Today’s headlines are dominated by the news that the Government has suspended flights between the UK and Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort after saying that it was a “significant possibility” that the Russian plane that crashed last week was brought down by a bomb on board.
RAF Egypt support
There is a great deal of coverage devoted to this story with national newspaper front pages dominated by the grounding of UK flights to and from Sharm. Reporting touches on a number of angles including claims that the Government took the decision knowing it was likely to cause diplomatic tensions with both Egypt and Russia. The Government has said that its focus is currently on airport security which is why a team of experts has been deployed to Sharm including a small number of military personnel.
Speaking on ITV this morning, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:
What we're doing now is looking at introducing emergency measures that will allow us to bring back British people in Sharm el-Sheikh safely and securely to the UK. The second stage is looking at routine procedures in Sharm el-Sheikh so we can be confident we can resume normal patterns of operations. That could take days and it could take weeks. The airline industry has indicated it expects to be in a position to bring people back tomorrow.
As part of today’s newspaper coverage, both the Sun and Daily Mail speculate incorrectly that RAF planes are on standby to perform an emergency airlift of holidaymakers.
An MOD spokesperson has said:
As the Transport and Foreign Secretaries have made clear, the focus right now is on airport security and the safety and welfare of British nationals and holidaymakers in Egypt. That’s why a small number of military personnel have deployed as part of the cross-government response to assess the situation and look at safety arrangements. The military of course have a range of contingency plans ready for possible crises and scenarios around the world which we keep under constant review.
Ahead of the report on BBC 5Live (0835), The Sun carries the story that think tank Demos has said injured young soldiers are “languishing” in old people's homes and suffering from depression. The report says around 100 of the most seriously injured are now invisible to the state and to military charities. The paper also includes a comment piece which says this situation makes a “mockery” of the Military Covenant.
The MOD is investigating and our position is as follows:
The Government is absolutely committed to the wellbeing of our Armed Forces and provides a wide range of support both during and after service.
The Veterans Welfare Service exists to enhance the quality of life for veterans and helps them access the services they need, while a 24-hour helpline is available for veterans seeking advice on mental health issues.
A total of £2.2m of Libor fines was given to Combat Stress for its Community Outreach and to complete the second phase of the 24-Hour Mental Health Helpline. This is in addition to the £775,000 of Libor funds to help provide the helpline for veterans,£332,855 awarded to Big White Wall and £2.7m for the Help for Heroes ‘Hidden Wounds’ service.
A report in The Independent says Prime Minister David Cameron is to review the way in which Armed Forces veterans are compensated because of exposure to asbestos during their military service.
The Government’s statement is here:
We are currently considering whether a lump sum can be provided for future mesothelioma claimants; this has involved complex issues and discussion with other government departments. Claims for mesothelioma are always treated with the highest priority, in view of the nature of the condition. The Government places great importance on the health and wellbeing of our veterans and we are absolutely committed to treating them fairly.
The Telegraph carries the expected story that a ballistic missile was shot down in space by a US warship during an exercise off the coast of Scotland in the first successful test in European waters of a sea-based missile defence screen. The Royal Navy participated in the exercise, and a Royal Navy spokesperson said:
The UK hosted a complex maritime multi-national air and missile defence exercise at sea to the northwest of Scotland last month. The most advanced warships from eight nations operated closely together to successfully demonstrate cooperative defence capabilities including the interception of a short range ballistic missile target. The Royal Navy Destroyer, HMS DAUNTLESS participated as part of the group conducting activity to inform the UK’s ballistic missile defence research.
Soldier death - Gavin Williams
The Sun runs a small piece with further coverage of the death of Private Gavin Williams, who died after a heatstroke induced heart attack following what the paper describes as a ‘punishing drill.’ The inquest continues.
An MOD spokesperson said:
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Pte Gavin Williams at this difficult time. The Ministry of Defence is co-operating fully with the Coroner’s inquiry, but at this stage all questions relating to the inquest should be directed to the Coroner.