Select Committee on Defence First Special Report

Letter from the Chairman of the Committee (15 December 1999)

Defence Debates

  There has been some talk at Business Questions about the much delayed publication of the 1999 Defence White Paper, the timing of the annual two day defence debate, and my Committee's part in all this. I thought it would be useful to share my current thinking about this with you.

  We anticipate confidently that the White Paper will be published on Monday 20 December. Clearly this gives no opportunity for the Defence Committee to take evidence before Christmas. Our plan therefore is to take two sessions of evidence on each of 12 and 19 January. We will then give the staff and Members a week in which to digest the evidence and prepare a draft report. I would hope we could agree this on 2 February, which would suggest a publication date of Monday 7 February. This represents a considerable effort on our part to fit in with the business managers' plans in view of the very delayed publication of the White Paper. I hope you will be able to accommodate your plans to ours.

  May I also take this opportunity to express the hope, once again, that the three other defence debates will be more evenly spread over the session than they were last year. While the Committee has no strong views on the timing of the Personnel and "Defence in the World" debates, we have requested that the Defence Equipment debate is not held before the Spring Recess, so as to allow us to publish a report on our Annual Major Procurement Projects Survey. I can see no reason why this should cause any difficulties.

  I hope this is useful to you in planning future business.

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