Examination of Witnesses (Questions 298-347)|
DCMG AND WILLIAM
16 SEPTEMBER 2010
Chair: Baroness Neville-Jones, thank
you very much indeed for joining us today. It is a great pleasure
to welcome you to our session. This inquiry is not about what
the national strategy is, or about the Grand Strategy is; it is
about how strategy is made, what capacity for strategic thinking
we have across Whitehall, and whether that is sufficient and enough.
The evidence we have heard so far, I have to say, is very mixed.
Generally, the National Security Council, which is very much your
baby and a product of the policy you drew up in opposition, is
seen as a good start, but National Security Strategy is seen as
a narrower concept than Grand Strategy or national strategy, and
the National Security Council does not necessarily have the institutional
underpinning to provide it with that capacity for strategic thinking
that would enable it to fulfil that wider role. I will start,
if I may, by asking Kevin Brennan to ask some questions.
Q298 Kevin Brennan: You said in a
recent speech, Baroness Neville-Jones, that one of the main outcomes
of the creation of the NSC should be to develop a capacity across
government for strategic assessment, long-term policymaking and
sustained delivery. Can you give us some examples of how this
Baroness Neville-Jones: Certainly.
Chair, might I just say thank you very much for inviting me to
contribute to the Committee's work on this issue?
Q299 Chair: Sorry, I should interrupt.
I do apologise. Could you each identify yourselves for the record?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Of course.
I am Pauline Neville-Jones, the Security Minister.
William Nye: I am William Nye,
a Director in the National Security Secretariat in the Cabinet
Office. Chair: I do apologise for interrupting you.
Baroness Neville-Jones: Thank
you. To answer your question, if I might give a tiny bit of background,
I think that one of the reasons why in opposition I was very keen
that when a Conservative government came into office we should
indeed set up a National Security Council was indeed a perception
that although I think the British method of government has some
very strong points and has always traditionally been extraordinarily
good at cross-departmental co-ordinationa characteristic
that is not found in all governments; there are many governments
who are much more stovepiped than that of the United KingdomI
nevertheless felt that we needed a capacity for being able to
make policy more in the round as distinct from co-ordinating the
activities of different departments, and that a structural change
was actually needed in order to achieve that. So that is the background.
To answer your question, I think I would say two or three things.
Obviously the remit of a body is very important and the remit
of the National Security Council is indeed to be responsible for
drawing up and implementationor the monitoring of implementation,
because we do not want to create a body that cuts out all responsible
departments and their accountability to Parliament, but we want
to create is a body where the strategy that the Government have
agreed, and the sub-strategies also which are implemented, all
go to and are agreed by the National Security Council and should
then be effectively implemented, and for there to be machinery
inside government, as well as accountability to Parliament, for
ensuring that is the case. One of the features of making policy
that way is that it is possible from the beginning to create a
policy framework that is avowedly inter-departmental, cross-departmental
and not simply, which I think has been the characteristic of many
policies previously, where there has been a lead government department
to which others have then contributed. Let me give you an example
of a new area of policy where we are developing something which
is, from the start, cross-departmental with cross-departmental
contribution, and that is in the area of cyber.
Q300 Kevin Brennan: Of what, sorry?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Cyber.
Q301 Kevin Brennan: Is that a word
on its own?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Indeed,
yes it is. Because our cyber strategy is not simply a cyber security
strategy; it is a strategy which is designed undoubtedly to increase
our ability to ensure that the Government have a secure cyber
network and cyber platform. Alsoand here is another characteristic,
I think, of the National Security Council that I think is a bit
different from our predecessorswe do regard security as
being something that not just governmental; it is actually societal.
That is to say that if you look at the security needs of the country
these days, they cross into things that the Government do not
look after; there is a huge area of our national capability and
assets that we need to protect which is owned and operated by
the private sector.
Q302 Kevin Brennan: Okay. First of
all, that is incorrect. The previous Government did exactly think
about that. Secondly, we are not really interested in going into
the issue and the policy itself; we are interested in Grand Strategy
and the role possibly of the National Security Council within
the creation of that strategy. If it is as strategic a body as
you say, why are there twice as many staff serving it who are
there for contingencies as there are those who are there for long-term
Baroness Neville-Jones: There
are two sorts of people, I think, who we are talking about, and
I will ask William to contribute to this. We have people who are
actually in the National Security Secretariat who directly serve
the national security machinery: the Council, the Prime Minister
and everything that goes on inside the NSC. We then have, separately
from it, staff in the Cabinet Office who perform and who are engaged
in policy functions that are very often cross-departmental in
character, but they have separate policy responsibilities.
Q303 Kevin Brennan: Is the assertion
that there are twice as many contingency staff as there are staff
in longer-term strategic issues correct or incorrect?
William Nye: Should I say a word
Baroness Neville-Jones: Yes.
William Nye: The National Security
Secretariat encompasses quite a number of different types of function
within the Cabinet Office. I think you have been given the organogram,
Mr Brennan, and from that, you have probably seen that my areastrategy
and counter-terrorismitself covers a number of different
functions. Within counter-terrorism, I have some people who support
the Prime Minister in the National Security Council on counter-terrorism
policy. I also have some people who run and manage the COBRA crisis
management facilities as well as people who focus on strategy.
The civil contingencies area is a hub at the centre of government
that works with many departments as the centre for dealing with
domestic emergencies. That is more like a function that could
be in another department if ministers chose to put it there. It
corresponds in many respects to the function of the Office for
Security and Counter-terrorism for co-ordinating counter-terrorism
strategy, but it includes people who deliver elements of the policy,
as well as people who are doing the strategic analysis. You need
both and so I do not think I would draw a conclusion from the
numbers in quite the way you suggest.
Q304 Kevin Brennan: If that is the
case, how can you avoid, over time, the short-term contingencies
predominating over strategic thinking in a body like this if it
is dealing with both fire fighting and strategic thinking?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I think
in fact that perhaps the word "contingencies" suggests
something slightly misleading. What the Civil Contingencies Secretariat
is engaged in is actually long-term planning in relation to a
whole series of threats and hazards that have been identified
on a planning basis
Q305 Kevin Brennan: So it is a strategic
Baroness Neville-Jones: It is
a strategic body, absolutely. Yes it is.
Q306 Kevin Brennan: When the floods
come, it isn't there to react to that; it's there to plan long-term
about where floods might happen?
Baroness Neville-Jones: No, that
will be the salt cell or it will be COBRA. There is a piece of
machinery of government which will then come into being as a result
of the planning that has taken place on how you actually manage
Q307 Kevin Brennan: In the circumstances
of a contingency, then, is it still COBRA that will meet in order
to deal with that, rather than the National Security Council?
Baroness Neville-Jones: If it
is at national level, yes. If it is at regional level or local
level, you will probably find it will be dealt with by the police,
who do not raise everything, evidently, to the national level
unless it is necessary. But certainly if you do, that is what
Kevin Brennan: I'm done.
Chair: Thank you. Mr Halfon.
Q308 Robert Halfon: How do you plan
to ensure that the National Security Strategy is accountable and
Baroness Neville-Jones: Let's
deal with accountability first. Clearly, departments that are
charged with duties of implementation under the National Security
Strategy, to which they will have contributed through their ministers,
will be accountable to their departmental heads, and Secretaries
of State will be accountable to the appropriate parliamentary
committee. The National Security Strategy is clearly built up
of a whole series of the overall strategy and then are a series
of sub-strategies under that that help implement it. But you can
see, perhaps in the case of defence, that there is a whole area
of defence delivery of the strategy that is the proper purview,
I would suggest, in parliamentary terms, of the Defence Committee.
However, there is also I think a need that Parliament has recognised
in the setting up of the Joint Committee on the National Strategy
to look at those issues which are cross-cutting in nature and
do not necessarily or easily fall intoand indeed need a
different kind of examination fromthe subject matter strategies.
So I think that what we expect, and we will be gladly willing
to do, is to give evidence on the implementation of the strategy
overall and particularly on those areas where you have a strategy
only if you are operating across departmental boundaries. Indeed,
our ability to do some of these things, if I might just say so,
does depend on including and having partnerships with the private
sector. This is not just government.
Q309 Robert Halfon: Do you think
that Joint Committee will be effective in providing checks and
balances and challenging the National Security Strategy, or do
you think that Parliament should set up its own independent think
tank to do that role?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Perhaps
that is a matter for Parliament. I imagine that the National Security
Strategy Committee will want to take some expert help to enable
it to have a good dialogue on this subject. I do think that we
do have a national opportunity on the basis of the setting up
of the National Security Council now to have broader dialogue
on the subject of what it is that this country is trying to do
and how it is trying to do it. It seems to me, Chair, if I might
say so, that this is a very good start in that I do not think
the national strategy, or for that matter Grand Strategy, should
be something only the Government do. It does seem to me that it
is something where we should try to achieve a national consensus
and therefore that there should be contribution from all parts
of the governmental machine, Parliament and indeed our intellectual
establishmentour universities and our think tanks. This
is not, I think, something to be confined to the Government.
Q310 Chair: Aren't you a little disappointed
that the Joint Committee has not been established yet?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I think
it will come into being quite shortly, won't it, Chair? Of course,
it does contain Peers and the Lords are not yet in session.
Q311 Chair: Given that we all agree
that National Security Strategy is a subset of national strategy
or Grand Strategy, shouldn't the Committee be about national strategy
as a whole, not just National Security Strategy? How do we oversee
this process that, you have just described, should be so broad
Baroness Neville-Jones: I think
you are obviously quite right to distinguish between those two
things. They are not the same. If I might say so, I think National
Security Strategy is probably quite a considerable part of what
you might regard as being Grand Strategy. I suppose, in our system
of government, it is the Cabinet in a sense that is the owner
of Grand Strategy. I might say I think that in the compass of
what we regard as being the component parts of National Security
Strategy, we have given it a very wide definition. If I can come
back for a moment to the cyber strategy, it is, as I say, not
just a cyber security strategy; it is actually also how you actually
ensure that our cyber capabilities are ones that help to provide
a platform for economic growth and industrial change. So we do
conceive of the National Security Strategy as being not only how
do we deal with the threats and hazards that face us and the challenges
we face, but what opportunities are open to the nation and how
should we try to exploit them? That does not make any kind of
sense unless you are actually also being active on the economic
Q312 Chair: But given that security
strategy tends to be preoccupied with threats, risks and contingencies,
where is the capacity for wider strategic thinking? Should that
be part of the NSC's remit?
Baroness Neville-Jones: First
of all, you are quite right to say that that is a significant
component. I hope, when the National Security Strategy is published,
that one of the things you will find in the SWOT analysis is that
opportunity is there as well. That is not just how do we act defensively,
how do we deter; it is also what opportunities are open to us
and how do we seek to exploit them?
Q313 Chair: I think we are in agreement
Baroness Neville-Jones: The Foreign
Secretary is extraordinarily keen that the Foreign Office should
be part of the advancement of the economic and trading opportunities
of the United Kingdom. This is not just security writ narrow,
if I can put it that way. I think it is a much broader interpretation
that we are giving it.
Q314 Chair: Your earlier comment
echoed Sir Peter Ricketts in his evidence earlier this week that
it is the Cabinet that does Grand Strategy, but I pointed out
to him that the Cabinet is a decision-making body; it is not an
iterative thinking body.
Baroness Neville-Jones: No, that
is quite true.
Q315 Chair: Where is the capacity
for this deep and iterative and continuing thinking? We have been
told that strategy lives; it is not a strategy. Strategy lives
and is permanently developing. Where is the institutional home
of this strategy? At the moment, it seems to us rather scattered
around rather disparate parts of Whitehall that do strategy in
different ways in different departments. Is there a strategy community?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Clearly,
what we have set our minds to is the development of a National
Security Strategy, and I think we both agree that one does distinguish
that from something which you might call the grander strategy.
I do, on the other hand, think that the capacity of departments
to think strategically is actually enhanced and enlarged by the
National Security Council, because one of the functions of the
National Security Council in the way it is operating is to challenge
some of the assumptions. It brings a whole series of other issues
to the central table. They include, for instance, our energy prospectshow
we plan for the future for a world of changing energy needs and
climate change. These are very big issues; they are not trivial
issues that somehow can be neatly apportioned into operational
policy. They do require a great deal of thought. So the fact of
having to bring the fundamental underlying policy and the thinking
that lies behind it, and the ambition that you are going to try
to achieve, does itself generate much longer range and much more
ambitious thinking than might otherwise be the case, and forces
government, in its decision-making processes, to take account
of that. So they do not actually get what I think is very often
a danger in government: you have thinking over here and you have
operation over here and not much contact and connection between
the two. I hope that is something we can actually
Q316 Chair: I think that is very
much our concern, but in terms of thinking up scenarios, I was
quite surprised that Sir Peter Ricketts told us that he could
not remember a time when a red team exercise had been done with
the Iranian Government on various scenarios and various policy
options to look ahead at what would the Iranian regime do if we
did this and if we did that, and how would they respond to this
and respond to that? How can you plan energy security if you do
not have that kind of thinking going on in Whitehall?
Chair, I don't know that that kind of thinking isn't going on
Q317 Chair: We haven't found it yet.
Baroness Neville-Jones: Perhaps
it would be a good idea to ask Mr Huhne to come and see you. Can
I say one thing? We are at the beginning of a path. This is not
a fully fledged and completely organised project yet. We have
had five months and we have succeeded in setting up the absolutely
key central piece, but I would not want to pretend to you that
I think that we have necessarily put all the design in placeeither
what serves the National Security Council underneath or indeed
its links into the rest of Whitehall.
Q318 Chair: But you do accept that
that kind of thinking is required?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I do.
Absolutely I do, yes.
Q319 Chair: William Nye?
William Nye: Can I just say a
word? Going back to your first question, Chair, I think there
is a strategy community in Whitehall, but I think it is a work
in progress as a community. There are strategy units and you are
quite right to say that they are a bit different in different
departments and they do operate slightly differently, but we do
bring them together through a network and through working together
most concretely on things like the National Security Strategy,
which as you rightly noted is, of course, smaller than Grand Strategy,
but since it is quite a good chunk of national strategy, is quite
a good bit of practice at helping bring people together. Those
of us who are in the strategy community have also tried to find
opportunities for specific examples of bits of work that can bring
those people together. But, as the minister has said, it is a
work in progress; it is not fully established and I am sure there
is more we could do to make best use of the synergy between the
different bits of strategic capacity across Whitehall.
Q320 Nick de Bois: Just building
on that point, because I think you are leading into something
I was going to ask, if you don't mind, Chair. It is almost as
if, to get to a Grand Strategy, in a way what is potentially holding
us back is that the National Security Council and the National
Security Strategy is almost too limited a concept, because we
seem to be focusing on that. While I hear what you are saying
about different silos of strategic capability across Whitehall,
it seems to be very NSC-centric. Is that limiting the Grand Strategy
of what we aspire to, even in our manifesto, when we were talking
about cutting across various other areas?
Chair: He means the Conservative manifesto.
Baroness Neville-Jones: You provoke
a very interesting line of questioning. I think personally my
concept of national security is not that it is the Procrustean
bed into which other things should fit; I think it is rather the
other way round. Those elements of policy that are important and
that touch on the national interest, of which you clearly have
to have a definition before you can even begin on a serious strategic
approach, in their totality make up what you regard as being your
National Security Strategy. I have to come back, Chair, to the
point I made at the beginning, which is that we do give the word
"security" a very broad definition. We do not think
it is the Security and Defence Review with a little bit of foreign
policy and one or two other things added on. We regard it as being
much more broadly based in what society needs moving forward and
that the definition of security is not so much attached to the
machinery of government or to the organs and the assets of the
state; it is actually how you protect and advance the whole of
the interests of society. So it is broader than that and for instance,
to give you an example, issues that you might regard as being
domestic soft power issues on things like how we deal with extremism
and radicalisation in the United Kingdom are a matter for the
National Security Council. So it is both flexible and broad in
the way we approach it.
Q321 Chair: I don't want to prejudge
it, but I think our report is likely to be very positive about
the developments so far, but rather echoing your sentiment that
it is a basis for future development. It has been suggested to
us by Dr Paul Cornish in his evidence that we should set up some
kind of an inter-departmental strategic think thankan organisation
known to be independent of departments of State that reports to
and advises the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office, presumably
through the National Security Adviser. What do you think of that
proposal? It is not policy; I am asking you to horizon scan.
Baroness Neville-Jones: Yes, absolutely.
I am rather keen, I must say, on the Government developing a good
capacity for horizon scanning. I have done enough work on horizon
scanning to know that good horizon scanning is quite difficult.
I would want to be confident that anything that we did beyond
what already existsand there is a certain capacity in the
Government for itreally represented value-added pounds.
I think that size is not necessarily what you need there; what
you do need is a very good unit of really capable, well-trained
and able people. So that would be where I think we should try
to go. Does it need to be "avowedly inter-departmental"?
I don't know. What I would say, Chair, is that what you want out
of horizon scanning is something that services all departments.
I don't think it has to be so formally inter-departmental. What
I think it needs to do is to be given a remit of the kind that
enables it to tackle those issues that are really future issues
for the Government and do the job, obviously, of "where is
the world going and what do we need to look out for?" This
is pre-emption of hazards and threats coming our way that we will
find we have to manage if we do not pre-empt them, or it is opportunities
that we ought to be seizing. That is where I hope also the existence
of the National Security Strategy provides you with the foundation
of what it is you are trying to look for in the national interest.
Q322 Chair: It is about people who
are developing a clear idea of what sort of country we want to
be in five, 10 or 20 years' time.
Baroness Neville-Jones: They have
to be informed by that and they have to contribute to its continuing
development, yes, although I do think that a function of leadership,
right at the beginning, is to decide what kind of world we live
in and what kind of country we want to be, and therefore what
consequences of those two perceptions flow for policy.
Q323 Chair: This is music to my ears,
but is the office of National Security Adviser sufficiently developed
yet? When you were Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee,
or when you talk to the director of one of the security services,
you feel you are talking to someone who has a degree of independence
and authority because of the job they do. Has the National Security
Adviser developed sufficiently in that role, do you think, to
have that measure of independence?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I understand
you. I would say that the National Security Adviser, who is an
official, has considerable independent authority.
Q324 Chair: But the problem is that
he has been double-hatted with the Foreign Policy Adviser, hasn't
he? Traditionally, the Foreign Policy Adviser is very much a line
official role in No 10, not somebody who acts independently like
the Chairman of the JIC.
Baroness Neville-Jones: Chair,
you can argue that one both ways, I think. You can say, no, the
Chairman of the Committee should have separate advice on how he
chairs the Committee, which is obviously one of the functions
of the Foreign Policy Adviser, or you can say that it follows
logically from being head of the Secretariat that the head of
that Secretariat services the Chairman in his role as Chairman
of that Committee. I could argue both those cases. I do not personally
think that is the key point. I think the key point is that the
National Security Adviser should have a good grasp of, and understand
what are, the main issues in front of the National Security Council
itself and be important and play a central role in their development.
I do believe that that is what the present incumbent is doing.
Q325 Chair: When you were Chairman
of JIC, of course, you had your assessment staff.
Baroness Neville-Jones: Yes.
Q326 Chair: Does the National Security
Adviser have a strategic assessment staff or should he have that?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I would
say that the National Security Adviser certainly has to have people
on his staff who can either do the work themselves or cause the
work to be donegather the resources of government together
to oblige them to do things that they are not otherwise doing.
Absolutely it does. Does he need a whole separate Department of
State in order to achieve that function? I am much less convinced.
Q327 Chair: I wouldn't say Department
of State, but maybe an agency.
Baroness Neville-Jones: But it
is possible, Chair, to build a very big body very, very quickly.
One of the things we did say in opposition was that we wanted
to keep the centre of the Government small. We do believe that
small and efficient very often go together, rather than large
goes with efficient. What we do think is that it is not so much
for the National Security Secretariat to begin to substitute in
its thought processes and its policy making for the rest of government,
but actually to get the rest of government thinking and acting
much more strategically than it otherwise would.
Q328 Chair: How should that be done?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I think
it is by very considerable involvement. There is alreadythis
did not exist previously within the National Security Secretariata
structured system of official committees, and William perhaps
will tell you a bit more about this, and the Permanent Secretaries
from the relevant departments now meeting once a week. That was
something which in opposition I was extremely keen to see happen,
because I wantedand I think it is right and I think it
is proving fruitfulthe heads of those departments and not
just their subordinates to be working at the centre and themselves
understanding the contribution and the role of their department
in central policy making for an outcome that the Government have
identified as wanting or needing. Then also, of course, there
is, quite normally, a structure of ministerial committees as well.
Having had experience of government previously, I do think the
agendas and papers that come before these various sub-committees
of the National Security Council are different in kind from the
sort of papers I used to see when I was an official dealing in
the Cabinet Committee system. They are much more cross-cuttingmuch
more forward looking, I thinkthan would necessarily habitually
have been the case previously. I do think the shape within which
decision making takes place is changing.
Q329 Chair: So you think that we
are beginning to see a cultural change?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Yes. I
would not want to exaggerate how far it has gone and it is extraordinarily
easy to lapse. We are at the moment, obviously, in a creative
phase where we are trying to build a policy. It will be a test
of the system how creative it remains when we are in the implementation
phase, but I think that everybody who is involved is trying to
make a significant effort to change the way policy is made.
William Nye: I agree with that.
It is essentially a networked model that the minister has been
outlining. You have the National Security Secretariat working
closely with not just the strategy units of departments but with
other departments of State generallysometimes on strategic
thinking, sometimes on specific policies, but trying to inculcate
a sense of common endeavour across all the departments that are
involved. Obviously, some of them are more involved. Some of them
are 100% involved, like the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Others
are involved as regards some of their activities, but the spread
of the network across Whitehall is quite wide, so we have the
Ministry of Justice and the Department for Energy and Climate
Change, and on certain issues, as the minister says, the Department
for Communities and Local Government also involved. It is a work
in progressand I am not going to comment on how the papers
are compared with beforebut we are certainly trying to
get a sense of common endeavour and that forward-looking approach.
Q330 Charlie Elphicke: Mr Nye, how
are they all educated?
William Nye: In what sense? They
are a mixture of different backgrounds. My own team, for example
Q331 Charlie Elphicke: How are they
going to be taught? Do you just suddenly say, "Oh, you look
very promising. Why don't you just do this?" or are you going
to have some kind of formal structuring, formal education and
formal teaching? Or is it all just generalism?
William Nye: We have a mixture
of specialists from different backgrounds whom we bring together.
To take my own team, I have a mixture of people from the Ministry
of Defence, the Home OfficeI am from the Home Office myself,
albeit originally from the Treasurysome of the intelligence
agencies, Revenue and Customs, some of the armed services and
various other departments. Some of them have been through more
formal training in things that are relevant for, say, horizon
scanning or strategic thinking. Typically, those in the armed
services and to some extent the Ministry of Defence civil servants
may have been through more formal training, because that tends
to be more embedded there; some of the other departments slightly
less so. I do agree, if you are saying they need some common training,
that there is an issue for us to think about. You want a variety
of perspectives, as I think Peter Ricketts said, but you also
want enough common mutual understanding to be able to work together.
If I can mention one example, which is very nascent, we are working
with the Defence Academy on a pilot project for a series of relatively
senior levelOne Star, Grade Five Deputy Directorleadership
courses, organised by the Defence Academy but aimed at people
who are going to work anywhere across the broader national security
community so that they come together and, as part of their development,
have this opportunity to think about national security issues
in the round at the same time as doing personal leadership development.
Q332 Chair: I gather that the Civil
Service Collegecorrect me if I am wrongused to run
a strategic thinking course that I think was six months, was it?
Baroness Neville-Jones: A senior
leadership course, yes.
Q333 Chair: What strategic training
have you had, Mr Nye?
William Nye: I have been
on a variety of personal development courses, many of which contained
aspects of strategic thinking, but you are quite right to say
that the Civil Service College approach of intensive staff college-type
arrangements has gone and its successor, the National School of
Government, does more of a variety of courses on a whole range
of issues, tailored for customers to choose as and when. One of
the reasons I was interested in working with the Defence Academy
on this pilot project was to see if we could produce a product
that was suitable for a lot of people with a national security
interest across the whole of Government and was not, as it were,
just something that was a Ministry of Defence course for 20 Ministry
of Defence people and two people from another department, but
something that was suitable for people from a whole range of departments.
I will be honest: we have the first pilot version running in October,
so it has not actually started yet, but I think it is quite an
Q334 Chair: We are very glad to hear
that. It bears out what the CDS told us in earlier evidence and
in his RUSI lecture last year: he thought there had been a lapse
in the culture and the habit of strategic thinking in Whitehall.
He cited in his evidence that he felt that the military do far
more strategic training than the Civil Service now does. You would
William Nye: I would accept that
the military do more training of that kind, certainly. There are
plenty of opportunities for training in strategic thinking in
the Civil Service and people, if they are sensible, will try to
seize those opportunities because strategic thinking is one of
the six core competencies for the Senior Civil Service, which
you are supposed to be tested on, but it is not as uniform or
established as it would be for the armed services.
Q335 Charlie Elphicke: Baroness,
can I ask you a slightly wider question, drawing on your glittering
experience in defence, foreign policy, security, intelligence,
the Cabinet and those sides of things? We heard in previous evidence
that our sense of Grand Strategy and direction as a nation is
slightly muddled. On the one hand, our foreign and military policy
is entirely a subset of the United Stateswe do not have
any independence on that, we just do what they say. On the economic
side, we are entirely a subset of the European Unionwe
just do what it says. We are a satellite of each; a poodle yapping
without any particular direction because we are pulled in two
different directions. Would you say that is fair?
Baroness Neville-Jones: We are
now getting on to the substance of strategy, aren't we? If you
want to draw a caricature of British policy over the years, it
certainly has been composed of these two big pillars in our policyour
relationship with the US and our membership of the European Union.
To a large extent, the UK has been able to run these reasonably
well in parallel, though has not been without internal tension
and I would not try to pretend otherwise. These relationships
remain core to our position in the world and I think you will
find that the National Security Strategy is not going to say something
that is unconventional on that subject. But one of the conclusions
that, I think, the Government nevertheless draw is that precisely
because of having people thinking of youand particularly
your own people being worried by thisas being a poodle
means that you actually do need to reassert, restate, rethink
your national ambition and what it is to be British. Part of what
we are trying to do is not only what the UK's role in the world
is, but what kind of society we arethat is also something
that the National Security Council is looking at, so it does have
some quite Grand Strategy elements in its agendaand, in
a sense, to come up with an agenda for this country in the world
that takes into account and draws on the strengths that those
two fundamental relationships give us, but which says, "This
is what, in the light of all that, the United Kingdom is going
to do." I hope therefore it will give some stuffing to the
notion that there is something called British foreign policy,
British defence policy and British security policy, and that that
along with some of the other things I have outlined are core elements
in a British National Security Strategy. As I say, I understand
the distinction between Grand Strategy and National Security Strategy.
What I would say to you is I think that our definition of National
Security Strategy is broad.
Q336 Charlie Elphicke: Just to follow
up on that: in terms of our sense of mission, Grand Strategy,
purpose and direction as a country, do you have a sense of the
sort of Britain that you or the Government would like, and that
the nation as a whole buys into, regarding what Britain will look
like or be or be doing in 10 years' time?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I think
some of that vision will appear in what we say. There are some
very short-term and very important preoccupations. We do have
to correct the state of the finances of the nation. You cannot
ignore issues of affordability, and affordability in the short
term, obviously, has an influence on long-term ambitionwe
also have to be realistic. But I think that what you will see
us aiming to be is not a country that pulls up the drawbridge
and says it has all become too difficult, too unaffordable and
too complicated for us. We need to draw on the strengths we have
but also be really alert to some of the hazards and dangers we
face and that we do not allow them to mount, because it is getting
yourself into a situation where you can fail to manage something
early that gets you into extraordinarily expensive diversions
in policy. That is one of the reasons why looking forward is going
to be an essential element, it seems to me, in getting this strategy
Q337 Mr Walker: I am not sure whether
you can help me with this, but we had an interesting closed session
with some brilliant thinkers and great minds and they talked about
the UK managing decline. I did not really understand that, because
actually, despite the short-term problems we have at the moment,
our living standards have gone up dramatically over the past 50
years and many of the things we are talking about should be more
affordable, not less affordable, because we are all getting richer.
In reality, it is about choices, isn't itwhether we choose
to spend more money on welfare or the NHS, or whether we choose
to have a strong foreign policy backed up by strong armed forces,
be it Navy, Air Force or Army? Isn't it really the case that it
is about how we choose to spend our money?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I think
in broad terms, yes. Ever since I have been in government, and
going right back to the beginning of my career as a civil servant,
I have been in a world where people talk about managing decline
and I have never accepted it as the governing element in the agenda.
We have certainly had some extraordinarily bumpy periods and I
would not say, looking back, that the country makes policy perfectlythere
have been errors alright. What I would say is that in the situation
in which we find ourselves at the momentand there is a
certain short-term inconvenience with the public financesI
don't think that is what should govern the way you look at your
future in the world. What you have to do is you have to get this
right, but you are quite right to ask what is the strategic environment
and what are our ambitions as a society, and then what policies
do we pursue to ensure that we can realise those ambitions in
the environment in which we find ourselves? Do I think that our
capacity to safeguard ourselves remains unchanging or the ways
in which we have to do that remain unchanging? No, I do not. I
do think that the world we are in now puts a very big premium
on international co-operation among western societies. So I do
think that it is not just a question of what you are trying to
do; the how of it is very important. I think that the climate
we are in now is more challenging from the point of view of attaining
those objectives and succeeding in ways that we want to. From
that extent, I think it is harder work. That is not unique to
us; you could say that of all western democracies, I think.
Q338 Chair: So what specific changes
or recommendations would you make to improve our ability to identify
and express those national interests and intentions to which you
have just referred, and to improve the culture of strategic thinking
that will help us pursue those? Do you have specific ideas and
proposals? You must have some.
Baroness Neville-Jones: I hope
that when we produce our National Security Strategy and the SDSRwhich
I might add is being done at the centre although all previous
defence reviews have been done in the department; in this one
there is a huge contribution from the MOD, but it is essentially
processed at the centre, which is itself a change, and of course
it includes a big "S" in it, which is also a change
in how we think about security issuesthose two documents
taken together will be an expression of what we are trying to
achieve in the world, what we see as our role, what kind of society
we think we are and how we are going to go about achieving them,
and they will contain, I think, quite a bit of policy which relates
to what we do at home as well as how we are trying to achieve
policy objectives abroad. I come back to what I was saying earlier
on: I think that many of those objectives that we have to seek
abroad have to be done in co-operation with likeminded countries,
and who you choose as your partners is going to depend on the
issue and on the degree of like-mindedness and bringing all the
assets together and making them co-ordinate well. One of the results
of the existence of the council and of leadership in the departments
is that we have a rather closer co-ordination now between the
objectives for overseas development and some of the broader national
needs. I think that using the tools efficiently, given that there
are not spare resources around, is also going to be an important
part of getting effective outcomes and implementation. This is
going to be tested in implementation, not in design.
Q339 Chair: But isn't the art of
strategy about coming up with plans that recognise the constraints
and bottlenecks so that you finish up with deliverable plans?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Yes.
Q340 Chair: To that extent, you need
that iteration and testing of scenarios, and you need that conflict
of ideas and the challengepeople challenging orthodoxy
and raising awkward questions. Do you share my sense that there
really is not enough of that in Whitehall at the moment?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I think
an incoming government do quite a lot of challenging.
Q341 Chair: But that is about the
change of government, isn't it?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Up to
a point, yes.
Q342 Chair: It is far more difficult
to tell the boss he is wrong towards the end of a Parliament than
at the beginning.
Baroness Neville-Jones: That is
also absolutely right. I understand your point, Chairman, and
are we going to build into this a capacity constantly to be thinking
about whether we have it right or not? I think that is going to
be one of the challenges to us. Not yet tested, but clearly part
of the remit, is that when the National Security Strategy is being
implemented, there is going to be a monitoring function on the
part of the National Security Council. This comes back to the
earlier questions about accountability. Obviously the departments
will be accountable to Parliament, but there will be an internal
accountability mechanism where, in a sense, the National Security
Council and the Secretariat under it will be calling the departments
to account for the implementation of that bit of the strategy
that fell to them. So there will be an iterative, "How are
you getting on?", and, "Why hasn't this happened?",
and, "If you haven't been able to do it, can we devise another
way or do we have to rethink it?"
Q343 Chair: That is implementation
rather than strategy, isn't it?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Yes it
is, but I am sure you would recognise, Chair, that in the end
there is not a sharp line between the words on the paper and the
strategy as set out originally and its implementation. These two
things are iterative and they influence each other, and I would
suggest that the test of whether you are achieving your goals
is whether you don't just say, "Do your implementation by
rote," and you are left alone to do it, but you are actually
being pestered by other people in the National Security Council
for, "How are you getting on?", and, "Where are
we going?", because that is the process that asks the awkward
questions about the relationship between what appears to be done
and what the original objective was. That will happen. So I think
that we are, I would hope, developing a situation in which the
implementation itself remains a thinking process and doesn't just
Q344 Mr Walker: As a country, I think
we are riddled with self-doubt, but you do not strike me as a
woman who questions herself too much, which is goodI think
we need forceful personalities. Would you therefore agree that,
as a country, we are in an extraordinarily strong position? We
have the language of business, we have a democratic model that
is widely admired around the world, we have history on our sidelook
at the opportunities emerging in Indiawe have a permanent
seat on the UN Security Council and we project power across the
world. We have all these things going for us at this enormously
exciting time in the world's developmentthe world is getting
richer, China is emerging. If we miss this opportunity as a country,
do you think we will rue it for centuries to come?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I certainly
think that we must not be so worried about our short-term difficulties
that we do not think about what the opportunities are in the long
term. Your sentiments are very much mine. We have real assets
and we should not forget them. History can provide you with some
problems; it also provides you with a huge number of connections
around the world. We have them and we should use them, so I am
absolutely with you on the sentiment.
Q345 Nick de Bois: I would really
welcome your thoughts on what would be the likely constraintsand
there will be constraintson a Grand Strategy and where
will they come from? Who will they be? What will they be? Will
it be just our own institutions or are there external factors?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I suppose
the constraints that operate in relation to the pursuit of any
objectiveand this would be true, I think, whatever the
scaleare: have you identified your objective clearly and
correctly? If you are going up a blind alley, you are going to
get into trouble and hit a wall. Have you then allocated to it
the necessary and appropriate resources? Thirdly, do you then
get down in a serious way to implementing? Do you work out what
the stages are that you need to go through in order to achieve
the objective? Very often when you do that, what you need to do
when you are planning it is to start with the objective and work
back to where you are and see what you do between the two. It
is extraordinary the number of people who fail to do that. If
you do not do those things, of course, you are liable just to
wander around. So it is very necessary, in my view, if you want
to achieve a policy objective, to work out a way of doing it and
then constantly you have to test whether you have that right.
One of the things I would say about British policy on the whole
is that we are quite operational. We are not always as good, I
thinkand I say this in a sense as a former officialat
fixing the objective and keeping our eye on it and we do sometimes
go off on tactical tangents. That is a tendency that I think the
existence of a broad strategy will help us correct. But I would
say in the end that the things that limit you from achieving your
objectives are usually your inability to bring your resources
into play properly. They are in fact policy-making and policy
implementation processes rather than the affordability of the
policy, although it is grotesque, obviously, to identify an objective
that clearly is wholly unaffordablethat is a silly thing
to do. Provided you have a reasonable relationship between the
two, I think very much of this lies in the quality of the policy-making
process that you then put in place to pursue your clearly identified
Q346 Chair: Mr Nye?
William Nye: Can I just add one
thing to what the minister has said? I think there is also a practicality
constraint if you draw the scope of whether it is a National Security
Strategy or national strategy or Grand Strategy too wide. Of course,
intellectually, you could relate any aspect of government to any
other aspect of government and say they need to work together,
and that is true, but the links between different elements are
sometimes thicker than others. If you try to bring everything
together into a national strategy or a Grand Strategy, rather
than focusing on the things where those links are most important
and you have the maximum synergies, there may just bespeaking
as a practitionera practical problem in trying to do that
much co-ordination and bringing together. We have, as the minister
said, in thinking about national security, broadened the concept
to bring in other departments and other elements, but in a way
in which you can make a compelling case that persuades those new
departments and agencies that they have a role to play. I think
it would be quite difficult to try to take every aspect of government
policy including, for example, health policy or welfare policy,
and say, "Those are important elements of Grand Strategy."
You could try to make that case, but you might want to look at
which are the closest synergies. So we have picked up energy security,
for example, and, as the minister has said, there are connections
between elements of national security and things like extremism
or integration. But I think you ought to be a bit cautious about
how far you go in trying to pull everything together.
Q347 Nick de Bois: So is it the art
of the possible?
William Nye: I think there always
has to be an art of the possible in government.
Chair: On that note, may I thank you,
Baroness Neville-Jones and William Nye, for your help and support
in this evidence session, and particularly Mr Nye, who attended
our seminar last week? I hope our report provides the Government
with some useful suggestions.
Baroness Neville-Jones: I look forward
Chair: Thank you very much indeed.