6 Conclusions |
117. We agree with our witnesses that there is
a risk associated with the capability gap in maritime surveillance.
We acknowledge that the Government accept this and we welcome
the work being undertaken to investigate how to mitigate the risks
inherent in the gap and ensure the longer term provision of maritime
surveillance. The MoD asserts that it has robust risk assessment
and management procedures in place to spot any risk escalation
in the maritime surveillance arena, but we remain unconvinced
it has the capacity to respond to any sudden escalation in that
risk. Furthermore we believe the risk is likely to worsen in the
medium term as further maritime surveillance capabilities are
withdrawn or not yet filled. The UK's maritime flank is likely
to be increasingly exposed: this risk must be kept under close
and continuous review, and we will continue to take a close interest
in the MoD's work in this area.
118. The MoD has acknowledged that there is a
strategic and national security requirement for maritime surveillance.
We are concerned that the MoD is sending mixed messages in respect
of the need for a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). On one hand
it says that there is no requirement for such an aircraft and
that it is not funded or in the programme but on the other hand
it acknowledges that its absence is a risk and something may need
to be done. The MoD must explain why it is satisfactory to wait
until 2015 or beyond before deciding how to close the capability
gap in maritime surveillance particularly as the MoD acknowledge
that a MPA is the solution in the short to medium term. We commend
the work that the MoD is undertaking to explore the wide range
of possibilities such as unmanned aerial vehicles, lighter-than-air
vehicles and space technology, for the future long-term provision
of maritime surveillance capabilities. This work must not be allowed
to lose momentum, particularly as no one individual is responsible
for maritime surveillance in the MoD.
119. There is a wide demand across Government
departments and agencies for maritime surveillance capabilities.
The establishment of the Maritime Security Oversight Group and
the National Maritime Information Centre are welcome first steps
towards a more strategic and coordinated output and as a way of
mitigating some of the capability gaps. The challenge is to develop
these further and we are keen to see a more prominent ministerial
role particularly given the number of cross-government interests
involved and as a way of arbitrating disputes between departments
and ensuring that the differing interests are focusing on the
right areas at the appropriate time.