Select Committee on Defence First Special Report


ANNUAL REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE FOR SESSION 1999-2000

COMMITTEE ACTIVITIES

Formal meetings

3. The 1999-2000 Session lasted from 17 November 1999 to 30 November 2000, a total of 170 sitting days. The Committee held 41 formal meetings, at 31 of which evidence was taken. On three of these occasions evidence was taken partly or wholly in private. 21 evidence sessions (including one jointly with the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry and International Development Committees) were televised. Six meetings were held concurrently with other committees.[10]

4. We took evidence from Rt Hon Geoffrey Hoon MP, Secretary of State for Defence, on four occasions,[11] Mr John Spellar MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces on one occasion,[12] and Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, Minister for Defence Procurement, on one occasion.[13] Other witnesses included 61 appearances by officials from the MoD, including 58 by serving members of HM Forces. A full list of witnesses appears at Annex A.

Informal meetings

5. The Committee held 18 informal meetings or briefings over the course of the Session. These form an important element of our work in gathering background information.

DateMeeting with Subject
8 December 1999Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Russian industrialist and adviser to Russian Government) Security issues
16 December 1999Special Advisers Kosovo
8 March 2000Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Security issues
15 March 2000Croatian Defence Minister Bosnia and Kosovo
15 March 2000Chris Donnelly, NATO HQ Russia
23 March 2000Ambassador Thomas Graham & Mr Robert McNamara Arms Control
6 April 2000Russian Generals Resettlement
2 May 2000Norwegian Defence Committee NATO, Eurofighter
4 May 2000Ukrainian Armed Forces Academy  
8 May 2000Polish Defence Committee NATO, etc.
24 May 2000Bulgarian Delegation NATO, etc.
20 May 2000Czech Defence Minister NATO, etc.
25 May 2000Russian Duma Committees on Defence, International Affairs & Security UK-Russian Relations, NATO
21 June 2000Chairman, Russian Duma UK-Russian Relations, NATO
6 July 2000South African Defence Committee Security issues
31 October 2000Czech Defence & Security Committee NATO, etc
9 November 2000Estonian Foreign Affairs Committee NATO, etc
13 November 2000Dutch Defence Committee NATO, etc

Visits

6. Visits also serve an important part of the information gathering process. In particular, they enable us to talk to Service men and women who are actually working to deliver our defence requirements. The Committee made thirteen visits over the course of the Session, eight within the UK (for a total cost of £3,849) and five overseas (for a total estimated cost of £57,961).

UK VISITS

7. Three of our UK visits related to our inquiry into Armed Forces personnel issues. Our visit to Northern Ireland was one of our standing objectives.

DateDestination Purpose
8 May 2000Yeovil GKN Westland briefing
22-23 June 2000Northern Ireland Security situation in the Province
4 July 2000Abbey Wood Future carrier and Future Carrier-borne Aircraft
11 July 2000Strike Command RAF Exercise
27 November 200028 November 200028 November 2000 Glencorse BarracksHMS CollingwoodRAF Cranwell Armed Forces Personnel Inquiry

OVERSEAS VISITS

8. Our overseas visits this year served to achieve our objectives of visiting front-line and support units on active service in Kosovo, the Falkland Islands and the Gulf, as well as informing our various inquiries.

DateDestination Purpose
22-24.11.99Kosovo Lessons of Kosovo
29.11.99-5.12.99The Falkland Islands Armed Forces Personnel Inquiry
7-9.2.2000Brussels (NATO HQ and SHAPE) Kosovo, European Security and Defence
31.3-5.4.00Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait Iraqi No-Fly Zones
12-15.6.00Naples and Rome Kosovo

Membership and Staff

9. The following were Members of the Committee on 17 November 1999: Mr Crispin Blunt, Mr Julian Brazier, Mr Jamie Cann, Mr Harry Cohen, Mr Michael Colvin, Mr Bruce George, Mr Michael Hancock, Mr Jimmy Hood, Mr John McWilliam, Mrs Laura Moffatt and Ms Dari Taylor. Mr Bruce George continued as Chairman for the whole of the Session. Mr McWilliam was discharged and Mr Mike Gapes added on 24 November 1999. Dari Taylor was discharged and Mr Stephen Hepburn added on 8 December 1999. Mr Michael Colvin was discharged and Dr Julian Lewis added on 3 February 2000. Mr Crispin Blunt was discharged and Mr Peter Viggers added on 21 February 2000. There are seven Labour members, three Conservative members and one Liberal Democrat member. Their participation in Committee activities is listed in Annex C.

10. It is with great sadness that we have to record the death of Michael Colvin on 24 February 2000. Michael Colvin had been Chairman of the Defence Committee between 1995 and 1997, and had continued as the senior opposition member in this Parliament. He had been discharged from the Committee just three weeks before he and his wife Nichola died in a fire at their home. His last speech in the House, on the first day of the defence debate on 22 February, was a typically erudite and generous contribution to the subject in which he had been so closely involved for so long. The tributes paid to him in the House during the second day of the debate, on 28 February, indicate the high esteem and affection felt for him by colleagues in every part of the House.

11. The Committee is supported by its staff team and a team of part-time Specialist Advisers. Specialist Advisers are appointed to 'elucidate matters of complexity within the Committee's order of reference'.[14] Some are appointed for the duration of particular inquiries; others advise in more general terms. Lieutenant-General Sir Christopher Wallace and Dr Irina Isakova were newly appointed as Specialist Advisers to the Committee during the course of the Session. The following Advisers continued to work for the Committee having been appointed in the previous session: Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Alcock GCB KBE; Lieutenant General Sir Peter Beale KCB of the British Red Cross; Professor Michael Clarke, Executive Director, Centre for Defence Studies, King's College, University of London; Mr Humphry Crum Ewing of the Centre for Defence and International Security Studies, Lancaster University; Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold CB, Director, Royal United Services Institute; Dr Jonathan Eyal, Royal United Services Institute; Professor Keith Hartley, Director, Centre for Defence Economics, University of York; Dr Beatrice Heuser, Department of War Studies, King's College, London; Professor David Kirkpatrick, Defence Engineering Group, University College London; Professor Colin McInnes, Department of International Politics, University of Wales; Dr Andrew Rathmell, International Centre for Security Analysis, King's College London; Major- General Peter Sheppard CB, Chief Executive of SSAFA; and Air Marshal Sir John Walker KCB.

12. The cost of their fees and expenses amounted to £26,931.99. We have chosen our team of Advisers to represent a broad range of expertise within the Committee's field of inquiry. They include the heads of three major institutes working on defence and security issues. They also include a civilian and two former military engineers and two economists, as well as retired senior officers from all three of the Services, including the Chief Executive of the principal forces welfare association and a former Chief of Joint Operations. We are again very grateful to them for the time and expertise they have given to the Committee in return for a very modest pecuniary reward.

13. The Committee's full-time staff team were: Mr Paul Evans, Clerk of the Committee; Mrs Carol Oxborough, Second Clerk; Mr Simon Fiander, Senior Clerk (seconded from the NAO); Ms Elisabeth Partridge, Higher Executive Officer; and Mrs Karen Watling, Secretary.


10  18 January, 2 February, 29 February, 4 May, 4 July and 17 July 2000 Back

11  19 January,16 February, 19 April and 21 June 2000 Back

12  10 February 2000 Back

13  3 May 2000 Back

14   Standing Order No. 152(4)(b) Back


 
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Prepared 5 February 2001