Planning for the next National Security Strategy: comments on the Government response to the Committee's First Report of Session 2010-12 - Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy Contents

Appendix: Government Response to the Committee's First Report of Session 2010-12


The National Security Strategy aimed to mobilise the whole of Government behind the protection of Britain's security interests and to gear us up for an age of uncertainty. And that is exactly what it has achieved.

From helping the Government to deliver a balanced defence budget for the first time in a decade, to hosting the world's largest gathering of leaders ever to address the threats of terrorism and piracy coming from Somalia, to strengthening our relations with emerging powers such that our exports to those countries have now increased by 26%, the National Security Strategy has ensured that the Government is focused on the right decisions to strengthen our ability to protect our national security and to advance our interests in the world.

The National Security Council has played a vital role in delivering all of this and more, bringing together the key decision-makers from across Government on a regular basis significantly to improve the coherence, pace and impact of decision-making on UK national security. Since its inception two years ago, the National Security Council has regularly discussed immediate priorities such as Afghanistan and Iran, while also considering longer term issues such as how we tackle cyber defence, prevent threats from the Sahel increasing and ensure that we remain a competitive player in Asia.

1. It is significant that the NSS and SDSR were produced in parallel with the spending review—rather than guiding or following it—and after a review of just five months. (para 6)

2. We welcome the Government's decision to produce the SDSR at the same time as the NSS. In principle, this should allow us to see, alongside the Strategy, what impact it will have on policy priorities and resource allocation. (para 10)

3. We also welcome the Government's commitment to review the NSS and SDSR regularly. A five yearly review cycle, as is currently proposed, seems to us appropriate. However, producing a new Strategy shortly after a General Election—as this timetable suggests—raises the danger of a hurried review process, particularly if there is a change of Government. (para 11)

4. The order in which the NSS, SDSR, and CSR are begun is not particularly significant. What is crucial is that all three are able to influence each other, in a process which is begun in plenty of time. The timing of the Election led to the 2010 NSS, SDSR and CSR being completed in a relatively short timescale with little consultation. We urge the Government to plan for a much longer lead time for the 2015 review. (para 12)

The Government agrees with the Committee's view that there is benefit in carrying out the NSS, SDSR and CSR processes in an interactive way so as to ensure that strategy takes account of financial realities but is not pre-determined by CSR allocations. It will be important to start thinking about the work plan for the 2015 review well in advance of 2015. The cross-Whitehall National Security Strategy Network is already beginning to consider this. Activities such as the National Risk Assessment and the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) make significant contributions.

We welcome the Committee's support for HMG's commitment to quinquennial review of the NSS and SDSR. The commitment to one review in each Parliament does not, however, require that all the preparatory work for such reviews would be compressed into a narrow window shortly after each General Election. Experience gained from the first NSS and SDSR will contribute to the review.

5. We welcome the decision of this Government and the last to publish an NSS. We believe that producing and publishing an NSS can help to play an important role in identifying likely future threats to, and opportunities for, the UK. This allows the UK to prepare for them and, in an era of scarce resources, to prioritise effectively. This is important to maintaining the security of the country. (para 16)

6. We regret that the Government's unwillingness, to date, to provide us with all the information we requested about the NSRA, means that we are not in a position to give the two Houses any assurance about its adequacy. We urge the Government to reconsider its position on this. We need this information if we are to do our job properly as a Joint Committee tasked with scrutinising the NSS (para 23)

HMG agrees with the Committee's view of the importance of publishing a National Security Strategy. The Government will look to provide the Committee with a confidential briefing on the new National Security Risk Assessment.

7. We remain to be convinced of the Government's reasoning for not including Afghanistan in the NSRA. The Government has said that it is not including immediate security issues but terrorism, accidents, flooding and cyber attack are included, though they are all current threats. While the date of troop withdrawal may be a firm policy, we take the view that Afghanistan and the surrounding region remain an area of risk for the UK's security and this ought to be reflected in the NSRA. (para 24)

HMG agrees that Afghanistan and our commitment there will continue to be an area of risk for national security. The NSRA is intended to give strategic notice about future risks, enabling HMG to prioritise, and to plan the national response and capabilities for the longer term. To serve this purpose, the NSRA considers generic risks rather than scenarios that are tied to a particular place or set of circumstances. Accordingly, the NSRA did not set out the risks arising from instability or conflict in named countries but considered the generic risk to national security posed by states that are prone to fail or to be subject to internal conflict.

8. In principle we welcome the development of the NSRA but the Government must ensure that it does not lead to a false sense of security. Any forecasting tool, however well designed, is imperfect and speculative, and the results produced should be treated with caution and used as a support for, not a substitute for, good judgement. The NSRA will not always predict the next big problem: resources must be allocated to continual horizon-scanning, and must be available to deal with unpredicted risks as they emerge. (para 25)

The Government agrees and its National Security Strategy warns of the intrinsic uncertainty in human events and of the need to be alert to change. HMG will continue to assess and re-assess the risks, including this year and every two years through a review of the NSRA itself; will allocate resources to analysing early warning signs of emerging issues with implications for UK interests; and has strengthened its machinery for managing crises as they emerge. The NSRA will continue to be developed, not as a predictive tool, but as a risk assessment designed to assist in prioritising and planning for future risks. The Government also has an established process for identifying countries at risk of instability. This analysis informs both the Building Stability Overseas Strategy and the NSRA.

9. A key point of the NSS is to set priorities, and to guide choices in an era of diminished resources. While such a strategy may contain aspirational elements it must also be realistic. The NSS simultaneously recognises the rise of new global powers, shifts in the centres of economic activity, and reduced resources in the UK, while at the same time asserting "no reduction in influence". This is wholly unrealistic in the medium to long term and the UK needs to plan for a changing, and more partnership-dependent, role in the world. (para 30)

The NSS and SDSR between them set out the Government's national security interests and objectives, identify the risks to them, and seek to co-ordinate the instruments of national power to find ways of delivering them. The NSS and SDSR between them made a number of strategic choices: to maintain the UK's international profile; to honour our operational commitments; and to plan for an adaptable force as a hedge against uncertainty. In so doing, we set a path to protect and promote British national security interests over the next 20 years; but we have done so in a way that recognises the propensity for rapid changes in the strategic environment. The NSS and SDSR focused on the 'ends' and the 'means' elements of strategy; they were less prescriptive about the 'ways' in which we will deliver our objectives over time because we recognise that, in an increasingly competitive global environment, the UK will need to remain agile. Hence, adaptability is at the heart of the NSS and SDSR. That, in itself, is a strategic choice.

In the lead-up to the NSS and SDSR, the NSC considered a range of potential strategic postures that the UK could adopt. Amongst them was the possibility of a more insular, protectionist approach. The NSC rejected this posture as inconsistent with the UK's enduring global interests. This is what the NSS meant by the rejection of any notion of the shrinkage of our influence. Of course the Government recognises the increasing multi-polarity of global influence as new powers emerge on the global stage, fuelled by strong economic growth in areas such as South and East Asia and Latin America.  However, in absolute terms, the UK remains one of the most powerful, wealthy and influential countries in the world. In a changing world, the NSS and SDSR make clear that the Government is determined to use all our national capabilities to optimise and, where possible, to extend the UK's influence in the world in order to build Britain's prosperity and strengthen our security.  The emerging powers offer significant opportunities as well as risks for the UK's influence; and we are already moving decisively—for example, through the shift of the FCO's diplomatic network and the development of the Defence Engagement Strategy—to enhance our political and economic relationships with many of these countries.

10. We are concerned that the Government has not done enough in the NSS and SDSR to articulate its concept of what influence is, why it is needed, or what the most cost-effective way is of achieving it in different circumstances and regions. The NSS mentions many different forms of "soft power" but could do more to spell out the different roles of organisations such as the BBC World Service and British Council. We believe that greater clarity over exactly what we are seeking, and why, could enable resources to be better targeted. (para 35)

The Government is clear that influence is "our ability to have an effect on the beliefs and actions of others, which in turn leads to action in support of our interests or greater acceptance of our own actions."  We agree that influence can take many forms—from military and economic ("hard power"), through to the influence of our culture and values ("soft power"). Our aim is to use "smart power", by using an appropriate combination of different sorts of influence in each specific policy context.

We recognise that the UK has a large number of soft power assets, ranging from those over which we have a high degree of control, such as our overseas budget, to those inherited assets which are beyond the control of the Government, such as the English language and our historical legacy. The FCO has led cross-Whitehall analysis of how the UK's soft power works, and will be publishing a document later this year. 

Soft power is not an end in itself, but a capability to be used in pursuit of a wide range of foreign policy objectives. Different regions or policies will require the Government to work with different partners. Much of the value of some of our partners comes from their independence or distance from Government; and we need to be careful not to damage this.

The BBC World Service and the British Council both play a crucial role in the UK's soft power. Although they receive funding from Government, their independence allows them to engage with people who might be unwilling to deal directly with HMG.  Both organisations help show the world the values of the UK that we wish to promote; and we would not want to compromise this independence.

The UK's development programme also makes an important contribution to our global influence. UK influence is strengthened by the promotion of our values, including through the work of the Department for International Development and the continued commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance from 2013.

11. We welcome the idea of an "adaptable posture" in principle. But in a world in which it was deemed right in principle to intervene militarily in Libya but not, for instance, in Syria, we would welcome more clarity on how this principle shaped decisions on the mix of capabilities to be maintained. We call on the Government to elaborate on the thinking linking the NSS, the "adaptable approach" and the capabilities decided upon. (para 40)

The National Security Strategy sets out the Government's national security interests and objectives, and identifies the principal risks to them. A central conclusion of the National Security Strategy was to recognise the increasing uncertainty of a future world in which the pace of change—political, economic, military and technological—is increasing. This recognition underpinned the Government's judgement that it needs an adaptable posture to allow it to respond to those changes. In turn, this implies a balanced and flexible set of national capabilities to underpin that adaptability.

The adaptable posture, and its implications, were important factors in the Strategic Defence and Security Review decisions on future defence capabilities (less heavy armour and fewer fast jets, more helicopters, more investment in cyber, and more intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) etc.), and in guiding the prioritisation of the defence equipment programme that underpinned the Defence Secretary's announcement on balancing the defence programme.

The prioritisation of risks through the National Security Risk Assessment helped to underpin strategic choices about the balance of investment in future capabilities. Those choices were reflected both in the allocation of Departmental funding through the Comprehensive Spending Review and, through the Strategic Defence and Security Review, in those capability areas identified for increased, continued or reduced investment.

In all these choices, a premium was placed on those capabilities which were flexible and adaptable enough to make a contribution across a number of the National Security Tasks, or to mitigate a range of risks identified in the National Security Risk Assessment. The Government believes that these capability choices will allow the UK to remain agile in the pursuit of its national interests in a fast-changing world, in a manner that is both affordable and sustainable.

12. We accept that the NSS is not a "recipe book" which dictates our response to every event, but we would have expected to have seen some evidence that it had influenced decisions made since the SDSR, including the Government's responses to the Arab Spring. We have found no such evidence. As the NSS states, "a strategy is only useful if it guides choices"; it is about thinking in the longer term, and not simply doing what is in the UK's short-term interest. If the current strategy is not guiding choices then it needs to be revised. (para 41)

13. In the NSS the Government has started to set out crucial statements which can guide future policy. However it does not yet present a clear over-arching 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. Such a strategy must be based on a realistic vision of the UK's future position in the world. This vision will both shape, and be shaped by, the UK's interests and objectives. (para 46)

The clear and over-arching vision and strategy set out in the National Security Strategy have been at the heart of all national security decisions taken by this government. They are shown in the major thematic priorities for delivering a safe and secure UK and for shaping a stable world set out in the SDSR and have been delivered in a number of ways including: progress to implement the 2010 Anglo-French Defence and Security Cooperation Treaty, the review and implementation of CONTEST and security preparations for the London Olympics, the 2011 London Cyber Conference and the 2012 London Somalia Conference.

Adaptability is at the heart of the UK's National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review. The National Security Strategy provides enduring principles to guide subsequent choices rather than being prescriptive about the ways in which we will deliver our objectives over time. It does not replace the need for more "granular" decisions. The SDSR focuses on developing the tools to underpin that adaptability.

The Arab uprisings are a good example of the inherent uncertainty of global risks. The UK's response to them has underlined the effectiveness of the National Security Council in examining national security issues as they emerge and deriving sensible and balanced judgements on how to respond case-by-case consistently with National Security Strategy principles.

14. We are concerned that the NSS's focus on bilateral relations with large emerging powers—and concomitant investments in diplomatic and capacity-building activities—should not be at the expense of strengthening relations with the Commonwealth and with key regional organisations such as ASEAN, the Arab League and African Union. (para 51)

The Foreign Secretary noted in Australia in January 2011 that it is a striking fact that while the world is becoming more multilateral, bilateral relations between states remain as important as ever.

Multilateral bodies enable agreements which have the legitimacy and credibility of broad international agreement, and are a vital part of British policy. Multilaterals also enable UK funds, such as those of our international aid programme, to be used in a wider set of countries than we focus on bilaterally. For example, the UN and EU both work in over 150 countries; but the decisions these bodies reach are the product of a myriad of bilateral relations between them, and require effective bilateral diplomacy as well.

Our enhanced bilateral relationships with the Emerging Powers have been accompanied by, and have not been at the expense of, strengthening our relations with international organisations to which these powers belong. 

The UK has been instrumental in working with key partners in the Commonwealth to ensure that Heads agreed a process for modernising the organisation—the most significant reforms in recent Commonwealth history—which will make the organisation more relevant and resilient for the future. The UK is contributing £50 million to The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Fund in support of charitable projects and organisations across the Commonwealth. 

We have worked closely with the members of the League of Arab States in responding to the momentous changes of the Arab Spring, and particularly in shaping the international community's response to the crises in Libya and Syria.

The UK has an excellent relationship with the African Union, which has been built through constructive policy dialogues over crises in Cote d'Ivoire, Libya and above all Somalia. We are helping the AU develop stronger capabilities to manage and prevent conflict through substantial donations from the Conflict Pool, from DFID, and via the EU's Africa Peace Facility.

The Government is planning to sign the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. We have created an annual ASEAN Programme Fund of £200,000, and have increased the number of staff working on the organisation.

15. We are concerned that the NSS and SDSR have avoided some of the difficult questions about alliances. There does not appear to have been a fundamental assessment of the extent to which the UK can rely on its allies, and the extent to which it needs the capacity to operate independently. The SDSR states that "we will maintain our ability to act alone where we cannot expect others to help". We call on the Government to set out in response to this report in what situations it thinks the UK may need to operate alone and what capabilities they would require. (para 54)

We expect to work in alliances and partnerships and have done so very successfully in recent operations such as those in Libya. We do have interests where we should be prepared to act alone; but specifying these could give an advantage to any potential adversary. We want to prevent conflict. Identifying where we might act could unnecessarily escalate tension or be perceived as a signal of aggression.

We are committed to sustaining a range of alliances and partnerships, which remain a fundamental part of our approach to defence and security; but we acknowledge that there may be occasions when constraints imposed by geographic treaty obligations, national sensitivities or operational timeliness will require the ability to act alone. To this end, the Armed Forces' Future Force 2020 has been designed to provide a balanced and broad spectrum of integrated and sophisticated capabilities across all environments.

16. We recognise that there are limits to what can be said in a public document. However we believe that the USA's publication of Sustaining US Global Leadership provides an opportunity to open up a debate on a number of crucial issues. We call on the Government to reflect deeply on the long term implications of the geographical and functional shifts in US policy that are now taking place. It raises fundamental questions if our pre-eminent defence and security relationship is with an ally who has interests which are increasingly divergent from our own. The Government needs to decide if the UK will continue to be as involved in US military action as we have been in the past if the US focuses on Asia Pacific. If the US is moving towards viewing Europe as a producer rather than a consumer of security, and reducing its capability to mount long term stabilisation missions, it raises more questions as to what we can except from the US and what the US expects from the UK. (para 60)

The analysis, diagnosis and prescription for dealing with future security challenges in the United States Department of Defense's new Strategic Guidance, issued in January 2012, aligns closely with the NSS and SDSR. They reached many common conclusions. The United States will continue to view the UK and European allies as partners of choice. NATO will remain of vital interest to both continents. We do not believe, therefore, that the United States' interests are increasingly divergent from our own.

President Obama made clear during the Prime Minister's visit to Washington in March that strengthening the United States' alliance with the UK, and alliances around the world, was one of the United States' highest foreign policy priorities. The UK-US joint factsheet on defence cooperation,[1] issued during the visit, sets out how the United States and the UK will collaborate for the future, including through NATO. This echoes the statement by Leon Panetta, United States Secretary of Defense, at the Munich Security Conference in February 2012: "For Europe, the US defence strategy reaffirms the lasting strategic importance of the transatlantic partnership with the United States. Although it will evolve in light of strategic guidance and the resulting budget decisions, our military footprint in Europe will remain larger than in any other region in the world. That's not only because the peace and prosperity of Europe is critically important to the United States, but because Europe remains our security partner, our security partner of choice for military operations and diplomacy around the world. We saw that in Libya last year and we see it in Afghanistan every day. Drawing on the lessons of a decade of war, a robust and effective network of alliances and partnerships is absolutely an essential element of this strategy's vision for the future US military. As part of the strategy, we are therefore deeply committed to strengthening transatlantic security partnerships and institutions, including NATO."

17. We are not convinced that the Government gave sufficient attention in the NSS to the potential risks that future international economic instability might pose for the UK security. These go beyond the UK being unable to afford to defend itself. International economic problems could lead to our allies having to make considerable cuts to their defence spending, and to an increase in economic migrants between EU member states and to domestic social or political unrest. The NSC needs to take all of this into account. (para 67)

18. We hope that the problems within the Eurozone can be resolved. However we believe that, even in 2010, the potential threat to UK security from full, or partial, collapse of the Eurozone was one of the plausible scenarios which a prudent NSRA should have examined. We call on the NSC to address the potential impacts on the UK and NATO (and how the Government would respond) were this to happen, as a matter of urgency. It also needs to examine the long term strategic impact for the UK of any measures to save the Euro, such as further Eurozone political integration or the exit of some states from EU membership. (para 68)

The NSRA did not specifically identify, and the NSS does not consider, economic instability as a direct risk to UK national security in its own right; but it did consider financial instability as a factor contributing to developments that would themselves pose a risk to national security. These included economic factors contributing to the risk of state failure of countries important to UK national security, and to the risk of systemic failure in international organisations that are important to UK national security such as the UN, NATO, or the EU.

As more direct economic risks to UK national security, the NSRA weighed the risks to national security of disruptions in capital flows, and disruption of other resources that are essential to the economy (e.g. oil or gas supplies, food, and minerals—all of which feature as tier 3 risks). These judgements on risk, and the part that economic factors play in them, underpin in part the emphasis placed in the National Security Strategy on the mutually reinforcing relationship between economic security and national security, and the need for strong alliances and partnerships as a fundamental element in our approach to defence and security.

All these risks, and the contribution to them made by macro-economic factors including the risk of a continuation of the problems within the Eurozone, are currently under review as part of NSRA 2012. We recognise that Alliance members are facing a period of austerity with impact on defence budgets and resources. The UK supports the NATO Secretary General's 'Smart Defence' initiative to better prioritise and co-ordinate capabilities between nations.   

As the NSS said, the purpose of the National Strategic Risk Assessment is to give strategic notice about future threats to enable us to plan our national response and capabilities in advance. Early warning of the risks of global conditions is provided by the FCO's economic analysis network and FCO's Economics Unit, working closely with HM Treasury and colleagues across Whitehall, as well as a host of non-government sources. These strengthen our understanding of the potential risks to the UK of global economic instability, and feed into policy to mitigate the risks.  The FCO network systematically feeds economic intelligence back to London, engages overseas with influential policy makers and analysts across the Prosperity agenda, and helps to secure EU, G8 and G20 policy outcomes that help mitigate the risks.

Deficit reduction in general, and sorting out the imbalances in the defence budget in particular, are the best means of ensuring that the UK's national security structures are resilient to such economic shocks.

Specifically in relation to the Eurozone crisis, HMG has contingency plans in place to cover a range of eventualities and varied risks, and the UK is well prepared for potential eventualities.

19. The fact that the potential impact of Scottish independence was not brought to the NSC's attention strengthens our concern that the horizon-scanning carried out on the NSC's behalf is inadequate and that the NSC's oversight of security issues is not sufficiently broad and strategic. (para 71)

We do not believe this concern is well-founded. There is considerable discussion about Scottish issues at the highest level of Government and the Prime Minister has made clear his and the Government's commitment to keeping the United Kingdom together.

However, as yet there is no date or timetable for a referendum on Scottish independence. The Government believes the referendum should be held as soon as possible to end the damaging uncertainty surrounding this question, and the Government is currently in the process of facilitating a referendum, in recognition of the SNP's win at the 2011 elections to the Scottish Parliament and their manifesto commitment to hold a referendum.

20. The 2011 progress report is a relatively uninformative implementation report on the SDSR. Next year we expect a rounded and insightful update on both NSS and the SDSR. It should include a summary of the main events of the year that were of relevance to national security, how the UK responded to them, and the longer term, strategic implications. For example this year's report could have included the problems at the UK Border Agency, the Eurozone crisis (and the strategic implication of measures to resolve it), an update on the US-UK joint strategy board, on the Anglo-French alliance, on Iran, and on commitments in Afghanistan and the adjacent area after 2015. It should also include a summary of the work of the NSC that year. The Libya Crisis report, with its identification of problems faced and lessons learned, provides a good model. (para 75)

HMG notes the Committee's suggestions for the next annual report on SDSR.

21. We welcome the introduction of an NSC to give strategic direction to the Government's national security agenda, but we are not convinced that the NSC has successfully maintained its strategic focus. We are left with the distinct impression that it has been deeply involved in operations and this may have reduced its ability to think strategically. (para 83)

22. We are concerned that the Cabinet Office was unable to provide us, either in public or in confidence, with concrete examples of "blue skies" discussions by the NSC. Coupled with its failure to discuss the national security implications of either the Eurozone crisis or the possibility of Scottish independence, it is apparent that there are major problems in the way that the NSC selects topics for discussion. (para 86)

Much of the Council's time has been spent in discussion of longer-term strategic issues. The Council has considered a broad range of issues relevant to national security. The National Security Strategy provides a good guide to the risks which we would regard as falling within the scope of the NSC. The NSC gave a lot of time to the Strategic Defence and Security Review between July and October 2010. In terms of process, this involved regular Ministerial debate through departmental officials and the NSC so as to provide strategic direction to the development of both documents. NSC saw drafts on five occasions for substantive discussions which led to strategic decision-making. It remains important to retain the flexibility to consider other issues if necessary.

The NSC Forward Work Programme is shaped by proposals or advice from Government Departments, Number 10 and the Deputy Prime Minister's Office. The National Security Adviser puts this to the PM for approval. Agenda proposals look across the range of departmental, domestic, foreign policy, defence and other priorities. This is a quarterly, cross-Whitehall consultative process. It enables NSC to give strategic direction on a range of priorities but it is sufficiently flexible to respond to urgent priorities and to react to real world events through shorter term direction where required.

The NSC has no formal decision-making role in relation to the initiation of military operations, but as the Cabinet Committee with responsibility for national security and foreign policy strategy its views would be taken into account by Cabinet. The NSC regularly discusses strategic matters in relation to on-going conflicts. For both Libya and Afghanistan, we have established separate Ministerial meetings to cover operational issues, leaving the NSC itself to concentrate on more strategic questions. We do not believe the Committee's concern about a lack of strategic focus is well-founded.

23. We welcome the appointment of a National Security Adviser, though we still have questions about the nature of the role, and its status. We have concerns too that the current and former NSA both have a FCO background. The Government has assured us that this has not led to a lack of focus on domestic issues, but this was not a view that all our witnesses shared. In addition we noted a lack of military focus in the NSA's Libya Crisis report. We welcome the Government's commitment that future appointments could be drawn from a range of Departments and Agencies. We shall be monitoring this. (para 92)

HMG notes the Committee's view. Future NSA appointments could be drawn from a range of Departments. The NSA has acknowledged that the National Security Council will need to increase its focus on domestic security issues in the months ahead, including looking at counter-terrorism, organised crime, cyber-security and other domestic security issues.

24. It is important that the Heads of the Security and Intelligence Agencies have access to, and are directly accountable to Ministers, and we have been told that this remains the case. We think it wrong that the performance of the three Agency Heads should be reported on by anyone other than the relevant Minister. (para 95)

Each agency head has a statutory right of access to the Prime Minister. They are accountable for policy to their Secretaries of State. Every Permanent Secretary has a Civil Service line manager: the Cabinet Secretary in most cases; and the NSA in the case of Agency Heads. Such dual accountabilities have been in place for many years in this respect.

25. The current Prime Minister takes a keen interest in national security and regularly chairs the NSC. The Government does not see the need for a National Security Minister at present, and we can see the clear advantages to the NSA being an official. However, the Prime Minister's active involvement is a key element of the current arrangements. Were this to change, and were the right person available, the question of appointing a National Security Minister would need to be reconsidered. (para 99)

HMG notes the Committee's view. National security cuts across a number of Departments. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that Ministers of national security Departments consider the issues in the round and that the NSA should be an official.

26. We are not convinced that all involved in Government are clear on which Minister is accountable for which elements of the NSS and NSC. It is even harder for those outside Government, including Select Committees, to identify who is accountable. This confusion over responsibility is not indicative of a well functioning organisation and the Government needs to address this. (para 102)

There is no confusion of responsibility. The NSS applies the well-established principle of the Lead Government Department which takes primary responsibility for a policy area and leads cross-government work where other Departmental interests are involved. In the field of security, many Departments are involved in different strands of strategy implementation. The leadership of implementation in specific thematic areas unambiguously lies with the Lead Departments which convene and chair the relevant cross-Government boards.

27. We accept that the NSC should primarily draw on, and synthesise, the work of other departments, rather than seek to duplicate the analytical capabilities of other departments and agencies. However, the NSC was set up to ensure that things do not fall into the gap between departments, and in this context we recommend that the NSC should have some resources to undertake its own analytical studies and to commission research from outside Government. It may need to provide alternative viewpoints to those of departments. (para 109)

28. Given the timescale of the 2010 NSS, it is perhaps not surprising that the involvement of outside experts was limited. However, given the much longer lead time for the next NSS, we would expect more detailed input throughout the process. (para 115)

29. We have concerns about the limited extent to which the NSC has in practice drawn on non-government advice. Clearly some good work has been done but we are not convinced it is varied or frequent enough. Given the decision to abolish the National Security Forum, measures must be put in place to ensure that Ministers have regular exposure to advice from outside experts. (para 116)

HMG notes the Committee's views. The National Security Council draws on advice from across Government and from external sources of expertise including a wide range of strategic assessments and analytical studies. The National Security Secretariat performs significant functions in both challenging and coordinating Departmental points of view.

NSC receives advice and assessments from Departments, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre and the Joint Intelligence Committee. Certainly in the case of Departments this draws on work conducted in partnership with organisations outside Government such as the private sector, think tanks, academia and wider international organisations. NSC is also exposed to non-governmental experts through seminars; for example, the Afghanistan seminar held in December 2011 which brought together government and non-government experts alongside the NSC itself in a lively discussion. As a matter of course, Ministers consult varied experts in preparation for NSC.

30. We believe that the next NSS should be the product of much wider public debate and attempt at a political consensus. If (as we have suggested) the next NSS addresses more fundamental questions about the UK's role in the world, and its relationship with the USA; as well as developments in the Eurozone and the potential impact of Scottish independence, then these are questions that the wider public will engage with. The Government will need to start planning for this now. (para 118)

HMG notes the Committee's view and agrees that it will be important to start thinking about the work plan for the next NSS well in advance of 2015.

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Prepared 11 July 2012