Select Committee on Defence Fifth Report

1  Introduction

1. The Ministry of Defence's Annual Report and Accounts 2006-07, published on 23 July 2007, comprise the Annual Performance Report and the Consolidated Departmental Resource Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2007.[1] This is the fifth year in which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has combined its Annual Performance Report and Consolidated Departmental Resource Accounts into one document and the second year in which, in line with most other Government departments, the MoD has published its Accounts before the Summer parliamentary recess.

2. Our inquiry examined the Annual Performance Report and the Consolidated Departmental Resource Accounts. We took evidence from Mr Bill Jeffrey,[2] the MoD's Permanent Under Secretary of State (PUS), and Mr Trevor Woolley, the MoD's Finance Director, on 13 and 28 November 2007. We also examined issues about the Comprehensive Spending Review settlement for defence which was announced on 25 July 2007.[3] We received written evidence from the MoD[4] and from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)[5]. The oral evidence and the written evidence are printed with this report. We are grateful to the National Audit Office (NAO) for providing written briefing on the performance of the MoD. The NAO briefing is available on the Committee's website.[6]

3. We must record one difficulty that occurred when assembling evidence for this report. In preparation for our evidence session on 13 November 2007, Committee staff wrote to the MoD on 9 October 2007 requesting written responses to a range of questions by 31 October 2007. The deadline was extended to 5 November 2007. The written evidence, with a copy of the MoD Public Service Agreement Performance Report: Quarter 1 2007-2008, was finally received on 12 November, the day before the scheduled evidence session. At that session, we asked Mr Jeffrey why the written evidence had been received so late. He accepted that the written evidence should have come to the Committee earlier and apologised for this.[7] We considered the information provided to be so central to the issues we wanted to examine that we decided to rearrange the evidence session for a future date.[8] We asked for a full account of the delay in sending us the written evidence we had sought.[9] He wrote to us on 15 November 2007 setting out the reasons for the delay and assuring us that lessons had been learned for the future.[10]

4. It was unhelpful of the MoD to provide the written evidence we had requested only a day before the evidence session we had scheduled. We expect better cooperation from the Department in future, and accept the Permanent Secretary's assurance that lessons have been learned and that such failings will not happen again. This is essential if Parliament is to undertake its role of scrutinising the work of the MoD effectively.

5. For the second year running, the MoD Annual Report and Accounts have won the PriceWaterhouseCoopers and National Audit Office Building Public Trust Award 'For Telling It How It Is'. This is the first time that any organisation has won this award more than once.[11] We welcome the improvements made to the Annual Report and Accounts 2006-07, such as the greater use of cross-referencing and note that the MoD won the 'Building Public Trust Award' for its Annual Report and Accounts for the second year running.

1   Ministry of Defence, Annual Report and Accounts 2006-07, HC 697 (Hereafter referred to as MoD, HC 697) Back

2   In the 2008 New Years Honours, Mr Jeffrey was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) Back

3   HC Deb, 25 July 2007,Cols 865-867 Back

4   Ev 16-26, 31-35 Back

5   Ev 27-30 Back

6   National Audit Office, Performance of the Ministry of Defence 2006-07, Briefing for the Defence Committee, November 2007. Back

7   Q 3 Back

8   Q 10 Back

9   Ibid Back

10   Ev 27 Back

11   Ministry of Defence website, Defence News, 16 October 2007, MoD wins corporate reporting award for second year Back

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Prepared 28 January 2008