FUTURE WORK OF THE DEFENCE COMMITTEE
57. We now offer some advice to our successors on
topics which we hope will form part of their strategic plan of
inquiries for the next Parliament.
THE ANNUAL REPORTING CYCLE
58. Our Seventh Report of this Session was the second
in what we intended to be a series of annual Reports examining
the component documents of the MoD's series of annual reports
to Parliament. These are:
- The Expenditure Plans and Estimates (published
annually in the Spring)
- The Performance Report (published annually in
- The Investment Strategy (published biennially)
- The Defence Statistics (published annually in
- Ad hoc policy papers
59. Our main focus in each of these Reports has been
on the implementation of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review.
As we commented in the conclusions of our latest Report,
although progress has been made, much remains to be done. We trust
that our successors will continue this scrutiny through an annual
Report, measuring the MoD's achievements against the milestones
and targets which have been set. Our successor Committee needs
to maintain a strategic view of the MoD budget to ensure that
the overall projected programme, as set out in the Strategic Defence
Review, of defence spending in the future remains affordable within
the proposed budget.
60. One of the outstanding issues from our monitoring
of the reporting cycle has been the question of the credibility
of the savings claimed by the MoD's Efficiency Programme. As we
indicated in our Seventh Report, this is an area which we hope
that our successors will examine, picking up from the review of
the Programme recently undertaken by the Department.
61. We have engaged in a continuing dialogue with
the MoD about the format and content of its reporting documents,
urging the release of more information and the provision of better
'read-across' from one document to another, to give a real sense
of how the policy framework translates into outputs desired, targets
set and resources applied; and showing actual outcomes and achievements
against those targets. More needs to be done to achieve this level
of coherence and transparency, and we urge our successors to continue
to press for improvements.
62. We have tackled the implementation of resource
accounting and budgeting (RAB) by the MoD over the life of this
There have been problems, mainly arising from the complexities
of the MoD's asset base and the variety of its activities. The
implementation phase is now almost complete. However, we hope
our successors will continue to press for more meaningful output
performance analyses to be part of the resource accounts, so that
the costs of providing defence outputs can be identified in more
63. We have taken issue with the decision to discontinue
publication of an annual Defence White Paper. Our most recent
thoughts on this question are in our Eighth Report. We hope our
successors will pursue our recommendations.
64. The provision of defence-related information
to Parliament encompasses more than the annual reporting cycle.
It includes, for example, Parliamentary Questions (both oral and
written), debates and statements, governmental replies to our
Reports, and other material. We hoped in the last Parliament to
make a holistic appraisal of the scope and quality of this information,
as well as to monitor particular areas, for example, PQs. We have
to admit that we have not achieved this ambition. We hope our
successors will be able to pick up and develop this idea.
MAJOR PROCUREMENT PROJECTS
65. In each of the two previous Sessions, we have
in what we intended to be an annual series examining progress
of a selected 'portfolio' of major defence procurement projects.
These were selected by different criteria concerning purpose,
stage of development, extent of international collaboration, complexity
and cost. We believe there will be particular value in maintaining
a consistent series, and we hope therefore our successors will
pursue this series of Reports, which are particularly designed
to inform the new annual defence equipment debate. We recognise,
however, that circumstances are likely to require adjustment to
our chosen 'portfolio' of projects over time.
66. We took further evidence from the Chief of Defence
Procurement on 12 May 2001. We have published that evidence, together
with the MoD's annual memorandum, as our Ninth Report of this
Session. We hope our successors may pursue the subject early in
the new Parliament.
67. We have used our annual procurement reports,
and indeed our reports on the reporting cycle, to monitor progress
with the smart procurement initiative (now rebranded as the 'smart
acquisition' initiative). In our Eighth Report we raised concerns
about the benefits that are being claimed for the initiative.
We hope that the claimed achievements of the initiative will continue
to be examined critically by our successors.
68. We have made four Reports over the Parliament
on treaties relating to defence matters presented to the Houseon
the enlargement protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty,
on the OCCAR Convention,
on the Adaptation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty
and on the Six-Nation Framework Agreement.
Our work was commended by the Procedure Committee.
69. We believe these have been a valuable contribution
to improving parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive's prerogative
acts. Not every treaty will demand a full inquiry and Report,
but we hope our successors will make this innovation into a tradition.
70. Little in the way of primary legislation originates
from the MoD. We have considered in this Parliament the Armed
Forces Discipline Bill and, as one of four committees constituting
the joint 'Quadripartite' Committee, the draft legislation proposed
on strategic export controls.
71. In accordance with normal practice, the five-yearly
Armed Forces Bill was committed to a Select Committee following
its Second Reading in the House. In its Report, the Select Committee
on the Armed Forces Bill commented on its own composition and
pointed out a departure from previous practice on this occasion,
in that its membership included no members from the Defence Committee
and concluded that the composition of any future ad hoc
committee to consider the renewal of the Service Discipline Acts
should be carefully considered.
In assessing more broadly the way in which future Armed Forces
Bills might be scrutinised, the Select Committee suggested there
might be merit in referring such Bills in draft to the Defence
The Liaison Committee also agreed that this would be an appropriate
form of scrutiny.
We endorse this view and hope that the next major legislation
relating to Service discipline, which we hope will be a 'tri-Service'
discipline Bill, will be referred to our successors as a draft
72. The procedures of the House relating to the scrutiny
of delegated legislation are woefully inadequate, and we have
voiced our support for the reforms proposed by the Procedure Committee
on more than one occasion.
73. Even in the relatively low-legislation environment
of defence, not every statutory instrument can, or need, be examined
in detail. However, we have reported on a number of the more significant
Again, we believe this has been a significant contribution of
enhancing parliamentary scrutiny of Executive actions, and we
hope our successors will continue this practice.
74. We have sought to examine and report on the performance
of a significant number of defence executive agencies over the
course of this Parliament. Some are so large (the Defence Procurement
Agency for example) that they require almost annual examination.
Others need to be visited less frequently. We reported on our
progress in working down the list of agencies in our last annual
report. We hope our successors will continue to work systematically
on scrutiny of this area of the MoD's activities. There are some
particular groups we identify for attention from the Committee
in the next Parliament.
75. Defence Estates recently published its new management
strategy. Estate disposals have become a key area of the defence
budget since the SDR, and remain an important component of last
year's Spending Review settlement. The management of the defence
estate more generally is a subject ripe for reassessment and we
urge our successors to conduct an inquiry into the work of this
agency early in the new Parliament.
76. Following on from our Policy for People Report,
we recommend a reasonably early re-examination of the achievements
of the recruiting agencies.
77. Ministers recently announced the quinquennial
review of the MoD Police.
We had hoped to conduct an inquiry into this agency in this Parliament,
but it has not proved possible to do so. A number of questions
were raised about the MoD Police by the Select Committee on the
Armed Forces Bill.
There are other issues concerning the increased use of the MoD
Guard Service and the Military Provost Guard Service, and the
relationship between the MoD Police and the Service Police. The
quinquennial review would provide a good opportunity for a thorough
re-examination of these and other matters relating to the MoD
Police. We recommend that our successors conduct such an inquiry
to coincide with the review.
78. More generally, we commented in our Eighth Report
on a need to get a grip on the purpose, direction and achievements
of the agencification programme more generally within the MoD,
particularly as significant recent changes in the portfolio of
defence agencies suggest that an optimal steady-state has yet
to be achieved. This is a complex challenge, and one we must leave
to our successors to tackle.
Subjects of Inquiry
79. We set ourselves the target at the beginning
of this Parliament of monitoring the MoD's implementation of its
new deal for Gulf veterans. We believe this should be followed-up,
but the point has probably now been reached where a more general
annual review of the way in which veterans are looked after by
the MoD is appropriate, particularly now that the MoD has refocused
its structures for looking after veterans.
80. In this connection, we commissioned from the
Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology a review of the
states of scientific opinion on the use of depleted uranium munitions
and any associated risks to human health. This was published on
We believe it is a very useful contribution to the debate, and
hope our successors will take it into account in their inquiries.
We were also able to take oral evidence from the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State on 9 May 2001 and have published this.
PENSIONS AND COMPENSATION
81. The long-awaited results of the reviews of pension
and compensation arrangements for Armed Forces personnel were
published on 16 March, and put out for consultation. We hope our
successors will honour our promise to examine the outcome of these
reviews, and will make it one of their first priorities in the
DEFENCE TRAINING AND EDUCATION
82. The outcome of the Defence Training Review was
published on 27 March. We identified this as a key area in our
Policy for People Report. We urge our successors to pick up on
the recommendations of this review and examine its implications
in some detail.
SERVICE FAMILIES TASK FORCE
83. In our Report published in February on Policy
we applauded the establishment of the Service Families Task Force,
set up to tackle problems encountered by service families in gaining
access to the services provided by other Departments, particularly
education, health and welfare benefits. We expressed the hope
that the Department for Education and Employment and the Department
of Health would be more actively involved, and encouraged our
successors to take evidence from Ministers in those Departments.
DEFENCE MEDICAL SERVICES
84. We reported on the state of the Defence Medical
Services (DMS) in November 1999.
In that Report we examined the serious shortage of personnel in
all branches of the DMS, and considered the government's strategy
to remedy the problem. We have checked on its progress on a number
We also examined the arguments for the closure of the Defence
Secondary Care Agency's Royal Hospital Haslar and for the establishment
of a new Centre for Defence Medicine attached to the University
of Birmingham Medical School. That centre has now opened. We hope
our successors will take an early opportunity to visit it, and
will keep a close watch on the state of the DMS.
85. We have published four Reports in this Parliament
on defence research and the change of status proposed for the
Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).
We have managed to influence the way the part privatisation of
DERA has been conducted, though so far without securing its abandonment
that we would like to have seen. There is, we believe, still important
work for our successors, in examining the way the ownership of
New-DERA (now 'Qinetiq') is transferred to the private sector,
and the results of the review of Defence Research by the MoD's
Chief Scientific Adviser (due for completion in Summer 2001).
THE FUTURE OF NATO AND THE ESDP
86. We have published two Reports in this Parliament
on the future of NATO, and our Report on the lessons of Kosovo
considered their implications for the Alliance at some length.
Another NATO summit is due to take place in Prague towards the
end of 2002. Critical questions, most particularly relating to
further enlargement of the Alliance, will be decided there. We
would urge our successors to make a Report to Parliament on the
agenda for that summit, well in advance, so that these issues
may be fully debated before Ministers settle their policy, and
go to negotiate with their colleagues there.
87. Closely connected with the future of NATO is
the development of the EU's European Security and Defence Policy
and the implementation of the 'Helsinki Headline Goal', on which
we reported at some length in May 2000.
We took further evidence from the Secretary of State on 28 March
We hope our colleagues will continue to review progress in this
crucial area of policy closely.
88. On 1 May, President Bush stated his commitment
to implementing some form of National Missile Defence System (NMD)
to protect the USA from a perceived threat from intercontinental
ballistic missile attack, and at the same time the intention of
his Administration to negotiate or withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty. Proposals have also been made by the Russian Government
for some form of international co-operation on missile defence
89. Profound questions for the UK are raised by these
proposals. We urge our successors to conduct an inquiry into this
issue early in the new Parliament.
our Eighth Report, Session 1997-98, The Strategic Defence Review,
HC 138-I Back
Report, Session 2000-01, The MoD's Annual Reporting Cycle 2000-01,
HC 144 Back
paras 45 to 50 Back
Report, Session 1998-99, Major Procurement Projects Survey:
The Common New Generation Frigate, HC 544 and Tenth Report,
Session 1999-2000, Major Procurement Projects, HC 528
Report, Session 1997-98, NATO Enlargement, HC 469 Back
Report, Session 1999-2000, The OCCAR Convention, HC 69 Back
Report, Session 1999-2000, The Adaptation of the Treaty on
Conventional Forces in Europe, HC 295 Back
Report, Session 2000-01, The Six-Nation Framework Agreement,
HC 115 Back
Report, Session 1999-2000, Parliamentary Scrutiny of Treaties,
HC 210 Back
Seventh Report, above Back
Report from the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, Session
2000-01, HC 154-I, paragraph 5 Back
154-I, Session 2000-01, op cit, paragraph 9 Back
Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 2000-01, Shifting
the Balance: Unfinished Business, HC 391, paragraph 82 Back
Report from the Procedure Committee, Session 1999-2000, Delegated
Legislation, HC 48 Back
eg Second Report, Session 1997-98, Draft Visiting Forces and
International Headquarters (Application of Law)(Amendment) Order
1998, HC 521; Fifth Report, Session 1997-98, The Reserves
Call-out Order 1998, HC 868; Fourth Report, Session 1998-99,
The Draft visiting Forces and International Headquarters (Application
of Law) Order 1999 and the Draft International Headquarters and
Defence Organisations (Designations and Privileges) (Amendment)
Order 1999, HC 399; Fourth Report, Session 2000-01,
The Draft Defence Aviation Repair Agency Trading Fund Order 2001,
HC 261; and Fifth Report, Session 2000-01, The Draft Defence
Science and Technology Laboratory Trading Fund Order 2001,
HC 289 Back
Deb, 26 April 2001, cc307-8w Back
154-I, Session 2000-01, op cit Back
HC 517-i Back
is available on the website of the Parliamentary Office of Science
and Technology (POST) at www.parliament.uk/post/home.htm Back
HC 517-i Back
Report, Session 2000-01, The Strategic Defence Review: Policy
for People, HC 29-I Back
para 147 Back
Report, Session 1998-99, The Strategic Defence Review: Defence
Medical Services, HC 447 Back
eg Second Report, Session 2000-01, The Strategic Defence Review:
Policy for People, HC 29; Sixth Report, Session 2000-01, The
Strategic Defence Review: The Reserves, HC 412; and Eighth
Report, Session 2000-01, The MoD's Annual Reporting Cycle 2000-01,
HC 144 Back
Report, Session 1997-98, The Defence Evaluation and Research
Agency, HC 261; Ninth Report, Session 1998-99, Defence
Research, HC 616; Ninth Report, Session 1999-2000, The
Future of DERA, HC 462; Fifth Report, Session 2000-01, The
Draft Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Trading Fund Order
2001, HC 289 Back
Baroness Symons' letter, 22 March 2001, Ev p 3 Back
Report, Session 1999-2000, European Security and Defence,
HC 264 Back
Foreign Secretary's answer to a PNQ, HC Deb, 3 May 2001, cc 981-9 Back