Select Committee on Defence First Special Report


Continuous Monitoring


64. Much of the Committee's work in the current Session and for the remainder of the Parliament will be monitoring the implementation of the restructuring of the UK's Armed Forces along the lines set out in the SDR. We have set out these commitments in detail in paragraph 39 (Figure 4). Some of this monitoring will be integrated into our annual cycle of consideration of the MoD's documents reporting on its performance to Parliament. For other elements, we will pick out individual areas at key stages of their development for specific inquiries.


65. The introduction of Resource Accounting and Budgeting (RAB) over the next two years or so should give government departments more meaningful information on their outputs and the resources consumed in producing them. The MoD faces particular challenges in making the new system work for them, because of the range of its activities, its difficult to define outputs and the extent of its fixed asset holdings.

66. The RAB initiative presents a valuable opportunity for the Committee, and indeed other departmental select committees, to monitor and influence Departments' performance more effectively. The Committee intends therefore not only to monitor progress in implementing the new systems in the MoD, but also to question the department on its plans and performance at critical stages in the accountability process. In many respects these opportunities have always been there, but RAB will act as a catalyst for the change of emphasis intended. We will therefore be closely monitoring the MoD's Expenditure Plans, Estimates, Performance Reports, Accounts, and annual defence White Papers, and in doing so examining the achievement of target efficiency savings, savings from Private-Public Partnerships in DERA and the creation of new agencies and joint organisations. An important duty for us will be to ensure that the additional and more meaningful information that should be available to the MoD also cascades into its reporting to Parliament.


67. Our monitoring of the Department will also include following up the MoD's progress in implementing 'smart procurement' reforms of the way the MoD acquires equipment and weapon systems. The focus of this monitoring will be the collection of statistics and progress reports on about half a dozen equipment projects,[65] with oral evidence subsequently on a subset of these. The mix of programmes monitored is not likely to change significantly from one year to the next, but will include projects both well into their development stages and others that are near the start and most susceptible to the introduction of smart procurement processes.


68. Our predecessor Committee took a close interest in the issue of Gulf War illnesses, and one of our first actions upon appointment was to take evidence from the Minister for the Armed Forces on the subject.[66] We intend to continue to monitor developments and take oral evidence from the Ministry of Defence during this session.

65  Currently: Bowman communications system, the Horizon frigate, Eurofighter, new aircraft carriers, additional strategic lift aircraft and shipping, and the TRACER armoured reconnaissance vehicle Back

66  HC (1997-98) 222-i Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 10 March 1999