Strategic thinking in Government: without National Strategy, can viable Government strategy emerge? - Public Administration Committee Contents

5  Assessment of current strategic thinking in Government

54.  We took the views of our witnesses on the current state of strategic thinking in Whitehall, and suggestions for how this may be improved. Many of our witnesses doubted whether public identity, national values and expert opinion informed policy development at present. Lord Rees of Ludlow, the Astronomer Royal, cited policy on offshore wind as an example "where it is clear that decisions were made on the basis of inadequate thought".[50]

55.  Sir David King set out his view that there was a wider failure of strategic working across Whitehall, stating that:

there is a serious lack of strategic thinking within and across government departments. There is very little strategic thinking of the long-term nature that I believe is necessary within the Cabinet Office and Number 10 as well.[51]

Lord Carter of Coles argued that the Government did not have "an overall strategic plan for the domestic situation".[52] He added that "a succession of Governments have never felt the need" for a strategic plan, a view shared by Lord Burns.[53] It was, according to Nick Butler, Professor of Public Policy at King's College London, "regrettable" that the failure to consider such a strategy as necessary, had left us without "a National Strategy for the economy or for the future of the country".[54]

56.  The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy has also separately raised the question of a failure to think strategically, considering the UK's national interests, concluding that the National Security Strategy:

does not yet present a clear overarching strategy: a common understanding about the UK's interests and objectives that guides choices on investment across government departments, including domestic departments, as well as guiding operational priorities and crisis response.[55]

57.  The Minister argued that the strategy for government means being clear about its aims, developing policies which you will think will meet those aims, and then ensuring that policies are implemented.[56]

58.  We urge the government to take note of the conclusions of the report by the Joint Committee on National Security which advocated an 'overarching strategy'. We share the concerns raised by our witnesses about the poor quality of National Strategy in Government. The evidence from the Minister and the Cabinet Office did not allay or address our concerns. We have little confidence that policies are informed by a clear, coherent strategic approach, informed by an assessment of the public's aspirations and their perceptions of the national interest.

50   Q 71 Back

51   Q 258 [Sir David King] Back

52   Q 216 Back

53   Q219 Back

54   Q 3 [Nick Butler] Back

55   Joint Committee on National Security Strategy, First review of the National Security Strategy 2010, para 25 Back

56   Q 285 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 24 April 2012