def071012 - no. 74

Session 2006-07, 12 October 2007

Publication of Special Reports


Publication of Special Reports

Government responds to Defence Committee concerns about Afghanistan and air transport

The Government accepts the long-term nature of the deployment to Afghanistan but declines to speculate on the scale and duration of the commitment in its response to the Defence Committee’s report on UK operations in Afghanistan (published today as the Committee’s 13th Special Report, HC 1024).

It accepts the scale of the challenge in Afghanistan but says there has been real progress in the reconstruction of the country. It acknowledges the increased violence in some parts of Afghanistan, but continues to believe that the Taliban do not present a strategic threat to security. It denies that the counter-narcotics policy for Afghanistan lacks clarity and coherence.

In its response to the Defence Committee’s report on Strategic Lift (published today as the Committee’s 14th Special Report, HC 1025), the Government reports improvements in the reliability of the airbridge between the UK and Iraq and Afghanistan and confirms its decision to purchase an additional C-17 aircraft (announced in July). But it also reports further slippage in the A400M programme and makes clear that it is still to be decided whether the A400M aircraft will be fitted with full defensive aids.

The Government’s response to the Committee’s report on the Ministry of Defence Main Estimates 2007-08 (published today as the Committee’s 15th Special Report, HC 1026) rejects the Committee’s repeated recommendation that the estimated cost of military operations should be included in the Main Estimates at the beginning of each financial year, instead of waiting for Supplementary Estimates mid-year. The Committee had said that it was unacceptable for the MoD to incur costs on military operations without parliamentary approval.

Commenting on these Government responses, Committee Chairman Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said:

“The Government’s response to our report on operations in Afghanistan suggests that it has taken the problems that we reported seriously and that there has been progress in some areas over the Summer. But there is a long way to go and nobody should underestimate the difficulties ahead. The Committee will be taking a very close interest in developments in Afghanistan over the coming months.

The Government’s response to our report on Strategic Lift is a bit disappointing. The decision to buy another C-17, and the reported improvements in the airbridge - so important to our Service personnel overseas - are good news, but it is worrying that there is further delay to the A400M programme and the fact that the MoD is hedging on installing defensive aids in these aircraft suggests that they are still not giving the transport fleet the priority it deserves.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP (Chairman), Mr David S Borrow MP, Mr David Crausby MP, Linda Gilroy MP, Mr David Hamilton MP, Mr Mike Hancock MP, Mr Dai Havard MP, Mr Adam Holloway MP, Mr Bernard Jenkin MP, Mr Brian Jenkins MP, Mr Kevan Jones MP, Robert Key MP, Willie Rennie MP, John Smith MP

2. News Release: No. 74

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