Appendix 3Government Response |
Government Response to the Public Administration
Select Committee First Report of Session 2010-11 'Who does UK
The Government welcomes the Committee's detailed
consideration of this important issue and recognition by the Committee
of the progress in strategic thinking made by the establishment
of the new National Security Council. Our response to the Committee's
Report addresses each of the recommendations (in bold type below)
We have interpreted the Committee's findings as being
primarily concerned with strategy formulation and strategic thinking
in national security, and we have framed our response accordingly.
However, where appropriate we have also made reference to the
Government's broader strategic agenda and strategy formulation.
Recommendation 1 (Page 27, paragraph 7):
If the UK is to navigate its way successfully
through the networked world, and to 'lift its eyes to the wider
strategic needs of this country', we need a National Strategy.
2. Cabinet, as the most important collective decision
making body of Government has responsibility for the Government's
overall strategy, and considers directly, or through its Cabinet
Committees, any significant international or domestic policy issues.
The Government's overall strategy is set out primarily in 'The
Coalition: our programme for government' document, but also, in
terms of economic strategy, in the Budget and the Spending Review.
Additionally, the Business Plans of Government Departments, published
on the No 10 website, set out the priorities for all areas of
Government and the role of all Departments in the delivery
of the Government's strategy.
3. The new National Security Strategy (NSS) is an
important component of national strategy. Together with the Strategic
Defence and Security Review (SDSR) it sets out Government's strategic
decisions and priorities on security and defence based on an assessment
of the strategic context, Britain's place in the world and an
analysis of the risks and opportunities we face. The SDSR sets
out how the Government will deliver the priorities in the Strategy
and established a number of committees, each led by Ministers,
to take forward specific aspects of the Review. An Implementation
Board of senior officials will provide further drive and a monitoring
function against delivery of all the commitments made in the NSS
Recommendation 2 (Page 28, paragraph 11):
It is ... essential for ministers to invest time
and energy into strategy making. It is the demand from ministers
for strategic appraisals which will create the 'strategic appetite'
within Departments and Whitehall more generally for better and
soundly based strategic analysis.
4. The Government shares the Committee's views on
the importance of strategic analysis to underpin policymaking.
The Cabinet and its Committees, including the National Security
Council, and the Home and Economic Affairs Committee, give strategic
direction to the Government's work. The Economic Affairs Committee,
for example, ensures that issues relating to the economy receive
thorough consideration by Ministers. It will play a key role in
driving forward the Growth Review, which is taking a fundamental
look at what each part of Government is doing to remove barriers
to investment. In addition there are Departmental strategy groups,
for example the Strategic Policy Group in the FCO which considers
key strategic policy issues and advises the Foreign Secretary.
The Defence Secretary's Defence Strategy Group provided perspective
and direction in support of the SDSR.
5. The National Security Council (NSC) is a powerful
centre of strategic assessment and decision-making at the heart
of Government. This is under-pinned by joint analysis: where
relevant, meetings of the NSC begin with the latest assessment
from the Joint Intelligence Committee, ensuring that strategy
is based on a shared understanding of the political, economic
and/or military context. The Council will oversee the implementation
of the NSS and the SDSR across the whole of Government. The discipline
of systematic, weekly consideration of national security priorities,
in a ministerial forum chaired by the Prime Minister, is encouraging
a more coherent approach to strategy across Government departments.
6. Within individual Departments, Secretaries of
State will chair Departmental Boards which will provide strategic
leadership. They are responsible for developing the strategies
for their Departments, in line with the Government's overarching
strategic agenda as set out in the Coalition's Programme for Government.
They will have access to advice on strategy from senior leaders
from the commercial private sector and the third sector, who will
sit on Departmental Boards as Non-executive Directors. Individual
Department Business Plans will be scrutinised against priorities
and milestones and to check the effectiveness of the strategies
and progress in delivering them.
Recommendation 3 (Page 28, paragraph 12):
There is a second and equally important element
about strategy: the need to ensure democratic legitimacy and to
recognise the political limits of what strategy and our national
interests can achieve. Elected representatives are best placed
to articulate an understanding of what the electorate will find
7. The Government fully accepts the clear role for
Parliament in this area. Parliamentary Select Committees scrutinise
the work of individual Departments. In addition, a number of Committees
look at cross-cutting issues, including: the Public Administration
Select Committee, in its remit to monitor the quality and standards
of the Civil Service; the Liaison Committee, in its function of
bringing together the work of all the Select Committees; and the
Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy which will look
at all aspects of the Government's approach to national security.
Recommendation 4 (Pages 28-29, paragraph 16):
The Government should expand the remit of the
NSC and of the National Security Adviser to take on a central
co-ordinating role for National Strategy.
8. The National Security Council is a useful model
of how a Ministerial body can oversee the development and implementation
of a strategic agenda. However, Cabinet, as the overall decision-making
body of Government, has ultimate responsibility for the Government's
9. The Cabinet Committee system, of which the National
Security Council is part, allows smaller groups of Ministers to
think strategically, and in more detail, about areas in which
they may have specific expertise and interest. It is important
that the National Security Council and its sub-committees concentrate
on national security, to allow a proper focus on those issues,
just as other Cabinet Committees focus on other aspects of the
Government's responsibilities - particularly the economy and the
domestic agenda. These elements are then brought together for
collective consideration by Cabinet.
Recommendation 5 (Page 29, paragraph 19):
We strongly support the efforts of the former
CDS to engender the culture of strategic thinking. We commend
his initiatives of setting up a strategic advisory group and a
forum for the practice of strategy. We invite the new CDS to
ensure that this initiative is maintained and if possible enhanced
and to explain personally to us how he plans to do so. We would
also exhort the rest of Whitehall to engage in the process.
10. The new CDS will continue to promote strategic
thinking within the Ministry of Defence, including by maintaining
the panel of independent strategic advisers set up by his predecessor.
The MOD's Defence Reform Review will consider how to build on
this initiative to develop strategy capability further, integrated
across the Ministry of Defence and with the rest of Whitehall.
Recommendation 6 (Page 29, paragraphs 20 and 21):
It is essential to recruit, train and promote
a community of strategists from across Whitehall with different
experiences and expertise who can work collectively. We recommend
that the Royal College of Defence Studies and the National School
for Government and others should consider how best to devise a
joint forum and programme of education... Strategic skills should
not only be valued but properly recognised in the appraisal system.
11. The Government agrees that
it is important to continue to develop the capacity for strategy
making and strategic thinking within Government. Strategic skills
are already a required element in the Senior Civil Service appraisal
process. They are also measured at other grades in specific posts:
the 'Professional Skills for Government' core competencies include
strategic thinking and the new Policy Skills Framework for Civil
Servants adds further weight to this by providing a common language
12. In terms of national security there is an existing
network of Strategy Units in a number of Departments with national
security responsibilities, including the FCO, the Home Office,
DfID and the MoD which support the development of forward thinking
in foreign, defence and security policy. Following the SDSR we
will be exploring ways to strengthen their collective working
and will report on progress to the Committee in six months' time.
The Government is already building a cadre of civil servants who
have experience of strategy in national security and have spent
their careers delivering that function in different Departments.
Options are also being explored to improve education in strategy.
For instance, the UK Defence Academy is providing pilot courses
on strategic leadership on national security issues for attendees
from across government.
13. This Government is committed to ensuring that
national security considerations are fully considered in all aspects
of our thinking. So, in bilateral relationships with partners,
the UK's strategic approach to advance our national interest will
be based on multiple elements including economic, political and
of course international and regional security considerations.
In the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review for example,
the Government committed to doubling aid to fragile and conflict
states. Our work to tackle poverty and assist development in
these countries will help to address the risks to the UK associated
with conflict and fragility, and is strongly in our national interest.
Increasingly the threats we face will stem from, or be associated
with, events elsewhere, so we are investing more in preventing
and tackling threats at source before they escalate into full
blown conflicts or materialise on UK shores. The UK's international
agreements also advance our National Security in the wider sense,
as does our general interaction with partners and allies.
Recommendation 7 (Page 30, paragraph 23):
We...recommend that a capability review of National
Strategy should start as soon as possible. It should report within
a year. It should examine the various parts of Whitehall which
should be contributing to National Strategy. [It] should determine
how far the strategy functions in each department consider themselves
part of a wider strategist 'profession'; [and] to what degree
there is shared training, [and] ways of working.
14. We very much welcome the Committee's
focus on how best to develop collective thinking - particularly
on national security issues across the relevant Government Departments.
We will explore the possibility of examining the effectiveness
of collaborative working on national security issues and provide
the Committee with an update in six months' time.
Recommendation 8 (Page 30, paragraph 24):
In the longer term, we would hope that enhanced
Whitehall collaboration will lead to the development of a new
agency to complement the existing arrangements. The new agency's
Director would be a key player in Whitehall with regard to National
Strategy, and its inputs and assessments would complement the
joint intelligence assessments.
15. Paragraph 6.6 of the SDSR
made a commitment to improve collaboration between the various
Departmental strategy units which support the development of forward-looking
defence and security policy, and create a more formal strategic
thinking network overseen by the National Security Adviser (NSA).
Heads of Strategy Units and those involved in strategic pieces
of work across defence and security departments will attend the
network, which will co-ordinate work programmes and consider specific
pieces of collaborative work. This will build upon the informal
network of Heads of Strategy Unit mentioned earlier, through which
Departments have already delivered a range of joint strategy work.
16. The National Security Secretariat
works closely with Government Departments, and in particular with
their Strategy Units. It also consults agencies and organisations
outside Government for strategic advice and expertise, including
think tanks, academia and wider international organisations. Similar
networks are already in place in other areas of Government such
as the FCO, DECC and the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism
(OSCT) in the Home Office.
17. The Government will explore ways of ensuring
better linkage, clearer commissioning and stronger impact of the
various existing networks. The aim should be, as the Committee
notes, to foster the culture of strategic thinking across Government.
The Government does not believe that a new Agency is the right
approach to develop better strategy making in Whitehall.
Recommendation 9 (Page 30, paragraphs 25 and 26):
There should be greater interchange between outside
experts and Whitehall and career progression should involve spending
time both within and outside of government as part of a wide and
diverse strategy community. Government must ensure that funding
for research into National Strategy and strategy making is not
squeezed out by funding for [other] academic programmes. The
reallocation of funding required is minimal and would be in the
18. Engagement with outside experts
is now a normal part of strategy and policy work across government,
through formal advisory fora, frequent informal contact, and official
participation in external conferences and studies. The Government
already regularly draws on external input to strategy through
inward secondments and fixed term appointments from the wider
public sector, the private sector, the voluntary sector and academia.
In addition, non-executive Directors will bring external expertise
into Government Departments at the most senior level.
19. This approach is also being
considered in other areas. For example, the Joint Intelligence
Committee invites academics to some of its meetings to provide
additional challenge, the Foreign Office maintains close relationships
with international think tanks and academic communities. In the
Home Office, the Government's Counter-Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST)
workshops have been externally facilitated and based on extensive
research of both open source and classified material.
Recommendation 10 (Page 30, paragraph 27):
We would invite Parliament to consider that the
Joint Committee on National Security Strategy should likewise
have its remit broadened to become the Joint Committee on National
Strategy and Security. We would also invite the House to re-consider
its membership. Contributions to National Strategy and National
Security derive from a variety of departments, not least from
the Cabinet Office. We suggest that membership of the Joint Committee
should therefore be drawn from all appropriate departmental select
committees. It would include this Committee, which oversees process
at the heart of National Strategy and National Security.
20. The Joint Committee on the
National Security Strategy was set up 'to consider the National
Security Strategy', on the basis of a 2008 proposal from the then
Prime Minister. The Government has no plans to propose a
change to the Committee's Terms of Reference.
21. When the Joint Committee on
the National Security Strategy was first established, the Commons
Liaison Committee and the Prime Minister agreed that it's membership
should include the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee
and the Chairs of the Business Innovation and Skills, Defence,
Energy and Climate Change, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, International
Development and Justice Departmental Select Committees, plus
four other Members in addition to the ten Lords members. However,
appointments to the Joint Committee remain a matter for the two
Recommendation 11 (Page 31, paragraph 32):
We would support a small, central budget allocated
to National Strategy making; either under the control of the Cabinet
Secretary, or the National Security Adviser in his wider, National
Strategy, role. This funding would enable coordination of National
Strategy making in each department, to ensure that departmental
contributions to National Strategy are compatible, to promote
common training, and to draw all those involved into a 'community'
of Whitehall strategic thinkers.
22. The Government believes that Departmental co-ordination
and collaboration will deliver the best results in this area.
The NSS and SDSR commitments mentioned in the response to Recommendation
8 give the National Security Adviser a formal role in promoting
this. The Government believes there is no requirement for a new
budget to deliver these improvements.