Eamon Keating, the chairman of the Defence Police Federation, has warned that cuts to the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) could place the security of the UK's Trident nuclear weapons at risk.
The MDP is currently comprised of 2,600 officers, who cover about 120 sites across the country and provide security at key bases involved in the Trident programme, including the Atomic Weapons Establishment and HM Naval Base Clyde. Staff numbers were cut by almost a third in 2010 and during a speech in June, Mr Keating said that proposals for a further 15% cut in numbers or to replace the MDP with the army could damage UK national security.
The proposed cuts would mean that that MDP numbers would have been reduced by over 40% since 2010 In February the committee which oversees the MDP’s work described current staffing levels as “not sustainable without risks to employees or security”.
In the recent speech Mr Keating said "The MDP has worked at the limits of its resources for more than five years. It's unrealistic to expect we could do more or even deliver the same levels of security with less. The loss of officers will put defence assets at greater risk, and that is not a decision that should be taken to cut costs."
Referring to a suggestion that the army could take over from the MDP at nuclear weapons sites, Mr Keating warned that army staff are not trained to deal with civilian protesters.
Following the recent parliamentary vote on Trident the controversy about potential MDP cuts raises questions about whether policing and other ancillary costs have been factored in to the projected costs for the Trident replacement programme. The apparent financial pressures on providing policing security for the weapons themselves also casts further doubt on the affordability of the programme itself.