Government Response to the Committee's
1. We published our First Report of Session 2010-12,
First review of the National Security Strategy 2010 (HL Paper
265, HC 1385), on 8 March 2012. The Government response was received
in the form of a memorandum on 12 June 2012: it is published as
an appendix to this report.
2. We welcome some elements of the Government response,
and we particularly welcome the Government's commitment to provide
us with a confidential briefing on the new National Security Risk
Assessment, expected this Autumn. However, we feel that the Government
has failed to engage with many of our arguments, and has sought
to justify the Government's current position rather than taking
the opportunity to look at how it could do things differently.
3. We are concerned in particular by the Government's
failure to respond adequately to our concerns about the implications
of the new US strategy document Sustaining US Global Leadership,
where the Government sought to downplay what appears to be a long-term
strategic shift by the USA towards the Pacific, rather than recognise
and engage with the challenges presented. The Government's response
to our concerns about the National Security Council's failure
to address the potential national security impact of Scottish
independence focused on the Government's policy stance on a referendum,
reinforcing our belief that the possibility that independence
might actually happen is being neglected in strategic planning.
Nothing in the Government's response to our concerns about the
security implications of the Eurozone crisis acknowledged that
the NSS should have recognised the risk in that area, or reassured
us that the Government is thinking sufficiently broadly about
what threatens our national security. We understand why the Government
felt unable to comment publicly on the UK's ability to act alone
militarily, but regret that it did not instead offer to supply
this information to us in confidence. We shall pursue these concerns
in our continuing dialogue with Government, and in our current
series of evidence sessions with Secretaries of State, and shall
report our further conclusions to the two Houses in due course.
4. There is, however, one point which we wish to
draw to the attention of both Houses immediately: our concern
that the Government should press ahead with planning for the next
National Security Strategy (NSS). This is the focus of this short
Planning for the next National
5. In our March 2012 report, First review of the
National Security Strategy 2010, we highlighted the need for
the Government to plan for a much longer lead time for producing
the next NSS in 2015 than was possible in 2010.
6. There were several reasons for this conclusion.
First, it was important that the NSS, the Strategic Defence and
Security Review (SDSR) and Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)
were able to influence each other. The process of reviewing the
NSS needs to begin in plenty of time to allow this to happen.
7. Secondly, we called for a much broader involvement
of the public, as well as academics and experts external to Government,
than was possible in the relatively short timeframe of the last
NSS. We said that if (as we had suggested) the next NSS addressed
more fundamental questions about the UK's role in the world, and
its relationship with the USA, then these were questions with
which the wider public would engage. We also called for the next
NSS to be the product of much wider public debate and attempt
at a political consensus. This will take time.
8. Thirdly, we called for the next NSS to be a very
different document, more candid, more explicit and addressing
the difficult questions. We do not underestimate the difficulty
of producing such a document, and the time it will take to reach
agreement on it across Government.
9. The Government's response accepts the need for
advance planning and recognises that it will be necessary to start
thinking about the work plan for the 2015 review well in advance
of 2015. However there is nothing in the response to indicate
that the Government has begun even to think about a work plan
or the resources which would be required. It may not be necessary
to begin work on the NSS immediately, but forward planning must
begin now and a timetable should be drawn up showing how the Government
will deliver what it says it wants to deliver. The previous National
Security Adviser envisaged that the production of the next NSS
would require a two year timescale. But, if the Government is
to hold a genuinely extensive public debate on the UK's future
NSS before political attention turns to the next General Election,
it needs to get on with it.
10. The Government must start to map out its programme
for the next NSS immediately if it wishes to carry out a wide
public consultation, consult with academics and experts, and build
a political consensus in advance of the next General Election.
We recommend that, in response to this report, the Government
supply us with an indicative programme for the production of the
next NSS with details of the staffing and other resources it will
make available for this purpose. The programme should set out
what form of public involvement is planned, and at what stage(s)
in the process that consultation will take place. It should also
explain how the NSS process will interact with the next SDSR and
the CSR process.