Javid told ‘get a grip’ of mi­grant chaos

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front Page - By Christo­pher Hope and Do­minic Ni­cholls

SA­JID JAVID was last night un­der pres­sure to “get a grip” of the mi­grant cri­sis in the Chan­nel af­ter he ap­peared to con­cede that the Gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse had been in­ef­fec­tive.

The Home Sec­re­tary cut short a fam­ily hol­i­day and was due to fly back to the UK to­day, af­ter he was ac­cused by his own MPs of demon­strat­ing “a lack of lead­er­ship”. The ap­par­ent bungling of the sit­u­a­tion – in which 90 mi­grants have been res­cued in the Chan­nel since Christ­mas Day – led to warn­ings that it could de­rail Mr Javid’s hopes of suc­ceed­ing Theresa May as prime min­is­ter.

Mr Javid has so far re­sisted calls for Royal Navy boats to be de­ployed to pro­tect the bor­der. But in an in­ter­view to­day with The Sun­day Tele­graph,

Gavin Wil­liamson, the De­fence Sec­re­tary, of­fers Mr Javid the sup­port of the Army, Navy and Air Force to try to stem the flow of mi­grantsl.

Eye­brows were raised at se­nior lev­els in the Gov­ern­ment af­ter Mr Javid clas­si­fied the cri­sis as a “ma­jor in­ci­dent” on Fri­day while re­main­ing on hol­i­day thou­sands of miles away in South Africa, where he was re­port­edly stay­ing in a £800-per-night sa­fari re­port. Mr Javid is thought only to have de­cided to fly back to the UK yes­ter­day af­ter­noon and is ex­pected to ar­rive in Bri­tain to­day.

To­mor­row morn­ing he will meet se­nior civil ser­vants as well as of­fi­cials from the Bor­der Force and the Na­tional Crime Agency. He was also ex­pected to speak to Christophe Cas­taner, the French in­te­rior min­is­ter, to­day “to stress the need for con­tin­u­ing joint ac­tion to pre­vent mi­grants at­tempt­ing the dan­ger­ous cross­ing”, of­fi­cials said.

But, in a Home Of­fice brief­ing yes­ter­day, Mr Javid ap­peared to blame White­hall civil ser­vants for the slug­gish re­sponse. It said: “With in­creas­ing con­cern about the po­ten­tial for loss of life and the need to co­or­di­nate ac­tion across White­hall dur­ing the tra­di­tion­ally slower Christ­mas pe­riod, he has de­cided to drive the re­sponse in per­son.”

How­ever, se­nior gov­ern­ment sources said it was un­ac­cept­able to blame of­fi­cials for the han­dling of the cri­sis. One said: “The sec­re­tary of state should not blame the Civil Ser­vice. You are elected to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for your depart­ment. He is en­ti­tled to a hol­i­day with his fam­ily, but if you want to de­clare some­thing a ma­jor in­ci­dent, then don’t cast blame around, be­cause that is not fair.”

Last night Mr Javid at­tempted to seize the ini­tia­tive, in­sist­ing he had stepped up checks in the Chan­nel af­ter the post-Christ­mas surge in ar­rivals, and that he had to “strike a bal­ance be­tween pro­tect­ing them and pro­tect­ing our bor­ders”.

He said: “I con­tinue to keep the num­ber of Bor­der Force cut­ters in the Chan­nel un­der close re­view, but there is no one easy an­swer to this com­plex prob­lem.”

Con­ser­va­tive MPs added to the pres­sure on Mr Javid. Rehman Chishti, a

Tory mem­ber of the Home Af­fairs se­lect com­mit­tee, said: “There has been a lack of lead­er­ship to get a grip on this is­sue”.

Mr Javid ap­peared to be fur­ther un­der­mined by Caro­line Nokes, his im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter, who said he was yes­ter­day still “tak­ing con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion” when she met staff at Dover.

Mr Wil­liamson, a ri­val for the Tory lead­er­ship, in­creased pres­sure on Mr Javid to take de­ci­sive ac­tion. He told The Sun­day Tele­graph: “We have not had any re­quests as yet, but if the Home Of­fice is in need of Armed Forces sup­port then our Navy, Air Force and Army stand ready to as­sist.”

The French au­thor­i­ties have said that an ad­di­tional Bri­tish ves­sel would be help­ful to stem the flow of mi­grants cross­ing the Chan­nel. In­grid Par­rot, from the French Naval head­quar­ters for the Chan­nel and North Sea, told The Sun­day Tele­graph: “We have been asked to in­ter­vene by Dover when there are no Bri­tish boats nearby. In a search-and-res­cue op­er­a­tion, the near­est boat is asked to help, so we have been in Bri­tish wa­ters mul­ti­ple times.”

Chris Hog­ben, who is lead­ing the Na­tional Crime Agency’s ef­forts to tackle the cri­sis, said smug­glers con­sid­ered it part of their “busi­ness model” to aban­don mi­grants in Bri­tish ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters in the Chan­nel.

Char­lie El­ph­icke, the Tory MP for Dover, said he wanted to see Mr Javid de­velop “a clear strat­egy and a plan” to tackle the cri­sis, adding: “We need deeds not words.”

Bri­tain will open two new mil­i­tary bases in the Caribbean and south-east Asia as the coun­try looks to step up its mil­i­tary pres­ence over­seas af­ter Brexit, Gavin Wil­liamson re­veals to­day.

The De­fence Sec­re­tary urges Bri­tons to stop down­play­ing the coun­try’s in­flu­ence in­ter­na­tion­ally and recog­nise that the UK will stand tall on the world stage af­ter leav­ing the Euro­pean Union.

In an in­ter­view with The Sun­day

Tele­graph in his Min­istry of De­fence of­fice, Mr Wil­liamson says: “We have got to be so much more optimistic about our fu­ture as we exit the Euro­pean Union.

“This is our big­gest mo­ment as a na­tion since the end of the Sec­ond World War, when we can re­cast our­selves in a dif­fer­ent way. We can ac­tu­ally play the role on the world stage that the world ex­pects us to play.

“For so long – lit­er­ally for decades – so much of our na­tional view­point has ac­tu­ally been coloured by a dis­cus­sion about the Euro­pean Union.

“This is our mo­ment to be that true global player once more – and I think the Armed Forces play a re­ally im­por­tant role as part of that.”

Bri­tain will turn its back on the 1968 “east of Suez” strat­egy, which led to Bri­tain with­draw­ing from mil­i­tary bases in Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore, the Per­sian Gulf and the Mal­dives, he says.

“So many times when you have been out into the Mid­dle East or the Far East they ac­tu­ally bring up the pol­icy of 1968 east of Suez,” he says. “We have got to make it clear that is a pol­icy that has been ripped up and Bri­tain is once again a global na­tion.”

Mr Wil­liamson is work­ing on plans for two new UK bases in the Caribbean and the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion so Bri­tain can project her in­flu­ence mil­i­tar­ily af­ter Brexit.

Bri­tain al­ready has per­ma­nent joint op­er­at­ing bases in Cyprus, Gi­bral­tar, the Falk­land Is­lands and Diego Gar­cia in the In­dian Ocean.

A source close to Mr Wil­liamson said the new bases could be sited in Sin­ga­pore or Brunei in the South China Sea, or Montser­rat or Guyana in the Caribbean “within the next cou­ple of years”.

He says: “I am also very much look­ing at how can we get as much of our re­sources for­ward based, ac­tu­ally cre­at­ing a de­ter­rent but also tak­ing a Bri­tish pres­ence.

“We are look­ing at those op­por­tu­ni­ties not just in the Far East but also in the Caribbean as well.”

The bases would have ser­vice and main­te­nance staff, sup­ply ships and equip­ment sited there.

Mr Wil­liamson has de­lib­er­ately at­tempted to en­sure that UK mil­i­tary as­sets are vis­i­bly de­ployed around the world over the past year as a demon­stra­tion of Bri­tish mil­i­tary might.

He says: “For the first time in a gen­er­a­tion this Christ­mas we have two ships op­er­at­ing in the Pa­cific Ocean a long way from home.

“We are the sec­ond big­gest in­ward in­vestor into that re­gion. So if our eco­nomic in­ter­ests are there we should also have a mil­i­tary in­ter­est there.”

With just over 90 days un­til Bri­tain leaves the Euro­pean Union, the De­fence Sec­re­tary says it is time to strike a more optimistic tone about the UK’s fu­ture out­side the EU.

Mr Wil­liamson pre­dicts that the “po­lit­i­cal fo­cus will shift quite dra­mat­i­cally” af­ter Brexit and the UK has to build “deeper re­la­tion­ships with Aus­tralia, Canada, New Zealand, Caribbean coun­tries, but also na­tions right across Africa”.

He says these coun­tries will “look to us to pro­vide the moral lead­er­ship, the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship and the global lead­er­ship”.

“They re­alise that we are good part­ners and ac­tu­ally the val­ues that we stand for of tol­er­ance, democ­racy and jus­tice, these are the val­ues that they hold dear to their hearts.”

Mr Wil­liamson says he is frus­trated by the na­tional pas­time of un­der­valu­ing the po­ten­tial for Bri­tain’s global in­flu­ence, cit­ing re­search by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft.

The re­search showed that while “the rest of the world saw Bri­tain stand­ing 10 feet tall – when ac­tu­ally we stood six feet tall; Bri­tons saw us stand­ing five feet tall, not the six, and cer­tainly not the 10”.

Mr Wil­liamson brushes aside ques­tions about why the state is con­sid­er­ing de­ploy­ing troops be­fore and af­ter Brexit day, say­ing that they would have been read­ied with or with­out a deal.

He says: “This is good sen­si­ble plan­ning to make sure that ev­ery­thing runs as smoothly as pos­si­ble.

“Good plan­ning is what the Bri­tish peo­ple ex­pects the Gov­ern­ment to do.

It isn’t about any­thing else than just to make sure there is a re­source there if peo­ple ask for it.

“We were al­ways plan­ning to carry a con­tin­gency there, just to make sure that things run smoothly with or with­out a deal be­cause ac­tu­ally it is sen­si­ble to be able to have a re­source that peo­ple are able to call upon, and if there is any is­sue or any­one wants a bit of ex­tra help, the peo­ple are there.”

Turn­ing to the es­ca­lat­ing cri­sis of mi­grants com­ing across the English Chan­nel in rub­ber dinghies, Mr Wil­liamson said all three Ser­vices were ready to help if called on by the Home Of­fice.

He said: “We have not had any re­quests as yet but if the Home Of­fice is in need of Armed Forces sup­port then our Navy, Air Force and Army stand ready to as­sist.

“Our mil­i­tary is al­ways will­ing to help civil au­thor­i­ties, as we did in Sal­is­bury this year and will con­tinue to do so, as and when re­quired.”

The Navy is due to start tak­ing de­liv­ery of ad­di­tional off­shore pa­trol ves­sels – which are tasked with fish­eries pro­tec­tion and fight­ing drugs smug­gling – at the be­gin­ning of next year, tak­ing the fleet from three to eight. On the de­part­men­tal front, Mr Wil­liamson’s team of of­fi­cials are cur­rently draft­ing a new law, to be pub­lished as early as next month, to pro­vide greater pro­tec­tions for all mem­bers of the Armed Forces from pros­e­cu­tion. He says he wants to give these pro­tec­tions not just to vet­er­ans of the Trou­bles in North­ern Ire­land, but to “vet­er­ans of con­flicts be­fore that and con­flicts since that, Iraq and Afghanista­n”. Mr Wil­liamson wants to give “them the con­fi­dence that the coun­try they have al­ways sup­ported, the coun­try they have al­ways de­fended, is also the coun­try that sup­ports and de­fends them”. He also in­sists that prob­lems with a con­tract run by Capita, which has seen army re­cruit­ment flat­line, are be­ing sorted out af­ter he de­ployed 200 ser­vice­men and women into re­cruit­ing cen­tres. He says: “Hav­ing the ex­pe­ri­enced sergeant out there, talk­ing about their ex­pe­ri­ences, talk­ing about the bril­liant have by join­ing qual­ity the of life Armed that they Forces. can “We have put 200 ser­vice per­son­nel into the sys­tem, sell­ing the mes­sage, and what we have seen is a large spike in the num­ber of peo­ple start­ing to ap­ply. “It is a re­ally im­por­tant mes­sage, get­ting the Armed Forces on the front line of re­cruit­ment, bang­ing the re­cruit­ment drum, sell­ing the ac­tual dream of what the Armed Forces can do. I want the very best in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and we are de­ter­mined to get them.” Mr Wil­liamson, 42, has seen his stock rise af­ter he was widely cred­ited with help­ing to per­suade Theresa May, the Prime Min­is­ter, not to pro­ceed with a key vote on her Brexit deal in the House of Com­mons ear­lier this month. And last week Mr Wil­liamson had to an­grily deny two Sun­day news­pa­per re­ports that he was over­heard plot­ting in a May­fair restau­rant about how he could be­come Tory leader.

In our in­ter­view, Mr Wil­liamson – a for­mer Gov­ern­ment chief whip – de­clines twice to say that he wants to be­come party leader one day and in­stead in­sists he is fo­cus­ing on the day job.

He says: “I have got the world’s best job as De­fence Sec­re­tary and that is all I am in­ter­ested in.”

The next big chal­lenge fac­ing Mr Wil­liamson is this spring’s Com­pre­hen­sive Spend­ing Re­view, which will set de­part­men­tal spend­ing lev­els for the next years.

“This time last year all the spec­u­la­tion, all peo­ple were talk­ing about, was what cuts we were go­ing to see in the Armed Forces.

“Now we are talk­ing about what a bright fu­ture our Armed Forces have. The in­vest­ment that we are putting into it.”

Mr Wil­liamson’s in­spi­ra­tion is two teenage Welsh Guards­men he met on their first op­er­a­tional tour of Afghanista­n, say­ing he was “in­spired by what they were do­ing, in­spired by their com­mit­ment and their ded­i­ca­tion”.

He adds: “I owe it to them to be the one who ac­tu­ally bangs the drum for them.

“All I want to do is do this job and do it to the best of my abil­ity. In my time as De­fence Sec­re­tary there are peo­ple who have felt that maybe I have been out­spo­ken on be­half of the Armed Forces or pushed things.

“I think it is my duty to do that. You have got men and women who serve our coun­try who do things for us to keep us safe that few oth­ers would be will­ing to do or would have the ca­pa­bil­ity to do.

“So if I am the voice that bangs that drum for them – no apol­ogy what­so­ever, I see it as my duty, I see it as my job.”

‘In my time as De­fence Sec­re­tary there are peo­ple who have felt that I have been out­spo­ken on be­half of the Armed Forces. I think it is my duty to do that’

Gavin Wil­liamson, the De­fence Sec­re­tary, says that to help the UK stand tall af­ter Brexit, the Armed Forces will pro­vide moral as well as mil­i­tary lead­er­ship

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