MISCELLANEOUS AND GENERAL MATTERS
41. Over the course of the Session, the Committee
has received a number of memoranda from the MoD on matters not
directly connected to current inquiries. The more substantial
of these are appended to this Report, and a full list is given
on page xx. Most of these did not raise matters on which we wish
to comment, but there are some issues to which we give some further
42. The Committee's report on the SDR reviewed the
reforms anticipated by the MoD in its 'smart procurement' initiative,
including the particular challenges faced in procuring equipment
at a time of quickly evolving technologies.
During our SDR inquiry, to inform our deliberations in this area
we requested details of the Future Infantry System Technology
and we referred to the FIST programme in our subsequent report.
The Committee monitors developments with major equipment programmes,
including significant public-private partnership schemes for services
linked to provision of capital assets. We received information
from the MoD during the course of the year on a number of projects,
and the Defence Fixed Telecommunications System which was the
MoD's biggest PFI deal.
MANPOWER AND PERSONNEL
43. The Committee commented at some length on outstanding
personnel issues in its Report on the SDR.
We received a note from the MoD on the decision to extend eligibility
for membership of courts-martial to Warrant Officers
which had been suggested by the Select Committee on the Armed
Forces Bill 1996 and which we welcome. We also received a report
on measures taken by the MoD in response to the threat of being
served with a Non Discrimination Notice by the Commission for
We welcomed these positive developments in our Report on the SDR
while noting that there was room for further improvement. We also
received notes on the results of the study on social issues which
may arise from Service and civilian families living in proximity
and on the anthrax vaccination programme for personnel likely
to be deployed to the Gulf.
The government also announced a review of the Armed Forces Pension
as well as the wider review of Armed Forces' pay announced in
The government is also reviewing the system of compensation for
personnel injured on duty.
We expect to look at the results of these linked initiatives when
their outcomes are clearer.
MOD ORGANISATION AND ADMINISTRATION
44. We received a paper on actions taken by the MoD
in response to a recommendation made by our predecessors that
the Defence Housing Executive should strengthen its professional
We welcome the efforts made, and will be returning to the monitoring
of the effects of the decision to sell off the Married Quarters
Estate in England and Wales (which our predecessors deprecated)
in due course. However, the standard of management of the whole
defence estate, and in particular the single and married quarters,
is a question on which we remain unconvinced that the MoD is delivering
the best value for taxpayers' money. Our colleagues on the Committee
of Public Accounts had some stringent criticisms to make in a
recent report, particularly in relation to the management and
disposal of vacant quarters.
We will continue to pursue these issues in our monitoring of the
45. We also were told of the adoption of a Private
Finance Initiative to provide both infrastructure and staff
for the new Joint Services Command and Staff College at Shrivenham.
This was another project about which our predecessors expressed
considerable doubts. Again, we will in due course be taking up
the Secretary of State's invitation to visit the new College,
and will be examining its work, and the value for money it provides,
in greater detail.
46. We also note the MoD's proposals to reform the
and reorganise the regional structure of the Army's Land Command.
Both these have attracted controversy, particularly the latter.
We had some comments to make on the relationship between the restructuring
of Land Command and that of the TAVRAs in our recent report on
We noted the small changes made to reserve numbers in Supplementary
THE LANDMINES BILL
47. The Committee sought a memorandum from the MoD
on the implications of certain provisions of the Landmines Bill
which was introduced to and passed by the House at very short
We publish it with this Report.
We regret that the very compressed timetable for the consideration
of this Bill by the House made it impossible to us to take oral
evidence as we might otherwise have wished to do. We believe that
select committees can play a very useful role in the pre-legislative
scrutiny of legislation, particularly in cases such as the Landmines
Bill where it is not a matter of party-political controversy.
We recommend that the MoD seek to involve the Committee at
the earliest possible stage of the development of any future legislation
in which it is involved.
48. The involvement of HMS Cornwall and HMS
Monmouth, deployed to Sierra Leone to assist during the emergency
there in February and March 1998, became the subject of political
controversy subsequently. The Committee sought evidence on their
part in Operation Resilient,
and two members and the Clerk subsequently inspected the Ships'
Logs for the relevant periods at the invitation of the Secretary
of State to provide some parliamentary scrutiny of their operations.
We found nothing that appeared to merit further action or add
materially to the information already in the public domain.
We noted, however, that the Logs are filled-in in pencil. If
Ships' Logs are claimed to have some evidential status in circumstances
such as the controversy over their role in Sierra Leone, we doubt
if this is appropriate and we recommend that this practice be
49. We receive regular notice of all accidents involving
While this is useful, we propose that we should systematise our
follow-up to these notifications. We therefore recommend that
the MoD provide the Committee on a quarterly basis with a list
of aircraft accidents subject to a Board of Inquiry, and the conclusions
of these Boards as they become available.
50. We note the proposal to remove the military garrison
on South Georgia and its replacement by a British Antarctic Survey
We hope to visit the Falkland Islands garrison within the next
twelve to eighteen months.
27 Eighth Report, op cit paras 320-351 Back
pp 1-3 Back
Report, op cit para 321 Back
p 3 Back
p 3 Back
p 1 Back
Report, op cit, paras 352-377 Back
pp 3-4 Back
pp 4-5 Back
Report, op cit, para 374 Back
p 5 Back
pp 5-6 Back
p 5 Back
Eighth Report, op cit, para 366 Back
Deb, 22 December 1998, c420w Back
Report, Session 1995-96, Future of the Married Quarters Estate,
HC 424, para 74; Ev pp 6-8 Back
Report from the committee of Public Accounts, Session 1997-98,
Ministry of Defence: Sale of the Married Quarters Estate,
HC 518, paras 4 (xiii) to (xv) and 41 to 53 Back
p 8 Back
pp 8-9 Back
p 9 Back
Report, Session 1998-99, The Strategic Defence Review: Territorial
Army Restructuring, HC 70 Back
pp 9-10 Back
July 1998, all stages Back
pp 10-12 Back
pp 12-14 Back
pp 14-16 Back
p 16 Back
pp 16-17 Back