The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the National Security Strategy has just published the Government’s response to its report on the National Security Capability Review. It appears that the Government is “undecided” in terms of when the next National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review will take place.
The July 2017 National Security Capability Review was partly prompted by the “flaws” in the 2015 National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Committee reported in March 2018. While there were good reasons to conduct a refresh of priorities, the format was flawed and resulted in a ‘halfway house’ Strategic Defence and Security Review which failed to satisfy questions about spending commitments for defence or answer concerns about Government preparedness in light of the increased security challenges now facing the UK.
The importance of a robust and coherent process in setting and delivering national security strategy was clear, said the Committee’s report.
“Insufficient Parliamentary oversight”
Members also said there was “insufficient Parliamentary oversight” of the National Security Advisor and called on Government to provide evidence of the National Security Committee’s oversight of both the National Security Capability Review and the Modernising Defence Programme first announced in January.
However, the response reveals that the Government has not yet decided when the next National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review will take place.
A published report on the progress of the Modernising Defence Programme was expected before the Summer 2018 Recess, but instead Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Defence, offered a written statement to the House.
Government response “sidesteps many questions”
Dame Margaret Beckett, chair of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, said: “The Government’s response sidesteps many of the questions in our original report. We are not reassured that the Government ‘gets’ our message about the importance of establishing a robust and coherent process in setting the National Security Strategy.”
Beckett added: “Our reports have repeatedly criticised the Government’s commitment to transparency with our Committee and to the public. Ministers have a second opportunity to assuage our concerns when the Government ultimately publishes its report on the Modernising Defence Programme. We look forward to seeing it.”
*Read the Government’s response in full