Today's newspapers are dominated by the publication of Prince Charles's letters to government ministers in the mid-2000s, after what the media describes as a long secrecy battle. It is widely reported that among other matters, Prince Charles wrote to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair to urge him to provide better equipment, including helicopters, for UK personnel deployed to Iraq.
Yesterday’s migrant rescue operation in the Mediterranean, conducted by HMS Bulwark, is widely reported in today’s papers after information and images were released yesterday by the MOD. The Times reports that some 600 migrants, including pregnant women and children, spent last night on board the ship which is due to land in Sicily this morning. Papers also report that it is the first time that HMS Bulwark has taken on stricken travellers since the flagship of the Royal Navy started to take part in a pan-European effort to combat the refugee and migrant crisis last week.
Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, said:
HMS Bulwark and her crew have already proved an invaluable asset in assisting with the Mediterranean migrant crisis. Including today’s events the Royal Navy will have rescued about 600 people since starting operations at the beginning of the month.
The ship is providing medical assistance, food, water and dry clothes to those in need and will transfer them safely to land as soon as possible.
Strategic Defence Review
The Times speculates on the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015, which will define the future shape, size and role of the military later this year. It is reported that David Cameron launched the review yesterday amid reported warnings that Britain’s spy agencies may face cuts to fund government pledges to protect the Armed Forces. The paper reports that the SDSR study, overseen by the Cabinet Office, comes five years after the last review saw the loss of tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen and the “shedding“ of critical kit to save money. According to the paper, this time analysts predict that cost-saving will be less severe because of pledges to retain the size of the regular Armed Forces and spend more on military equipment.
A Government spokesperson said:
It remains the Government’s primary responsibility to maintain national security, and in an ever-changing world that remains a top priority. As the Prime Minister has previously made clear, our focus has remained the delivery of the current 2010 SDSR. However, following the election, initial work is now beginning on the 2015 National Security Strategy and SDSR. Led by the Cabinet Office, Whitehall departments including the MOD are now taking forward initial work for the exercise.
The Daily Mail writes that British troops could enter Libya to stop the flow of migrants headed for Europe. The article references leaked EU papers which apparently reveal plans for an air and naval military campaign on the people responsible for putting migrants on boats across the Mediterranean. The paper reports that the “document also suggests ground operations might be needed to destroy the smugglers’ vessels and assets, such as fuel pumps”.
A Government spokesperson said:
Discussions remain ongoing in the EU on the proposed Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operation alongside parallel discussions at the UN Security Council. We are considering how best to support the proposals to counter the smuggling networks but the details remain under discussion. The UK has no plans to send combat troops to Libya.
On this morning’s BBC Today Programme and reflected on BBC News, Defence Correspondent, Jonathan Beale, reported from Exercise Dynamic Mongoose, Nato’s largest ever anti-submarines warfare exercise currently taking place in the North Sea. Jonathan suggested that the exercise has been seen as a response to increasing activity by Russian Submarines following recent reports of Russian submarines operating off the coast of Scotland as well as Sweden and Finland. He also suggests that the exercise has highlighted limitations in Britain’s lack of maritime patrol aircraft.
An MOD spokesperson said:
We are using a range of UK assets for maritime patrol and the protection of UK waters including UK submarines, Sentry E-3D aircraft, the Sonar 2087-fitted Type 23 frigates and state-of-the-art Type 45 Destroyers working alongside our allies as part of a multi layered approach to maritime surveillance.
We are examining the maritime surveillance threats and potential solutions, however, there has been no decision to procure a Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Future decisions on Military requirements and therefore, roles and equipment will be reviewed in the forthcoming SDSR.
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