The Government welcomes the House of Commons Defence
Committee's follow-up report on the Defence contribution to UK
National security and resilience.
We agree with the Committee that the MoD has a good
story to tell and do not believe we were reticent in responding
to requests for information. We hope that some of these issues
can be addressed in our response below.
The Government's response to the Committee's individual
conclusions and recommendations as set out on page 7 of the report
are as follows:
1. (Recommendation 1) Issues of national security
are likely to dominate key areas of political debate during the
next Parliament as they have during this; they will continue to
feature prominently in the forum of public debate, and that prominence
will only increase in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. We very
much hope that our successor Committee will take a strong interest
in this subject. (Paragraph 3)
2. (Recommendation 2) We are disappointed with
the quality of the information contained both within the MoD's
initial response to our Report and in the supplementary memorandum.
We believe that the MoD has a good story to tell in relation to
national security, all the more given the heavy reliance upon
the capabilities of our Armed Forces to maintain that security.
We therefore have difficulty in understanding why the MoD has
been so reticent in responding to our requests for further information.
It seems unduly anxious about setting out in more detail the important
role it plays and its account of its own national security-related
activities. All of this seems to reveal a lack of confidence and
an attempt to downplay the importance of its role. (Paragraph
The MoD does not believe that it showed a lack of
confidence or attempted to downplay the importance of its role
in national security and resilience. The evidence provided by
the MoD simply tried to reflect the small but important role we
play. The MoD is not the lead Government Department for national
security or resilience, and in both cases works to the direction
of another lead Department with the obvious exception of UK integrity
against a traditional military enemy. In all other cases Defence
contributes to national security and resilience by assisting the
civil authorities, at their request, when there is a requirement
for us to do so.
The Department's evidence, to the Committee, set
out in some detail the various roles and capabilities available
to support the civil authorities and also set out the context
in which Defence now operates. That context is Defence as a supporting
player to another lead Department or Agency either providing support
under the pan-Government Counter-Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST)
for operations at home or abroad, or providing support in civil
emergencies to the emergency services within the framework of
the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA(04)).
The CCA(04) has significantly reduced the call on
Defence resources at home in all but niche or extreme circumstances,
freeing our people and assets to undertake the tasks they have
been trained for. The CCA(04) has also generated significant progress
in the country's ability to respond to disruptive challenges and
the Cabinet Office's Civil Contingencies Secretariat deserves
considerable credit for delivering real cross-Government and inter-Agency
3. (Recommendation 3) We would welcome from the
MoD more information on the review of maritime security. (Paragraph
The first annual update to the National Security
Strategy (NSS) set out the Government's intention to address
national security challenges in the maritime domain. Since June
2009, the Cabinet Office has been leading a cross-Government project
on maritime security, consisting of five workstreams that have
been examining Strategic objectives, Situational Awareness, International
Engagement, Private Sector engagement, and legal framework. The
project is still ongoing but will help strengthen our response
to challenges in the maritime environment by prioritising our
aims, assessing our current capabilities and identifying ways
to fill any key gaps. This cross-Government project will report
in due course.
4. (Recommendation 4) We acknowledge that, for
security reasons, elements of the MoD's and the Government's work
in the area of national security cannot be placed within the public
domain. However, the Government needs to be more explicit about
what exactly it is doing, how it will fund its activities and
plans, and who will lead and coordinate them. We also believe
that the Government should provide updates by classified memorandum
or briefing to our Committee and other appropriate select committees.
We deplore the fact that the Joint Committee on the National Security
Strategy, announced almost eighteen months ago in July 2008, has
not yet even been appointed, let alone met, and will now presumably
have no effect until after the General Election. (Paragraph 6)
The Government is committed to being as open as is
practicable with regards to UK National security evidenced by
the publication of the NSS, the National Risk Register, CONTEST,
and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Safety and Security Strategy
to name but a few. Version 2 of the NSS recognised the importance
of a strategic, cross-government approach with the integration
of national security action being vital to success. The NSS concluded
that the means to do this would be through a strategic framework
with clear planning assumptions that would form the basis for
prioritisation across government. The planning assumptions set
out the Government's long-term view of issues that have national
security implications so that they can be fully taken into account
in the future planning decisions of each department.
The first NSS announced the intention to establish
a Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy
(JCNSS) to help monitor the implementation and development of
the strategy. The final motion to establish the Committee was
agreed by the House of Lords on 1 February. The Committee's inaugural
meeting took place on 9 February. The remit of the JCNSS is to
consider and report on the annual update to the NSS, and as such
will draw on the expertise of the ISC, along with other Committees
with an interest in national security. The Chair of the HCDC will
be a member of the JCNSS. The Prime Minister consulted widely
on the role and membership of the Committee and, where appropriate,
took on board as many of the points raised before it was established.
As Members are aware, following consultation, the process is subject
to the progress of business and daily planning of parliament.
5. (Recommendation 5) We would welcome clarification
from the Government of how frequently the Ministerial Committee
on National Security, International Relations and Development
and its sub-committees have met or otherwise discussed matters
since they were established. (Paragraph 7)
The membership and terms of reference of Cabinet
Committees are published approximately every six months. This
is the only information that is routinely made publicly available.
It has been the practice of successive Governments not to disclose
the details of Cabinet Committee proceedings and this remains
6. (Recommendation 6) The House ought to be kept
informed of the progress of the dialogue between the MoD and the
Home Office over preparations for security at the Olympics in
as much detail as appropriate. (Paragraph 8)
The Olympic's Minister updates the House as appropriate
on the progress of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
7. (Recommendation 7) It is vital that the forthcoming
Green Paper makes all the necessary and important connections
between national security and our strategic defence capabilities.
The next Government must, in its work on the Strategic Defence
Review, make more explicit than is currently the case those connections
and spell out clearly the role of the UK's defence assets in our
national security. (Paragraph 9)
We agree with the Committee's assessment and as the
Secretary of State for Defence announced in the House on 3 Feb
2010 at the launch of the Defence Green Paper the Government fully
acknowledges the need to make the link between national security
as articulated in the NSS and the future Strategic Defence Review.
The Green paper describes six key strategic questions that need
to be addressed by the future Review, which should address the
concerns of the Committee. These six questions are:
- Where should we set the balance
between focusing on our territory and region and on engaging threats
- How far are future conflicts likely to share
the characteristics of our engagement in Afghanistan, and what
approach should we therefore take if we employ armed force to
address threats at distance?
- What contribution should our Armed Forces make
to ensuring security and contributing to resilience within the
- How could we more effectively employ armed force
in support of wider efforts to prevent conflict and to strengthen
- Do our current international defence and security
relationships require rebalancing in the longer term?
- Should we further integrate our Forces with those
of our key allies and partners?