Who does UK National Strategy? - Public Administration Committee Contents

6  Conclusion

94. The answer we received to the question, "Who does UK Grand Strategy?" is: no-one. This should be a matter of great concern for the Government, Parliament and the country as a whole. The assumptions on which we have based our perceptions of our national interest in the last fifty years or so are now being challenged in new ways. We need to redefine what the UK's national interests are in the emerging new and uncertain environment. We need also to be able to think strategically about how to ensure they are promoted. This is the stated aspiration of the new Government but, as yet we have seen no evidence that they will be able to achieve it. As things stand there is little idea of what the UK's national interest is, and therefore what our strategic purpose should be.

95. Our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan are prominent examples of where our lack of consistent strategy goes a long way towards explaining why the conflicts have not gone well for the UK. This underlines the need for a coherent National Strategy.

96. Time is not on our side. The Government have been considering a Strategic Defence and Security Review over the summer. An announcement is imminent and the tensions are palpable in the rush of media stories and leaks. Our colleagues on the Defence Committee have expressed their concern at the speed at which the SDSR is being conducted. Sir Robert Fry reflected on how the Foreign Secretary over the summer made speeches on a broad manifesto for foreign policy for the future as ambitious as it has ever been. On the other hand he considered that, "We are about to embark upon sets of reviews and Government cuts that are actually going to disassociate completely the means of supporting those ends, and I cannot think of a better example of the vacuum in strategic thinking than that".[85] We share that concern. The Foreign Secretary has said that "The Government rejects the idea of strategic shrinkage".[86] It is however impossible to conceive of any strategic rationale that could reconcile this with the widely canvassed possibility of substantial cuts in defence capability, as defence spending declines below 2 per cent of GDP. We question therefore whether the Government has the capacity to deliver an SDSR which is in any way strategic.

97. Having a community of strategically 'literate' officials in Whitehall is essential. It will be a competence which we will expect to see encouraged and nurtured. We intend to reconsider strategy making in light of the outcome of the SDSR and as we inquire into the development of the Civil Service and good governance in this Parliament.

85   Q 226 Back

86   HC Deb, 26 May 2010, col 174 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 2010
Prepared 18 October 2010