackle the increased threats that they face without these demoralising rumours of deep cuts.

The words here are interesting and they are important, but what really matters in the end is money – more money.”

The current defence secretary responded: “I’d like to thank my Rt Hon Friend for all that he has done for our Armed Forces.  Without his work, without his campaigning, we wouldn’t have been in a situation where we had a rising budget today, with the extra £4 billion worth of extra resources committed to our armed forces by the government.

I will certainly take on board his comments, and I notice his article in the Telegraph today which I thought set absolutely the right tone in terms of approach of how we take things forward, and I hope I have the opportunity to sit down with him to discuss how we get the balance right to make sure that we achieve everything that he has set out and built on for our armed forces over the past four years.

We do need to look at getting additional resources for our armed forces so that they have the capability to protect and truly defend Britain’s global interests both near and far.”

Watch the exchange here: https://goo.gl/7gqAot

Fallon Calls for New Defence Spending Target

In his first defence speech since stepping down, Michael has called on the government to set a new, higher target of 2.5 per cent of GDP for defence spending by the end of the Parliament, warning that Britain’s “security is at stake”.

Michael listed the “new and growing threats” since he took office in July 2014.  He highlighted the threats Daesh posed in the Middle East to energy supplies, key shipping lanes and allies in the Gulf as well as inspiring attacks on British and European cities.  He also noted the increasing use of cyber by state and non-state actors sheltered by Russia, Iran and North Korea, and the fragility of democracies in Africa.

Michael warned of the increasing spending gap with Russia.  He said Britain “has to do better” than the NATO 2 per cent target in light of increased Russian naval activity, cyber and hybrid insurgence and its proxy war in Ukraine.

Michael also reviewed the pressures on the defence budget from the decline in sterling, the need to reprofile nuclear spending, and to deliver efficiency savings earlier.  He wants the Treasury to provide immediate relief of £1 billion, in return for removing back-office and inter-service duplication.  “Efficiency savings are a continuous process, not a one-off exercise,” he said: “all three services need to work much more collaboratively in everything from helicopters to medical and logistics support”.  In return, defence spending should rise from 2.1 per cent to 2.5 per cent of GDP over the next four years.

Concluding his speech, Michael called on Britain to reassess its role in the world.  “If we retreat from our vision of a confident, outward-looking Global Britain”, he cautioned, “then we will drift downwards to being a bit-part world player, a part-time champion of democracy and freedom.  That would mean walking away from our international obligations, letting down our allies, and in the end leaving us less safe.

“On the contrary, we should be doing more in the world: our troops, planes and ships should be seen on every continent, in every sky, on all seven seas.  And our ambition needs a fully-funded budget to match.”

Read Michael’s speech here: Reflections on Defence speech 22nd January 2018.

Remembrance Sunday

Yesterday, Michael attended two services commemorating those who lost their lives in conflict as Sevenoaks and Swanley marked Remembrance Sunday.

He said: “I was proud to have laid wreaths in honour of those who lost their lives defending our country and our values.  It was a very moving day and a time to reflect on the freedom we enjoy because of their sacrifice.”