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Concerns reinforced about Government's handling of national security matters

30 April 2014

In its latest report, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy says that recent events in Ukraine and the winter flooding in the UK underline the importance of long term and strategic thinking in Government.

Report findings

The Committee highlights a number of concerns about the Government’s handling of national security matters:

  • It calls on the National Security Council to examine the risks to the UK’s resilience from the likely longer-term impacts of climate change, and consider whether the Government should be allocating more resources to this area.
  • It highlights the importance of the UK’s relationship with the EU to our national security and says it is worried that EU matters are not considered by the National Security Council risking “crucial connections being missed.”
  • It says the Prime Minister’s evidence last January was helpful and demonstrated his personal interest in national security, but it is critical of his statement that he believes in “planning on the basis of what you want to achieve”. It is concerned that in some areas the Government seems not to have any contingency plans and says this is “dangerous and unwise”: “An attitude of “no Plan B” is dangerous when national security is at stake.”

In earlier reports the Committee concluded that the National Security Council appeared to have focused on operational matters and short-term imperatives, rather than strategic and domestic concerns. It welcomes the Prime Minister’s decision to give it access to the NSC’s agendas but says it has seen no evidence that the meetings have become more strategic in focus or that sufficient time is being provided to consider issues in depth. The NSC could be more effective, it believes.

National Security Strategy Post Election 2015

The Committee is particularly concerned about the lack of planning for the next National Security Strategy which is to be published after the election in 2015.  It says:

  • It is crucially important that energy security and domestic resilience are fully addressed.
  • Expecting there to be no shrinkage in the UK’s influence is wholly unrealistic. Any national security strategy based on this is “wishful thinking rather than credible strategy.”
  • The Prime Minister should reconsider his approach to the next NSS and give a clear steer to his officials that they are expected to produce a radically different NSS in 2015, tackling the big (and politically difficult) questions and which will guide decisions going forward.

Committee Chair

The Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP said:

"The Prime Minister has been helpful and candid with us about his approach to national security and vision for the UK’s future, but we think he is too focused on managing current events at the expense of looking ahead. Recent events at home and abroad are a salutary reminder of the value of thinking about threats to our national security in the widest sense and of keeping a close eye on what is over the horizon.

So far the Government has not been receptive to our calls for an open consultation on the next National Security Strategy and for it to be a very different document from the last. Worryingly, there is every sign that we are heading for another rushed job after the Election and for a “motherhood and apple pie” document that again avoids the big questions and is of little practical use in guiding government decision-making. That is not what this country needs at a time when resources are limited and we must focus on what is most important.

As a Committee we will continue to press our concerns on the Government and to work on our own suggestions for what the 2015 NSS should say."

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