Select Committee on Defence First Special Report

Specific Inquiries


69. The Committee undertook the examine the decisions on restructuring of the Territorial Army which flowed from the announcement made in the SDR that its establishment was to be cut from 59,000 to 40,000. Our First Report of the current session on the announcements made in a statement by the Secretary of State on 17th November 1998, and expanded in the document Modern Forces for the Modern World: A Territorial Army for the Future, was published on 11 February 1999.[67]


70. Following our inquiry into the current round of NATO enlargement last year, the Committee resolved to produce a Report on the wider questions on the future of NATO before its 50th anniversary summit which is to be held in Washington on 23rd-25th April. Our terms of reference are:

  • the development of NATO's New Strategic Concept prior to its adoption at the Washington Summit;

  • to consider these issues particularly in the context of the international situation and changing emphasis in NATO's tasks from preparation for strategic attack to peacekeeping and other roles;

  • to consider the process of the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to NATO, and the case for further enlargement;

  • to consider the continuing applicability of the North Atlantic Treaty and the military structure of NATO to its new roles and any new Strategic Concept.

The government's new initiatives on the development of the European Security and Defence Identity within the Common Foreign and Security Policy will also necessarily form a focus of our inquiry. We intend to report to the House shortly after Easter.


71. There is considerable discussion in military circles about the so-called 'revolution in military affairs' (a largely US term) which we are supposed currently to be undergoing. In essence, this refers to the profound impact that the information technology revolution, and other cutting-edge scientific developments in areas such as biotechnology and nanotechnology, may have on future weapons systems and perhaps the very nature of warfare itself. Research undertaken now will produce the weapons and defences of 10 or 20 years in the future. We therefore intend to take a critical look at the current level and nature of investment in defence research.

72. A number of key initiatives are coming to a conclusion, which will have an impact in this area, including: the next round of the 'Foresight' initiative for giving strategic direction to research; a fundamental review of defence research expenditure by the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser, currently being considered by Ministers; the new Defence Diversification Agency operating since January 1999; and, later in the year, the likely establishment of a public-private partnership to deliver DERA services. Terms of reference for the inquiry are:

  • the types of defence research needed, and why it is important;

  • the building-blocks needed for protecting and improving the UK's defence research base, including strategic planning, adequate funding, technology transfer, collaboration and other key factors;

  • against these criteria, establishing the current health of defence research in the UK; and

  • how current initiatives may help or hinder, including the establishment of the Diversification Agency and increased private sector involvement in DERA.


73. We have commented elsewhere in this report on areas of dissatisfaction about the quality of, or refusals to provide, information from the MoD. Our proposed inquiry into resource accounting and budgeting will address the quality and content of financial information from the MoD, and we intend to comment on the implications of newly structured Estimates and Accounts. As a companion piece to this inquiry, we also intend to look more broadly at the provision of other types of information, including parliamentary questions and statements, and the MoD's set piece reports which the MoD are revising (there will be no Statement on the Defence Estimates in 1999, but it will be replaced by a more forward-looking, policy-focussed White Paper). We intend also to consider the impact of proposed freedom of information legislation in this area, and will be considering the draft bill in this context when it is published. We shall seek a clearer and more 'justiciable' definition from the MoD of what constitutes 'advice to Ministers'.


74. The outcome of reviews on the Military Provost Guard Service Pilot Scheme and the Employment of Military Defence Police are shortly expected to be published; subjects in which our predecessors took a great interest.

   75. In its Second Report of Session 1983-84,[68] and Second Report of Session 1984-85,[69] the Committee concentrated on the security of nuclear bases and the security arrangements for Royal Ordnance Factories. In its Sixth Report of Session 1989-90,[70] the Committee returned to these issues and also inquired into the problems arising from the use of commercial security companies for the supply of guarding. The Committee also considered proposals for guarding arrangements in its report on the Defence Costs Study.[71] Our predecessors' most recent report[72] concentrated on the consequences of the Ministry of Defence Police becoming an Executive Agency, and the proposals for the Military Provost Guard Service, a military guard service comprising of soldiers on limited service engagements. We intend to return to these questions in an inquiry beginning later in this session.


76. A major restructuring of Defence Medical Services was prefigured in the SDR, and further announcements were made in December 1998.

77. The Committee intends to look at these proposals carefully, including that for the closure of the Haslar military hospital in Portsmouth, and will be taking evidence from Ministers and the Defence Secondary Care Agency amongst others.


78. Our joint inquiry with the Trade and Industry Select Committee on Aspects of Defence Procurement and Industrial Policy flagged up a six-nation initiative, then in its early stages, to introduce measures to facilitate industry rationalisation and collaboration. One of the themes covered was the issue of security of supplies from other countries, and the MoD's recently announced intention to let an ammunition contract outside the UK rather than to Royal Ordnance (the only UK company with a propellent manufacturing capability) again draws this issue into sharper focus. The Committee will therefore be examining this proposed contract more closely.

67  First Report, Session 1998-99, The Strategic Defence Review, Territorial Army Restructuring, HC 70 Back

68   The Physical Security of Military Installations in the United Kingdom, HC397 Back

69   Security at Royal Ordnance Factories and Nuclear Bases, HC 217 Back

70   Physical Security at Military Installations, HC 171 Back

71   Eighth Report, Session 1993-94, The Defence Costs Study, HC 655 Back

72   Eighth Report, Session 1995-96, Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding, HC 189 Back

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Prepared 10 March 1999