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Defence in the media

Defence in the Media: 16 February 2015

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Ben Parkinson

There is widespread reporting  of the news that a soldier who suffered a broken back and devastating injuries eight years ago is now able to walk about two miles per day thanks to a pioneering new course of treatment (The Times p9, Daily Star p4, Sun p4, Daily Mail p21 and Daily Telegraph p8). Ben Parkinson, a former paratrooper, lost both his legs, broke his back, punctured his lungs and was left in a coma after his Land Rover hit a landmine in Afghanistan. Mr Parkinson is among the country’s first soldiers to undergo Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at a clinic in Edinburgh.

Poppy artist

Many papers (The Daily Mail p32, Daily Mirror p17, Daily Express p7 and Daily Telegraph p8) cover the news that the artist who created the stunning poppy display at the Tower of Londonreceived death threats because proceeds went to military charities. The poppies were sold off for a reported £10 million once the installation was removed and the military charities that benefited included Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion and Combat Stress. The artist, Paul Cummings, said he believes he was threatened because they felt the money was going to charities which in some way were involved in war.

Whitehall waste

A report into Government waste by the Taxpayers’ Alliance is covered by a number of newspapers (The Daily Mail p11, Daily Mirror p24, Daily Star p16 and Sun p18). The report says that more that £5 billion has been wasted by Whitehall in just one year through errors, buying unused equipment and handing out compensation.

A Government spokesperson said some losses were ‘outside the control of the public sector’ and added:

this Government has clamped down on wasteful spend and last year saved £14.3billion for the taxpayer.

The Daily Mail (p11) reports that as part of these losses the MOD spent £6 million on earplugs that were not fit for purpose. Each set of ear plugs is moulded to an individual so cannot be transferred to another person. In spite of thorough trials in the UK, using ear defenders on operations for several months was the only way to indentify any technical issues.

An MODspokesperson said:

Ear defenders are a technical piece of equipment, and provide vital hearing protection for our troops. Whilst they were trialled ahead of being used in theatre, it was only during the constant rhythm of operations that it became clear they required modification to ensure they offered our personnel the best possible protection.

Military hardware

The Mail on Sunday reports that Britain has signed up to a Nato initiative to share billions of pounds of military hardware with other countries, potentially leaving the UK incapable of fighting its own wars. It reports that MOD and Nato declined to disclose details about what assets Britainmay share. But the MOD can be clear there is no new NATO weapons pooling scheme.

An MOD spokesperson said:

Britain has not ‘signed up’ to share billions of pounds of military hardware, or indeed to the Lead Nation Procurement Initiative; this is a unilateral US Government initiative which simply alters their export regime for a trial period, not a new NATO weapons pooling scheme as the story suggests. The UK will of course consider this opportunities along with all other procurement options, on a case-by-case basis to ensure maximum value for money for the taxpayer.


The Sunday Times ran a story about a report from think tank CentreForum, which says that theUK could save billions of pounds by getting rid of Trident and the Successor programme, and replacing it with air dropped nuclear bombs. In July 2013, the Government published an unclassified version of the Trident alternatives review. The study was a neutral, fact-based analysis by officials, and included a detailed two-year analysis, drawing upon military and civilian expertise and information from the MOD, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and other departments and agencies. The study demonstrated that no alternative system is as capable, or as cost-effective, as a Trident-based deterrent.

Like the CentreForum report, the Trident alternatives review looked at replacing the nuclear deterrent with a free-fall nuclear bomb fitted to a fast jet, but judged such a system insufficiently credible to include on the shortlist for detailed analysis. The MOD is clear that Government policy remains to maintain a continuous at sea deterrent and proceed with the programme to build a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines.

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