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

Defence Spending

Daily Telegraph
 My much-missed friends in the military will be in two minds about the newly-announced defence review.  Another review, just two and a half years after the last one, means further uncertainty for all three services, for our amphibious forces, above all for the fine young men and women choosing now to embark on a career of service to our country.

On the other hand, we will all wish my successor Gavin Williamson well if Defence can achieve a more durable settlement with the Treasury. Throughout my three years the defence budget was always under pressure.  Almost every monthly meeting of the defence board that I chaired saw repeated calls for more money for over-running equipment programmes, for urgently needed improvements to housing and fuel infrastructure, for the much-delayed Astute submarines, for nuclear work at Aldermaston. We had to trim vital training, scale down exercises, or defer new missile systems.

In April 2016 we finally committed to the NATO 2 per cent and the budget increased after years of cuts, enabling us to invest in new frigates, maritime patrol aircraft, F35 fighters and armoured vehicles.  But it soon became clear that there would be growing pressures in the early years: nobody foresaw the drop in sterling (much MoD spend is in dollars); replacing the four Trident submarines exposed the need to spend more of that £31 billion earlier to achieve better long-term value.

And the efficiency savings on which part of the future equipment programme depended proved harder than anticipated for the front-line commands to deliver.  They had delegated budgets but were often reluctant to take delegated responsibility, preferring instead to offer up “bleeding stumps” to get Ministers to take the unpalatable decisions.  They took time to understand that efficiency is not a one-off exercise: large commercial organisations take out cost each successive year, ridding themselves of unnecessary land and buildings, sharing back-office functions, slicing layers of middle management.

A year ago I took all these concerns to the Prime Minister.  I warned that the depreciation of sterling and cost escalation in nuclear were putting severe pressure on the budgets for 17-18 and 18-19.  If we wanted to play a leading role in NATO, with our troops and Typhoons defending its eastern flank; to counter the Russian submarine threat to our deterrent and our cables in the North Atlantic; to go on bearing the second biggest load of air strikes and army training in Iraq; to go on supporting fragile democracies in Afghanistan and Nigeria, and to offer the UN more peace-keepers in Africa; then we had to put the defence budget onto a more sustainable footing.

In return I wanted to push all three services much harder on rooting out duplication – in everything from helicopters to logistics, medical and administrative functions – and to use their manpower more effectively and more collaboratively.  The new service chiefs were up for that challenge.

But work on sorting out the budget, tackling duplication and better prioritisation was halted for the snap election, and only picked up again last summer.

The new review must recognise that the threats to our country have significantly increased.  Before the invasion of Crimea Russia seemed innocuous: now we see its threat to the western democracies.  And Russia is spending not 2 per cent but 5 per cent of GDP on modernising its conventional and its nuclear forces, on hybrid and electronic warfare.

The Middle East and North Africa remain launchpads for further extremist attacks on our cities.  In the Pacific a nuclear North Korea threatens Japan and the United States– even London is within range.

Then there’s cyber, a threat from anywhere, anytime.  Our enemies can steal our information, disrupt our energy supplies, even our government systems.  A cyber warrior with a laptop and smart software can inflict huge financial and physical damage on individuals, companies and entire countries. State-based hackers can target our NHS and our Parliament.

Increased threats must mean a bigger budget.  As I told our party conference in October the NATO 2 per cent is only a minimum.  In the last year of the last century, 1997-98, the Blair government was spending 2.7 per cent.  That was before 9/11, before the attacks from Daesh, before Russia started changing international borders by force, before Kim threw missiles over Japan.

In the end this is about us.  If post-Brexit we are to play our proper part in the world, defending our shores and supporting our allies, championing our values and helping fragile democracies, then we should be more ambitious.  We should be leading in NATO, working with our friends in the Gulf, helping in Africa, and deploying further afield too.  Yes, insist on further and tougher efficiencies but relieve the immediate pressures on the budget and then set a new target to reach 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of this Parliament.

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.

Defend Yourself Online

Michael has warned consumers to defend themselves online at an information session on safe and secure banking in Swanley on Saturday.

The session was hosted by Barclays and was organised by Michael following the announced closure of the Farningham branch.  Designed to help customers to explore the alternatives to branch banking, experts were on-hand at the event to explain what services are available through the Post office and through online, mobile and telephone banking.

It was a good opportunity for the local MP to discuss the work that Barclays has done to support Farningham customers with Will Dixon, the Community Banking Director for Barclays in Kent, and Judith Gafatchi, the Swanley branch manager.

Crucially, the event also covered digital safety where local residents learned to protect themselves from financial fraud and scams.

Michael said: ‘Banks have a duty to ensure all residents affected by sudden branch closures are still able to access banking simply, safely and securely.  Learning to defend yourself online is vital in this digital age.  I will continue to work with banks to ensure everyone can access the services they need.’

We Need Strong Defence

This election is the most important election in my lifetime. As the United Kingdom negotiates its exit from the European Union, our country needs stable leadership to see us through.

But this election is about more than Brexit. In an uncertain world, it is about maintaining our strong defence. It is about the future security of our country and the safety of our people. It is about ensuring we continue to work closely with our partners in Europe on security. And it is about standing up and protecting freedoms that are threatened around the world by conflict and terrorism.

Strong defence requires an increasing defence budget. Britain’s budget is £36 billion this year, rising to almost £40 billion by 2020/21. We will continue to meet the NATO 2 per cent commitment, and go further by increasing our defence budget by at least 0.5 per cent ahead of inflation in every year of the new parliament. No other party is making such a strong ongoing financial investment in our armed forces.

We will continue to act in the national interest by leading in NATO and deploying troops, ships and planes to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and counter Russian aggression. We will continue to play a leading role in the campaign against Daesh, helping to drive terrorists out of Iraq and Syria, and keeping our streets here at home safe. We will also step up around the world to protect British interests, support fragile democracies, and contribute to UN peacekeeping in vulnerable countries like South Sudan and Somalia.

We will maintain the overall size of the armed forces, including an army that is capable of fielding a warfighting division. We will provide our armed forces with the new frigates, submarines, fighter jets, maritime patrol aircraft and armoured vehicles that they need – the biggest investment programme for generations. That programme totals £178 billion over the next decade, creating high-skilled jobs across the whole country, including £31 billion on a new fleet of four Dreadnought ballistic missile boats, £15.4 billion on land equipment and £11.1 billion on new helicopters.

We will support our veterans as they move into civilian life. We will help them to start new careers by ensuring that the skills and qualifications they gained in service are better recognised by civilian employers. We will introduce a twelve-month National Insurance holiday for employers taking on veterans. We will strengthen the Armed Forces Covenant and improve the coordination of government services to veterans, including housing, employment and mental health services, by establishing a Veterans Board in the Cabinet Office.

We will protect our brave servicemen and women from unjustified legal harassment. We are already bringing to an end the investigations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will ensure that further investigations in Northern Ireland do not reopen previously examined cases without new evidence. We will not allow our hands to be bound by the European Convention on Human Rights when protecting our troops’ ability to operate in future conflicts.

In the face of growing challenges abroad, it is more important than ever that we maintain and renew our nuclear deterrent. I was proud to have cut steel last October on HMS Dreadnought, the first of our new nuclear ballistic submarines which will provide the ultimate guarantee of our safety right through to the early 2060s.

All of this is at risk from Jeremy Corbyn propped up by a coalition of chaos. A Corbyn-led government would abolish our nuclear deterrent, review our NATO deployments and undermine our contribution to the counter-Daesh campaign in Iraq and Syria.

So the choice on 8 June is clear. It is a choice between Theresa May providing strong and stable leadership for the United Kingdom, or a coalition of chaos led by a weak Jeremy Corbyn. Only Theresa May and the Conservatives can give this country the strong defence that we need to continue to stand tall in the world.

Michael Officially Opens The New Beacon Centre

Michael officially opened a new multi-purpose educational centre at The New Beacon preparatory school for boys on 26th May 2017.

He was invited to speak at the event by Headmaster Mike Piercy and was greeted by all the schoolboys and their parents outside the new Centre. Michael asked one of the boys from Reception to join him in cutting the ribbon and officially opening the new building.

Michael was then given a tour of the Centre, where the Headmaster revealed the results of an election poll he had taken with the schoolboys that put Michael and the Conservatives in the lead. This was followed by an hour-long Q&A session with the senior boys inside. Among many questions, the boys asked about Michael’s motivations to become an MP and his views on defence.

Michael said: ‘This is about you, the schoolboys, and the future generations. I’ve always supported this high-achieving prep-school and believe this new Centre will itself become a new beacon for other schools in our area to use.’

Michael Visits the Falkland Islands

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Michael speaking to military personnel on the Falklands. Crown Copyright.

Michael has visited the Falkland Islands this week in the first visit by a UK Defence Secretary in more than a decade.

He spent time with islanders and MOD personnel in the capital Stanley and other sites, witnessing some of the construction work which is taking place as part of a £180m, 10-year commitment to modernise the defensive infrastructure of the islands.  The £180m upgrade package includes £60m to improve the power station at Mount Pleasant Camp, £22m to improve facilities at the berths in Mare Harbour, and £20m of work on accommodation at Radar Heads.

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Michael paying his respects to those who fell in the 1982 conflict. Crown Copyright.

As well as meeting current military personnel he also visited key locations from the 1982 conflict, including at Goose Green and San Carlos, and paid his respects to those who died on both the British and Argentinian sides.

Michael said: “This was an important opportunity to hear about life on the islands and the potential for economic development that will bring more jobs and prosperity.  The right of the islanders to determine their own future was settled over 30 years ago and confirmed by the recent referendum.

Now we want to build a better relationship with the new Argentinian government, as neighbours in the South Atlantic and fellow G20 members.”

Rotary Club of Darent Valley

rotary clubMichael met Rotarians and their guests at their new regular lunch venue held at White Oak Indoor Bowls Club, Swanley on 3rd October.  Members had requested a talk based around Michael’s new role as Defence Secretary.

As all knew, it had been an extremely busy summer, with Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa dominating the agenda, as well at the NATO summit and the draw down of troops and equipment from Afghanistan.  We now face a direct threat from Islamic extremism.  The government is working closely with our allies to drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL and what it stands for.

Michael has already had two trips to visit servicemen and women in Afghanistan; met the RAF crews in Cyprus – whose tireless efforts saved lives by delivering aid in Iraq and visited several defence allies in the middle-east and Europe.  Last month he hosted the defence delegations from 28 NATO countries and their partners at the NATO summit in Newport, Wales; arguably the most significant summit since the end of Cold War.

He wanted to reassure everyone that his current role does not affect his constituency work, which he very much values.  In addition to his regular advice surgeries he had also had meetings with Swanley Town Council, Healthwatch Kent, and Lloyds Bank Sevenoaks in the last few weeks.  He recently opened the new branch of Handelsbanken in Sevenoaks, launched a new current account at Sevenoaks Crown Post Office, and presented Swanley Station staff with a Secure Station Award.

Earlier that day he had spoken at the West Kent Partnership Business Engagement Event in Brands Hatch,  Plans for the following week would include a visit to West Kingsdown Primary School, attending the British Tour Car Championship Final Roadshow event at Brands Hatch and a parish meeting at Badgers Mount.  A business advice surgery will be held shortly and Swanley Jobs Fair is being organised for mid-October.