Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Government has failed to engage with arguments, says Committee on National Security Strategy

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy has today published a report highlighting concerns about the Government response to its March 2012 report, First review of the National Security Strategy 2010.

The Committee welcomes the Government response, and the Government's commitment to provide it with more information in future, but says that the Government has failed:

  • to respond adequately to the Committee's concerns about the implications of recent US strategy documents, the potential impact of Scottish independence, and the consequences of the Eurozone crisis
  • to take the opportunity to look at how it could do things differently
  • to press ahead with planning for the next National Security Strategy (NSS).

The Government acknowledges the need for advance planning on the next NSS: "it will be necessary to start thinking about the work plan for the 2015 review well in advance of 2015" and "HMG ... agrees that it will be important to start thinking about the work plan for the next NSS well in advance of 2015". But there is nothing in the response to indicate that it has begun drawing up plans for this.

In its report the Committee identifies three key reasons why planning for the next NSS needs to begin immediately:

  1. It is important that the next NSS, Strategic Defence and Security Review and Comprehensive Spending Review are able to influence each other
  2. The Committee wants 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
  3. The Committee thinks the next NSS should be a very different document, more candid, more explicit in addressing the difficult questions.

The Committee says

"if the Government is to hold a genuinely extensive public debate on our future NSS before political attention turns to the next General Election, it needs to get on with it."

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

"The last NSS, SDSR and CSR were (understandably?) produced in great haste, and are the weaker for it. There is little sign of the forward planning needed to avoid those mistakes being repeated – still less of an approach to build consensus which could establish a sound foundation of long-term planning for our nation’s security. There is still time (just) for the Government to put this right."

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