New Inquiry: Intervention: Why, When and How?

17 July 2013

The Defence Committee today announces a new inquiry into the future of the UK’s intervention strategy.
This inquiry is the third of a series which have evolved from our inquiry Towards the next Defence and Security Review. These will cover a number of significant strands which the Committee believe would benefit from further Defence Committee consideration.

In recent years UK Armed Forces have been involved in interventions throughout the world, most recently Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. Intervention arises for many different reasons and takes various forms. In June 2013, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Defence, commented:

"We ourselves have learned the lesson that earlier, smaller scale intervention may often avoid the need for more massive intervention later, and if we are in a mood for beating ourselves up, perhaps we should have foreseen the consequences of what was happening in Afghanistan before 9/11 [...] Perhaps we should have been more forward leaning in the west collectively in intervening to try and head off what was happening here before it happened."

The Committee wishes to consider the strategy underpinning interventions and how this will evolve and change in the future. The Committee is interested in:

  • What is the strategic thinking behind UK intervention strategy? Including:
    o The legitimacy of intervention (legality and political and public support (including communication strategies));
    o Are any interventions deemed to be non-discretionary and what determines the underlying policy?;
    o The implications of Treaty and international obligations;
    o Whether the UK is capable of acting without Allies; and
    o How are decisions to intervene taken?
  • What should intervention be used for? Including:
    o The relationship between deterrence, conflict prevention, containment and intervention; and
    o The implications of the involvement of non-state actors.
    • How interventions are carried out and what are the range of options? Including:
    o What might be the nature of future interventions?;
    o How do soft, smart and hard power interplay in intervention strategy?;
    o Preparation and readiness of the UK Armed Forces for intervention, including regeneration of UK contingent capability and training and planning capacity; and
    o The policy underpinning and the utility of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), its components and the inclusion of key Allies; and the role of the additional Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force.
  • How interventions end. Including:
    o Framing clear end states and exit strategies;
    o What comes after intervention, including how well does the UK plan and prepare for it and the role of stabilisation and reconstruction?; and
    o How does the UK retain and incorporate lessons learned into future interventions?
    The Committee would welcome written evidence to this inquiry. This should be sent to the Clerk of the Defence Committee by Friday 18 October 2013.

Submission of written evidence should

  • If possible, be provided electronically in MS Word or Rich Text format by e-mail to If submitted by e-mail or e-mail attachment, a letter should also be sent validating the e-mail. The letterhead should contain your full postal address and contact details. If you have any queries on the submission of evidence contact Ian Thomson, Committee Specialist, tel: 020 7219 6951, email: 
  • Begin with a one page summary if it is longer than six pages
  • Have numbered paragraphs
  • Avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material.

Submissions can also be sent by post to Defence Committee, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Individuals and organisations interested in submitting written evidence to the Committee may find the Commons: Guide for Witnesses particularly useful.

Please also note that

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within written evidence, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included. If a number of published documents are sent to accompany written evidence, these should be listed in the covering email.
  • Written evidence submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organization submitting it is specifically authorised.
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
  • It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

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