def060316 - No. 28

Session 2005-06, 16 March 2006

Publication of Report: Chairman's comments

Publication of Report: Chairman's comments



The Ministry of Defence must provide Parliament with more detail on the cost of military operations overseas, says the Commons Defence Committee in a report released today, 16 March 2006.

As part of its work of scrutinising the MoD’s expenditure plans, the Committee has reported on the Spring Supplementary Estimates which the House of Commons will be asked to approve on Monday 20 March. It highlights MoD’s request for some £1,264 million to meet the costs of peace-keeping in Iraq and Afghanistan in the current financial year.

The Committee does not oppose MoD’s request for resources but says that the House of Commons should be properly informed of the expenditure it is being asked to approve. It found the information provided by MoD in support of the Supplementary Estimate inadequate, giving the impression that MoD regards Parliamentary approval as a rubber stamp.

The report presents more detail on MoD’s expenditure on the deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. It says that including £146 million contingency in the request for resources, without full supporting detail, is asking Parliament to take too much on trust.

The Committee argues that it is “not good enough” for MoD to tell Parliament that the costs of the deployment to Afghanistan is “around a billion”, and that the public deserve better information on how it is going to be spent.

The Committee says that the arrangement by which MoD waits until two-thirds of the way through the Financial Year before seeking Parliament’s approval of expenditure on operations is unsatisfactory. It recommends that in future provision be made in the Main Estimates at the beginning of the Financial Year. It states that MoD must recognise that the agreement of the Treasury is not a substitute for Parliamentary approval.

The Committee calls on MoD to provide it with regular updates of the cost of operations, in the same way as it provides information to the Treasury.

The Chairman of the Defence Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, said:

"The Ministry of Defence appears to take Parliament’s approval of its expenditure plans for granted. We are determined to ensure that its expenditure plans are subject to public scrutiny, and get approval only if backed up with full information.

We all want to ensure that the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are properly funded, and that our Armed Forces are properly equipped to meet the changing threats. MoD needs to retain financial flexibility to respond to Urgent Operational Requirements, but that is no excuse for not presenting proper expenditure plans to Parliament at the beginning of each financial year.”

The Committee has secured a debate on this report in the House of Commons on Monday 20 March, before the House is asked to approve the Spring Supplementary Estimates.

The Committee’s report is published as the Fourth Report of Session 2005-06, Costs of Peace-keeping in Iraq and Afghanistan: Spring Supplementary Estimate 2005-06, HC 980.


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

2. Press Notice No. 28

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