Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy
The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy was created to "monitor the implementation and development" of the United Kingdom Government's National Security Strategy". It was first established in the 2005-2010 Parliament, and was reappointed in December 2010 and December 2015. The committee comprises members from the House of Commons and members of the House of Lords.
The Committee’s terms of reference are “to consider the National Security Strategy”. It has said that it does not wish to duplicate the work of other Select Committees, and instead intends to draw on their work. The Committee "scrutinizes the structures for Government decision-making on National Security, particularly the role of the National Security Council and the National Security Adviser."
The committee's first report
The committee published its first report First Review of the National Security Strategy 2010 on 8 March 2012. The report addresses the National Security Strategy, the National Security Council (and the secretariat which supports it), and the National Security Adviser. It was agreed unanimously. The committee welcomed the National Security Strategy but said that it was work in progress and needed to be improved. In a press release sent out with the report it said that:
- There is no evidence that the NSS has influenced decisions made since the Strategic Defence and Security Review. If the current strategy is not guiding choices then it needs to be revised.
- There should be an "overarching strategy", a document designed to guide government decision-making and crisis management both at home and on the international stage.
- The government’s assertion that there will be no reduction in the UK's influence on the world stage is "wholly unrealistic in the medium to long term" and the UK needs to plan for a changing, and more partnership-dependent, role in the world.
It also said that the government's unwillingness to provide it with all the information it had asked for about the National Security Risk Assessment means that it was unable to give Parliament any assurances about its adequacy. The Committee expressed concerns that the "National Security Council's oversight of security issues is not sufficiently broad and strategic", given that it was deeply involved in operations in Libya and failed to discuss the national security implications of the Eurozone crisis or the possibility of Scottish independence.
Government response and the committee's second report
The JCNSS published the government response to its first report on 11 July 2012, along with a two-page report summarising the committee's concerns about the response. The Committee said that it welcomed the Government response, and the Government's commitment to provide it with more information in future, but said that the Government had failed to:
- 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 Committee said that the Government needed to start to map out its programme for the next NSS immediately. It also called on the Government to supply it with an indicative programme for producing and consulting on the next NSS.
Government response to the committee’s second report
The government responded in November 2012 and said that it was:
“now starting to consider the scope, conceptual structure, process, timing, and possible forms of external (including international) engagement required to ensure that the 2015 NSS and SDSR will meet UK national security needs.”
It said that “the Cabinet Office is leading initial preparatory work” on the NSS but did not give an “indicative programme” or set out the planned staffing, resources or public consultation as the committee had requested. It undertook to consult the JCNSS in confidence as the forward work programme took shape and to keep the Committee up-to-date on significant developments.
The JCNSS published this response as its First Special Report of Session 2012-13.
In February 2013 the committee published its report The work of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy in 2012. This reviewed the committee’s work over the past year and called on the government to address five key areas of concern:
- The NSC appears to have focused on operational matters and short-term imperatives, rather than long-term strategy.
- The committee is not convinced that the NSC is making the contribution it should and questions how much extra value is derived from having the NSC as opposed to the preceding systems of Cabinet committees.
- Major strategic policy changes appear to have been made by individual government departments without discussion at the NSC: most notably, the big policy decisions made by the MoD last year in Future Reserves and Army 2020.
- The NSC appears to have neglected, or only recently discussed, some very central questions: the strategic and security impact of the Eurozone crisis and of efforts to save the Euro; the planned referendums on Scottish independence and EU membership; and the significance of the US pivot to Asia-Pacific.
- The Committee has not yet seen evidence of the government pressing ahead with planning for the next NSS or giving serious consideration to engaging outside experts, politicians across the political parties and the public in its development.
In a press release the chair of the committee said that “the NSC should think strategically, keeping its eye on the longer term and assessing the effect of Departments’ policy proposals. We were stunned that the NSC had not discussed the implications of the major policy changes made last year by the MOD. How it can be strategic if it has not considered the impact of restructuring the Army?”
|Rt Hon Margaret Beckett||Labour||Former Foreign Secretary|
|Crispin Blunt||Labour||Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee|
|Rt Hon Damian Green||Conservative||Former Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice|
|Rt Hon Dominic Grieve||Conservative||Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee|
|Sir Gerald Howarth||Conservative||Former Minister for International Security Strategy|
|Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis||Conservative||Chair of the Defence Committee and member of Defence sub-committee|
|Angus Brendan MacNeil||SNP||Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee|
|Dr Andrew Murrison||Conservative||Royal Navy Reservist, Member of Draft Investigatory Powers Bill Joint Committee|
|Bob Neill||Conservative||Vice-Chairman (Local Government) of the Conservative Party and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for London, Local Government and Planning|
|Stephen Twigg||Labour||Chair of International Development Committee, Member of Liaison Committee (Commons)|
|Rt Hon Keith Vaz||Labour||Chair of Home Affairs Committee|
|Iain Wright||Labour||Chair of Business, Innovation and Skills Committee|
|Lord West of Spithead||Labour||Former First Sea Lord and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary Home Office (Security and Counter-Terrorism)|
|Lord Boateng||Labour||Former British High Commissioner to South Africa|
|Lord Clark of Windermere||Labour||Former Shadow Secretary of State for Defence|
|Baroness Falkner of Margravine||Lib Dem||Chair of EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee|
|Lord Levene of Portsoken||Crossbench||Chairman of Ministry of Defence Reform Group|
|Baron Mitchell||Labour||Former Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)|
|Lord Ramsbotham||Crossbench||Former Adjutant General, British Army|
|Lord Trimble||Conservative||Former First Minister of Northern Ireland|
|Lord Hamilton of Epsom||Conservative||Former Minister of State for the Armed Forces|
|Baroness Buscombe||Conservative||Member of Human Rights Committee|
- List of Committees of the United Kingdom Parliament
- National Security Strategy (United Kingdom)
- Conflict, Stability and Security Fund
- Committee Home Page (archive)
- Standing Orders of the House of Commons for Public Business (April 2010) §152I
- Standing Orders of the House of Commons Public Business 2011, SO No 152I and HL Deb, 6 December 2010, Col 10.
- Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy: First review of the National Security Strategy 2010, First Report of Session 2010–12.
- Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy First review of the National Security Strategy 2010 First Report of Session 2010–12 p43
- Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy First review of the National Security Strategy 2010 First Report of Session 2010–12 p3
- Planning for the next National Security Strategy: comments on the government response to the committee's First Report of Session 2010-12