Hasty Defence Review lacks thorough consultation

15 September 2010

The Strategic Defence and Security Review is being undertaken too quickly with too little consultation with the public at large and the defence industry, the Defence Committee says today in its First Report of the new Parliament.

The Committee notes that, given the reduction of public support for current operations (notwithstanding general support for Armed Forces personnel), the lack of general consultation may create a greater sense of disconnection between the decisions of Government and the understanding of the people at large on defence issues.

The Report also outlines serious concerns that the defence industry has been formally consulted in only a limited number of areas. This raises a danger that the examination of which capabilities are required to meet the UK’s security and defence needs is disconnected from the examination of how, when and at what cost those capabilities can be provided and sustained, and the vital skills base retained. This could seriously undermine the robustness of the SDSR.

The Committee expresses concern at the “startling” rapidity with which the SDSR is being conducted and concludes that, given that the process for the SDSR is not tried and tested, mistakes will be made some of which may be serious. We also recognise that one of the most important weapons a country can have in its defence is a strong economy.  But this review is being conducted in such haste that the result is unlikely to be a sound foundation for the future defence of our country.

The Chair of the Defence Committee, the Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, said “We welcome the Secretary of State’s determination that this should be a real review rather than just a cost-cutting exercise. However we are not yet convinced that the combination of a budgetary straight-jacket, the short timescale, and the apparent unwillingness by the Ministry to think outside existing structures, for example with regard to the more integrated use of Reservists, will deliver that end.”

Lack of consultation with the public also means that the SDSR represents a missed opportunity to reconnect the people of the country with defence issues. Before the next review the MoD must communicate the outcome of the SDSR effectively to the wider public.”

The Committee also notes that, while not formally part of the Review, unresolved discussions about the extent to which Trident renewal costs will have to be borne by the core MoD budget risk confusing the outcomes of the SDSR.  It also regrets the MoD's apparent failure properly to consider placing some current capabilities in the Reserve Forces.

Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP (Conservative, North East Hampshire) (Chair), Mr Julian Brazier MP (Conservative, Canterbury), Rt Hon Jeffrey M. Donaldson MP (Democratic Unionist, Lagan Valley), John Glen MP (Conservative, Salisbury), Mr David Hamilton MP (Labour, Midlothian), Mr Mike Hancock MP (Liberal Democrat, Portsmouth South), Mr Adam Holloway MP (Conservative, Gravesham), Mrs Madeleine Moon MP (Labour, Bridgend), Alison Seabeck MP (Labour, Moor View), Bob Stewart MP (Conservative, Beckenham), Ms Gisela Stuart MP (Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston), John Woodcock MP (Lab/Co-op, Barrow and Furness)

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