Select Committee on Defence First Special Report


12. Visits serve as a useful element in the work of most select committees. For our Committee they have particular value in two areas. First, they enable us to meet serving soldiers, sailors and airmen of all ranks both in the UK and abroad, often on operational duties. The opportunity to elicit the views and opinions of Service men and women, and to experience for ourselves the kinds of challenges they face, is of great value. In the absence of trade unions or other organised representative bodies, this provides us with our only means of access to this range of opinion. Second, overseas visits in particular enable us to obtain detailed information and a proper sense of the state of opinion amongst the politicians, parliamentarians, officers and officials of our Allies in NATO and our other international partners. Given the inevitable international dimension of defence and security policy, such contacts play a very important part in informing our inquiries. Furthermore, we hope they represent our own parliamentary contribution to the MoD's new mission of 'defence diplomacy'.[12]

13. The Committee made 18 visits over the course of the Session, 12 within the UK (for a total cost of £8,616.35), and six overseas (for a total cost of £69,049.35).[13]

14. The Committee's visits within the UK were as follows.

Figure 3: UK Visits




31 October 1997

Permanent Joint Headquarters, Chicksands

Exercise Purple Link

10 November 1997

HMS Argyll, Type 23 Frigate, Pool of London


19 November 1997

Duke of York's Headquarters, London

SDR inquiry

26 November 1997

Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, Farnborough

SDR inquiry

3 February 1998

MoD Procurement Executive, Abbey Wood, Bristol

SDR inquiry

10 February 1998

Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, Farnborough

DERA inquiry

10 March 1998

British Aerospace plc, Warton

Eurofighter project

18-19 March 1998

Northern Ireland

SDR inquiry

30/31 March 1998

GEC Marine plc, Barrow-in-Furness


20 May 1998

5 Airborne Brigade, Aldershot

SDR inquiry

9 June 1998

Royal Marines, Devonport

SDR inquiry

5 November 1998

RAF Kinloss

Exercise Purple Sound


15. The Committee made two major and two smaller visits overseas for which approval is given by the Liaison Committee. In November 1997 we visited British Forces in Bosnia and representatives of local and international bodies in Sarajevo. The outcome of this visit was set out in some detail in our First Report.[14]

16. In February 1998 we visited Washington DC for four days. The main itinerary of our visit is set out at Annex C. The visit was directed at informing our inquiries on the SDR, NATO enlargement and Gulf War illnesses. We also discussed procurement and defence industry matters with a number of interlocutors.

17. We visited NATO HQ in January 1997. This visit contributed to the evidence for our Third Report. In March 1998 we visited British Forces in Germany. An itinerary of this visit is at Annex D.

18. A small delegation from the Committee visited our counterparts in the Bundestag in October 1997 to discuss the Eurofighter project. The Chairman attended a seminar on enlargement of European organisations at the Assemblée Nationale in a representative capacity in June 1998. Mr Michael Colvin attended a WEU Symposium on procurement matters in Munich in October 1997, also in a representative capacity.

12  Eighth Report, Session 1997-98, Strategic Defence Review, HC 138, para 146 Back

13  For further details see Sessional Returns, 1997-98, HC 142, pp 119-123 Back

14  First Report, Session 1997-98, Peace Support Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, HC 403 Back

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