Select Committee on Defence Seventh Special Report


Annexes and Appendices

90. We append to this Report, as is our custom, a number of miscellaneous letters and memoranda received from the MoD over the course of this Session.[65]

91. We also annex to the Report tables of recommendations made in our Reports, including those from previous Sessions which are still relevant or active. (We have published full tables of recommendations with each of our Annual Reports.) We hope those tables will provide a useful checklist for our successors on recommendations and undertakings which need to be pursued. We also hope they will be a reminder to the MoD of the outstanding issues to which they will be returning, and on which they expect to see evidence of progress.


92. We have commented, in previous annual Reports, on changes to the traditional pattern of defence debates in the House. Broadly, those have in the past consisted of a two-day debate, normally held when the House returns each October, which centred on the Statement on the Defence Estimates or other White Papers, and three further single day debates. Formerly, these were the single-Service days: one on each of the Royal Navy, the Army and the RAF. These were the residue of the days taken, before 1955, by the committee stages of the annual Service discipline Acts.

93. In this Parliament these have been replaced by single day debates on the topics of: defence personnel matters; defence equipment; and 'defence in the world'. The government suggested that the single-Service days were no longer appropriate to the present day circumstances in which operations are joint and multinational for the most part. We agreed.

94. However, there is some difficulty now with the two-day debate. There is no longer a single annual statement of defence policy, and the documents which provide the backbone of the MoD's annual reporting cycle (the annual Expenditure Plans and the annual Performance Report) are published respectively in the Spring and at the end of the year, and do not provide obvious material for a debate in the Autumn.

95. We would certainly be reluctant to see any reduction in the time given to debates on defence on the floor of the House. However, the time may have come to consider splitting the traditional two-day debate into a further two single days. These need not necessarily have fixed subject matters, but two topics do immediately suggest themselves to us. The first is NATO, which we have previously suggested is worthy of a separate debate. The second is 'conflict prevention', which would provide an opportunity for Ministers from other departments (particularly the FCO and DfID) to participate in a debate on the wider policies of the government to address threats to worldwide stability and security. Both of these would overlap to some extent with the 'defence in the world' day, though this is not necessarily a problem—perhaps that day's topic would be better titled as 'The Government's Security and Defence Policies', which again might encourage a more holistic approach to debating a range of policies relevant to both securing the defence of the realm and the UK's contribution to working for stability in the world order.

Powers of Select Committees

96. We have regularly expressed our support for the proposals of the Liaison Committee, expressed in three Reports from them in this Parliament,[66] for strengthening the select committee system, improving its resources and adapting the procedures of the House to integrate the work of the Chamber more fully with the work of the Committees.

97. Equally, we have expressed our support for the recommendations of the Procedure Committee which are relevant to the work of select committees, particularly in the areas of financial procedure and (to a lesser extent) delegated legislation.[67]

98. We are disappointed that the government has failed to lend its support more enthusiastically to these recommendations. We hope our successors will continue to support the Liaison Committee in its campaign for the improvement of the select committee system.

65  See pp 1-8 Back

66  First Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 1999-2000, Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive, HC 300; Second Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 1999-2000, Independence or Control, HC 748; First Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 2000-01, Shifting the Balance: Unfinished Business, HC 321-I Back

67  Sixth Report from the Procedure Committee, Session 1998-99, Procedure for Debate on the Government's Expenditure Plans, HC 295 Back

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 15 May 2001