The Consultation Process
51. At an invited seminar in Birmingham to discuss
the SDR New Chapter in late February 2002, some of the emerging
conclusions were aired with representatives of other government
departments, opposition parties, the Muslim community, NGOs and
the police, as well as academics.
It was attended by the Secretary of State, the Permanent Under
Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Staff.
Although this event was the only one of its type undertaken during
the consultation, it did provide an opportunity for the MoD to
test out its thinking. This has been carried out more thoroughly
by other departments such as DFID, who have carried out regional
consultations in conjunction with the publication of recent White
Papers; the MoD could learn from their example.
52. The Secretary of State told us
One of the things that we were keen to do was
emulate the consultation process that had taken place during the
SDR and I think we were able to do that
Whilst I believe
that we could use more outside expertise to build up the picture
to contribute to these kinds of discussions
still very pleased at the willingness of people to give evidence
In the event the discussion paper elicited 252 responses.
Whether the discussion paper and the seminar in Birmingham together
constituted wide consultation outside government, as the MoD claimed,
remains questionable, although clearly an attempt was made.
53. The consultation process, however, was never
intended to match the efforts made under the original SDR. As
the Policy Director told us
we had a consultation phase during the New Chapter
which was somewhat different in style from the way consultation
was done in the SDR
It was just different.
The Birmingham seminar, for example, with its select
invitation list and limited distribution of its conclusions was
very different from the process undertaken in the original SDR.
54. In May 2002, following the end of the consultation
period, in a speech at the National Liberal Club the Secretary
of State indicated much of what was to emerge in the New Chapter
White Paper. He emphasised though that the publication of that
White Paper would not be the end of the process.
The three key themes of his speech were the balance between addressing
the causes as against the symptoms of terrorism; the balance of
the defence role in protecting the home and contributing to operations
overseas; and the balance between operations to disrupt potential
threats and those to stabilise conflict zones. On capabilities,
the Secretary of State set out some preliminary thinking on the
centrality of networked capabilities for future defence planning
and the need for what he called, effects-based thinking.
55. The drafting of the New Chapter was thus
almost complete, although in the central area of planning for
the use of reservists in homeland defence, the MoD decided to
embark on a separate consultation process whose deadline was 13
September, well after the planned, and indeed actual, publication
of the New Chapter.
56. The discussion document: A New Chapter
to the Strategic Defence Review: The Role of the Reserves in Home
Defence and Security was published on 12 June.
In setting the context for its proposals, the MoD stated
A key issue is how to strike the right balance
between the defence role in helping to protect the UK, and contributing
to operations against international terrorism and other asymmetric
Although it seemed odd to us that the New Chapter
would reach conclusions on that issue while the MoD's proposals
for the use of the reserves for home defence were still under
consultation, the Policy Director saw no logical flaw in this
First of all we needed to think before we asked
people to come and give their time as reservists to the issue
needed to talk about what we were going to do before we talked
to the reserve community about whether they would do it
are most available to be consulted during the summer
actually timed the consultation for that to run over the summer
Curiously, in February the Secretary of State had
told the House that consulting with reservists and their employers
was scheduled for "the coming weeks".
57. We understand the arguments for consulting
reservists during their summer camps, although we doubt whether
it was essential to do so. What is surprising is that the MoD
had apparently not considered these arguments when the timetable
for the New Chapter work was originally planned. The result has
been to undermine the coherence of the process and to contribute
to an overall impression that this work has in practice lost out
to other MoD priorities. We believe that the two strands could
have been better co-ordinated. Given the importance of the issueswhich
was demonstrated by the early energy and commitment to the process
by the MoDit is surprising that some of the momentum appeared
to have been lost in the later stages.
58. Ministers and MoD officials also emphasised
that publication of the New Chapter was not the end of the work
they had set in hand. They pointed to the planned Defence White
Paper of 2003 as a next stage in the evolution of policy. The
Secretary of State told us in March 2003 that
Publication of the New Chapter White Paper was
the start and not the conclusion of this exercise. We always intended
to use the Department's normal planning process to determine exactly
how best to allocate additional resources from Spending Review
The planning process is in full swing and will continue
for some time. My aim
is to reach decisions and present them
in the next general Defence White Paper. I had hoped to publish
this before the summer recess but, realistically in light of the
current situation, I now envisage that it will appear in the Autumn.
59. We conclude
from this that the MoD is now engaged in a continuing process
of reviewing defence policy, but believe it should be accompanied
by appropriate consultation beyond the department. We expect
to see the consequent developments in policy translated into practical
results for the Armed Forces.