18 Jan 18. On Thursday 25 January at 1.30pm, MPs will debate a Defence Committee report in Westminster Hall. Seventh Report from the Defence Committee of Session 2016-17, Investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel, HC 1064 (2015-16), and the Government response, HC 549. Investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel
The Seventh Report of Session 2016-17 explored the options available to the Government to protect those who served in Operation Banner (the longest continuous campaign in the history of the British Army, lasting from August 1969 to July 2007) from having investigations reopened long after the events concerned.
The Committee found that the process of investigations, the instability of the various investigatory bodies and the continuing question marks over the independence of the investigations undertaken had delivered a vicious cycle of investigation and re-investigation that has failed both former service personnel and the families of those who died.
The Committee therefore recommended that the Government enact a statute of limitations “covering all Troubles-related incidents, up to the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which involved former members of the Armed Forces”, alongside a truth recovery mechanism that would provide “the best possible prospect of bereaved families finding out the facts”.
16 Jan 18. PAC: Threat To Defence Projects If Carrier Strike Runs Over Budget. Continued uncertainty over deployment, costs and value for money of programme, warns Committee.
Carrier Strike is central to the Government’s plans for Britain’s future defence. It incorporates two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, new F-35 Lightning II jets and a new radar system – Crowsnest. The defence budget is very strained in the light of commitments made in the last Strategic Defence and Security Review. Carrier Strike is expensive, and despite the Department assuring us that it will manage costs, there is a threat to the future of other programmes if it goes over budget. In addition, there are aspects of Carrier Strike that still need to be fully costed as the three elements come together. For the Department to secure value for money from its significant investment in this long-term capability, it will need to ensure that the carriers and jets can be fully and flexibly used alongside other military equipment, and can be upgraded to keep pace with technological advances. The Department must also seize opportunities to bring high-tech and skilled jobs to the UK by securing further global support contracts for the Lightning II jets.
Completion of transformation within DE&S is key to ensuring it has the necessary commercial skills and capabilities, and is well placed to win such contracts.
Comment From PAC Chair Meg Hillier MP
“There is a lot at stake with Carrier Strike – a hugely complex, costly programme intended to be at the heart of national defence for years to come.
“The project continues to leave the MoD exposed financially. Government must bring Carrier Strike in on budget or risk jeopardising the funds available for other defence programmes.
“Uncertainty over some costs and the potentially negative impact of foreign exchange rates mean this will be no easy task.
“There are also questions over the Lightning II jets and the eventual deployment of Carrier Strike, which could threaten the programme’s value for money.
“All this is taking place as the MoD awaits clarity on the future size of the defence budget.
“We will be keeping a close eye on this programme and will expect the Department to keep us abreast of developments.”
Conclusions And Recommendations
Value for money will only be achieved if the carriers are flexibly and fully deployed. Re-introducing a ‘Carrier Strike’ capability represents a very significant investment for the Department. The carriers will offer greater flexibility in how