Category Archives: Defence

Jim Wallace’s response to the Government statement on Syria

Lord Wallace of Tankerness
Lord Wallace of Tankerness

Probably nothing is more important than the Government’s primary responsibility of security of the realm and its citizens. The Prime Minister acknowledges that in his Statement. Clearly, we do not have the evidence, nor would it be appropriate to share that evidence publicly, and therefore we must accept the judgement of the Prime Minster in responding to perhaps one of the most serious calls that has been made on him. However, it would be interesting to know whether this is a matter that the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to look at.

There is also reference in the Statement to the legal basis. Having worked closely as a law officer with the present Attorney-General, I know that his judgement would be made with considerable rigorous legal diligence and bringing to bear his considerable personal and professional integrity. I do not call for the publication of law officers’ advice; that is not something that, as a former officer, I would readily do. However, the noble Baroness will remember that before the House debated chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime and a possible UK government response, and before we debated last year the position on military action in Iraq against ISIL, the Government published on each occasion a statement setting out the Government’s legal position. If it is felt possible to elaborate on what was said in the Statement by a similar note, I think that we would find that very helpful.

Continue reading Jim Wallace’s response to the Government statement on Syria

William Wallace: Defence capabilities cannot be separated from foreign policy (via the Financial Times)

Lord Wallace of SaltaireIn a letter to the Financial Times, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson William Wallace has written:

“Sir, Your call for UK prime minister David Cameron to “make the case for strong defence capabilities” (editorial, June 2) does not spell out the link between the pursuit of a semi-detached relationship with continental Europe and the shrinkage of the UK’s military ambitions.”

The full letter can be found here

Letter of the Lords – 26 January 2015

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Britain’s best defence to the terror threat is international action (via The Guardian)

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

Government talk of returning jihadis and ‘western values’ won’t keep us safe. We need a coordinated international strategy to defeat those who threaten us

It is always easy to persuade frightened people to part with their liberties. But it is always right for politicians who value liberty to resist attempts to increase arbitrary executive powers unless this is justified, not by magnifying fear, but by actual facts.

On Friday, the government announced that the imminent danger of jihadi attack meant Britain’s threat level should be raised to “severe”. Then, from the prime minister downwards, Tory ministers took to every available airwave to tell us how frightened we should be and why this required a range of new powers for them to exercise. For the record, the threat level in Northern Ireland has been “severe” for the past four years – as it was in all Britain for many years in the 1980s and 1990s, when the IRA threat was at its greatest.

I say this not to deny the threat from returning jihadis – though as the former head of counter-terrorism for MI6, Richard Barrett said on Saturday, this should not be overestimated. But rather to make the point that this is not a new threat. It is one we have faced before and one we know how to deal with – effectively, without panic and without a whole new range of executive powers that could endanger our liberties. Indeed, when it comes to facing threats, it was surely far more difficult to cope with IRA terrorists slipping across the Irish Sea than it is to stop jihadis returning from Iraq?

Full article here

Monroe Palmer: Reform of the complaints system for the Armed Forces (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill

The Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill, currently going through report stage in the Lords, has a non-snappy title clearly not dreamt up with Public Relations in mind. It is however important as it includes creation of a Service Complaints Ombudsman and reform of Service complaints system.

As we move into Report stage the Liberal Democrat team, including the valuable contributions of my Lib Dem colleague Martin Thomas (Lord Thomas of Gresford), concentrated on two amendments. One to ensure that a complaint does not disappear if the complainant dies. The second is to carry out an investigation of any allegations of systemic abuse or injustice if it appears to her/him to be in the public interest and that there should be compelling circumstances.

Martin has outlined the importance of these amendments saying: “It may very well be that, in the course of the investigation of individual complaints, it will come to the attention of the ombudsman that there is a culture of abuse or bullying in a particular area. They may well feel that they would have to investigate that on their own initiative, and not await instruction, following their annual report, from the Secretary of State.”

Full article here

Monroe Palmer: Armed Forces Bill is a step towards a fairer society (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill

This week saw the Second Reading in The Lords of a Bill welcomed by the Liberal Democrats. It bears the unattractive title ‘Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill’ but builds towards our manifesto pledge to create a fair deal for our service personnel. A promise that has particular significance ahead of Armed Forces Day on Saturday.

The Bill deals with three matters: the creation of a Service Complaints Ombudsman; the reform of the service complaints system; and ensuring financial assistance to charities and other organisations which support the Armed Forces community.

The heads of the three Armed Forces have publicly stated their support for the Bill, but we pressed for meeting the representatives of the service chiefs and the current commissioner, so that The Lords can have their first-hand assessment. I am sometimes wary of public statements when we do not get to grips with the actual person who made the statement.

Full article here

Lord Thomas highlights Welsh role in WWI

Lord Thomas of Gresford
Lord Thomas of Gresford

Lib Dem Peer, Lord Thomas of Gresford will use today’s debate on the First World War to raise the important role that Wales played in the conflict.

As part of his speech, Lord Thomas will discuss the role played by Welsh soldiers in the struggle to take Mametz Wood during the Battle of the Somme.

The debate comes ahead of Armed Forces Day on Saturday 28 June.

Lord Thomas is expected to say:

“Following the deadly struggle of the 38th Welsh Division to take Mametz Wood during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, some in Wales called for the cancellation of the National Eisteddfod at Aberystwyth due to be held in the following August.

 “In the early hours of the morning of the 9th July, 1916, the 16th Royal Welsh Fusiliers were in position in the sunken road before Mametz Wood, singing snatches of songs. Their Colonel Col Ronald Carden came to lead the attack.

 “Waves of the 14th (Caernarfon and Anglesey) RWF and the 15th (London Welsh) RWF followed, breaking through a hail of bullets and bombs in which it seemed impossible for men to live. The Swansea, Rhondda and Carmarthen battalions of the Welsh Regiment went through the centre of the German lines. One of them said that the wood rang with the noise of rifle and bomb and the cries of men, shouting their battle cry, “Stick to it Welsh”.

 “On the following day, Mametz wood was finally taken with devastating losses. The 38th Division suffered 8,000 losses. The 13th Rhondda Battalion of the Welsh Regiment went in over a thousand strong. 135 answered their names at the first roll call afterwards.”