BBC NEWS | 2010/01/13 | 09:40:31 GMT
The British armed forces could be forced to shrink by up to a fifth because of a lack of money, a military think tank has predicted. The Royal United Services Institute said the number of trained military personnel could fall from 175,000 to little more than 140,000 by 2016. Its report said the cost of troops and equipment was rising, and major cuts were “inevitable.” The Ministry of Defence said budgets would not be cut at all next year.
The report’s author, defence expert Professor Malcolm Chalmers, warned hard choices lay ahead and efficiency savings would not be enough to put Britain’s defences on a sustainable footing. He said even being “cautiously optimistic,” intense pressure on government finances meant the MoD’s budget was likely to fall by 11% in real terms by 2017. And he said a much deeper reduction of about 15% over the next three years could not be ruled out. Professor Chalmers warned the problem would be made worse because the costs of employing troops and civilian personnel have been rising in real terms, as has buying and running equipment. Cuts to the available budget combined with growing costs meant the next six years were likely to see a reduction of about 20% in the number of service personnel, the report said. Continue reading
Adri Nieuwhof and Ziyaad Lunat | Electronic Intifada | 18 December 2009
Efforts by human rights organizations, lawyers and activists in Palestine and Europe to hold Israeli war crimes suspects to account have gained momentum over the past few years. Last week, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a visit to the UK over threats of a lawsuit under the country’s universal jurisdiction laws. The Goldstone report on the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, published in September, favors universal jurisdiction as a tool for enforcing international law, preventing impunity and promoting international accountability.
The purpose of universal jurisdiction is to hold accountable in third-party states individuals suspected of war crimes from states that do not fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law. The events of World War II showed the horrific consequences of the absence of the protection of civilians, leading to the adoption of the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949 dealing with the laws of armed conflict. State signatories to the Convention are obliged to enforce and ensure the respect of international humanitarian law, or the law of armed conflict. Continue reading
Guardian | Wednesday 16 December 2009 | 11.27 GMT
One of Britain’s most successful faith schools lost its appeal today to overturn a ruling that it had racially discriminated against a 12-year-old boy. In a landmark legal decision, judges at the Supreme Court found the Jewish Free School, a comprehensive in north-west London, had broken the law by refusing to admit the boy, known as M. It had denied the boy, who is a practising Jew, a place because it has twice as many applicants as it can take and prioritises children whose mothers are recognised as Jewish by the chief rabbi. M’s mother converted from Catholicism to Judaism under a non-Orthodox authority, which means she is not recognised as Jewish by the chief rabbi. The chief rabbi only recognises children as Jewish if he recognises their mothers as Jewish.
M’s father took the school to court claiming racial discrimination. In June, the court of appeal ruled in his favour. It said the school’s policy amounted to racial discrimination because it prioritised applications from children with Jewish mothers. But the school appealed and took the case to the Supreme Court. Critics say today’s ruling has meant secular jurists are deciding who is Jewish and who is not. The ruling will Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/15 | 08:28:39 GMT
The defence secretary is due to outline how he plans to pay for extra equipment for British operations in Afghanistan by making cuts elsewhere. An RAF base could be shut and thousands of defence jobs lost in Whitehall and also within the armed forces. Bob Ainsworth is expected to tell MPs more than 20 Chinook helicopters are being ordered over the next 10 years. It comes as a report accuses the MoD of driving up projects’ overall budgets through short-term cost-cutting. The BBC understands parts of RAF Kinloss, in Moray, could be mothballed as part of the spending cuts.
The government is expected to announce it is buying the Chinooks from Boeing after months of criticism over the number of helicopters in operation in Helmand, in Afghanistan. An extra C17 transport plane could also be on the cards. But the money will have to come out of the Ministry of Defence’s existing budget, which is already overspent. Mr. Ainsworth is likely to announce cuts to the existing Harrier and Tornado fighter jet fleet, and a cutback of Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft. The final decision will end months of tough negotiations over the 2010 spending round. But there is more pain ahead in defence, with a public spending squeeze still to come. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/11 | 08:43:31 GMT
The Treasury wanted tougher action in the pre-Budget report to tackle the UK deficit but was persuaded otherwise by Gordon Brown, the BBC has learned. Treasury officials wanted to announce more spending cuts in order to lend credibility to their plan to halve the £178bn deficit within four years. However, months before an election, the prime minister wanted existing pledges to boost spending by £30bn maintained. The Tories have said the plans were “designed for electioneering purposes.” The government is compelled to halve the post-war record deficit within four years, under the Fiscal Responsibility Bill. Wednesday’s pre-Budget report (PBR) announced belt-tightening measures including a public sector pay cap and a rise in National Insurance, but both of these come in from 2011.
Mr. Darling is broadly sticking to existing plans for next year, with public spending set to increase by £31bn. This disagreement between the Treasury and No 10 was not about the speed at which the budget deficit should be reduced, the BBC understands, but about how to ensure the government appeared to have a convincing plan to cut the deficit. BBC political editor Nick Robinson said: “The Treasury wanted a tougher package, mindful as it was of the need to start restoring the finances – and to be seen to be doing so. But, with an election just months away, Ed Balls, the schools secretary, and Gordon Brown, his close ally, argued passionately for an increase in the schools budget – a concession some Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/10 08:03:38 GMT
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have issued a joint call for urgent global reform of financial markets. The joint letter comes ahead of talks on the sidelines of an EU conference, where they will try to brush off a row over an EU appointment. Mr. Sarkozy appeared to boast that a Frenchman’s appointment to oversee European banking was a British defeat. The EU summit will also address climate change and financing. Mr. Brown and Mr. Sarkozy had cancelled a meeting scheduled to be held last week, amid speculation of a row over EU posts. Mr. Sarkozy had told Le Monde newspaper the British were “the big losers” in the share-out of EU jobs after former French agriculture minister Michel Barnier was given the role of supervising Europe’s internal market for financial services, most of which is in the City of London.
But European diplomats tried to brush rumours of a disagreement between the two leaders to one side. “I think it’ll be fine. In two years, you’ll be wondering what the fuss was about,” one unnamed source told Reuters. Mr. Brown’s spokesman too said the meeting had a broader agenda than fixing bruised ties. “It’s not specifically focused on any one issue. There are lots of things going on,” he said. In a show of unity ahead of the talk, the leaders issued a joint call for the urgent global reform of financial markets. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, they say a one-off Continue reading
Bloomberg | December 2, 2009 | 19:01 EST
European banks are emerging from the credit crisis bigger than before, posing more risk to their national economies. BNP Paribas SA, Barclays Plc and Banco Santander SA are among at least 353 European lenders that have increased in size since the beginning of 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Fifteen European banks now have assets larger than their home economies, compared with 10 lenders three years ago. While the European Union has grabbed headlines for breaking up bailed-out banks, regulators haven’t reined in firms that shunned state aid and are too big to fail. European bank assets have grown 25 percent since the start of 2007, compared with a 20 percent increase at U.S. lenders, Bloomberg data show.
“We are sowing the seeds for the next crisis,” said David Lascelles, senior fellow at the London-based Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, a research group. “What we have been doing in the last two years is making banks much bigger. It really goes against the currents of the time.” Banks expanded their balance sheets during the credit bubble, borrowing cheap money in the wholesale market to fund loans and investments. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc’s assets ballooned 2,914 percent in the 10 years through 2008 as it made acquisitions, boosted trading and increased lending. Edinburgh- based RBS spent $140 billion on takeovers during the period, culminating in the purchase of ABN Amro Holding NV in 2007 that triggered the world’s biggest bank bailout. Continue reading