National Security Strategy should address more fundamental questions about the UK's role in the world and its relationship with the USA and other allies, says the Joint Committee.
In its report, First review of the National Security Strategy 2010, published today, the Committee says that the Strategy needs to be subject to a much wider public debate.
The report examines the Government's National Security Strategy (NSS), and the work of the National Security Council and the National Security Adviser. The Committee welcomes the NSS but says that it is work in progress and needs to be improved.
The Committee says that:
- There is no evidence that the NSS has influenced decisions made since the Strategic Defence and Security Review. If the current strategy is not guiding choices then it needs to be revised.
- There should be an "overarching strategy", a document designed to guide government decision-making and crisis management both at home and on the international stage.
- The Government’s assertion that there will be no reduction in the UK's influence on the world stage 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.
The Committee says the Government's unwillingness to provide it with all the information it has asked for about the National Security Risk Assessment means that it is unable to give Parliament any assurances about its adequacy. It says that: "We need this information if we are to do our job properly".
The Committee is concerned that the "National Security Council's oversight of security issues is not sufficiently broad and strategic", given that it was deeply involved in operations in Libya and failed to discuss the national security implications of the Eurozone crisis or the possibility of Scottish independence.
The Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP said:
"It is good that the Government has published a document setting out its national security strategy, but it could be very much improved. A good strategy is realistic, is clear on the big questions, and guides choices. This one does not. We need a public debate on the sort of country we want the UK to be in future and whether our ambitions are realistic, given how much we are prepared to spend.
We welcome the setting up of the National Security Council, but it seems to have got sidetracked into short-term crisis management. The work it did in Libya was important, but Ministers need to keep their eye on longer-term strategy and on risks emerging over the horizon. The NSC seems to be focusing too narrowly on international affairs. That leaves us vulnerable, as threats to our security do not just come from abroad."