Who does UK National Strategy? Further Report - Public Administration Committee Contents

Appendix 1—Letter from the Foreign Secretary

14 November 2010

Thank you for your letter of 26 October, following your Committee's report "Who does UK National Strategy?"

As you know, I agree with the report's finding that under the previous administration, the Government had lost the capacity to think strategically. One of the first tasks of the new Government was to restore that capability and for new Ministers to set a lead in strategic thinking. That is why we established the National Security Council on the day after the election, and published the new National Security Strategy on 18 October. This sets the broad context for our strategic thinking, starting out from our aim to be an open, outward-facing nation whose political, economic and cultural authority is disproportionate to our size, and embracing a whole of government approach and rejecting the idea of strategic shrinkage.

The National Security Council is now building up this whole of government approach for a series of key issues. It has brought coherence to our Afghanistan policy, and to the vital decisions of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. We have now established a new Sub-Committee to the National Security Council on Emerging Powers, to strengthen our approach to an increasingly important set of relationships for the UK's national interest. These structures provide us with an effective way to bring together strategic decisions about our security, defence, diplomacy and development and have already helped bring new coherence to our bilateral relations with India, China, Russia and the countries of the Gulf.

I do not, however, see the need for the National Security Council to develop a new bureaucracy for strategic thinking. Its purpose is not to become a rival source of advice to the Prime Minister, but to ensure that existing Departments work together effectively and that their advice is drawn together for collective consideration by Ministers. My priority remains to reinforce the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in leading foreign policy across the whole of government. Within the FCO, that means that strategic thinking must be infused throughout the entire organisation, and should not be considered as an isolated task separate from implementing policy. We shall, however, be taking some steps to reinforce our central policy coordination functions in order to make this happen.

I hope that this approach finds favour with your Committee.

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