Security cleared news roundup: May

Published on: 1 Jun 2021

We're rounding up some of the biggest security cleared stories of the past few weeks. In May, the Ministry of Defence launched a competition for the building of three Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships and signed a contract for new tanks, two government departments unveiled plans to move thousands of jobs away from London, and research revealed the extent of the police's data breach problems.

Government launches competition for new RFA vessels

The Ministry of Defence has launched a bidding process for the construction of new vessels for the RFA in order to provide better support for Royal Navy operations around the world.

Three new Fleet Solid Support ships will provide supplies including munitions, food, stores and provisions to task groups at sea. The competition is designed to challenge the UK's shipbuilding industry and reaffirm the government's commitment to supporting jobs in this sector.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said: "The launch of the Fleet Solid Support competition presents a really exciting opportunity for the shipbuilding industry to support the design and build of a new class of ship that will primarily resupply our Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers."

Thousands of central government jobs to be created outside London

The Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have unveiled plans to open up almost 3,000 central government roles in locations outside London and the south-east by 2025.

Part of a cross-government move to ensure opportunities are more evenly distributed throughout the UK, it will see the Home Office develop 1,950 roles, including 500 jobs at a new Innovation Centre in Stoke-On-Trent. BEIS, meanwhile, will move 865 roles to eight cities across the UK, including two new locations in Belfast and Edinburgh.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "Relocating these Civil Service roles will ensure central government hears the voice of local communities louder and clearer than ever before, while creating hubs of economic opportunity and growth across the UK."

British Army announces £800 million Challenger tank contract

The British Army has awarded an £800 million contract to Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land for the building of 148 new Challenger 3 main battle tanks, which it says will provide the armed forces with "the most lethal tank in Europe".

It will see the creation of 200 jobs at the company's Telford location, including 130 engineers and 70 technicians. A further 450 jobs will be established throughout the wider supply chain to support the work.

The Challenger 3 will feature a new turret with a 120-millimetre smoothbore gun and an automatic target detection and tracking system to identify threats. It will also carry more high-velocity ammunition than previous versions and be able to travel at faster speeds with an increased range thanks to an upgraded engine.

UK police forces experience over 2,300 data breaches

The need for skilled IT personnel to protect police forces from cyber attacks has been highlighted by a new report that revealed more than 2,300 data breaches were recorded in the last year.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by VPNoverview showed these incidents happened at just 22 of the UK's 45 forces, suggesting the real problem may be far more widespread. Lancashire Constabulary had the worst record of the 31 forces that responded to the request, with 1,300 breaches, followed by Cheshire Constabulary (1,193) and Sussex Police (980). 

The incidents included both malicious attacks and events resulting from human error, though the figures did not break down breaches by category indicating what the biggest issues were. It comes after a separate FoI request in 2019 revealed 239 officers and staff were disciplined for misusing IT equipment, with many of these involving unlawful access of police databases.

Civil Service urged to reform hiring practices to boost diversity

The Civil Service needs to make changes to its hiring and promotion practices to ensure people working in central government better reflect the country, after new research found there is a lack of diversity at the top levels.

A report by the Social Mobility Commission found just 18 per cent of Senior Civil Service employees came from disadvantaged backgrounds, while one in four attended independent schools. It stated staff with the "right accent" and an "intellectual approach" to culture and politics are most likely to win promotions to the highest ranks.

The commission therefore put forward a comprehensive action plan to address these shortcomings, including the adoption of laws to ensure that socio-economic background is a protected characteristic and setting five-year targets to increase representation.