03 Mar 21. House of Commons launches new Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill. Today, the House of Commons launches the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, chaired by James Sunderland MP. The Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill 2021 has held its first meeting to agree its programme of scrutiny on the Armed Forces Bill 2019-21.
The Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill 2021 may go through the Bill formally, clause by clause, and make amendments, it may also take formal oral and written evidence and make visits. As well as reporting the Bill to the House the select committee may make a Special Report to the House of its findings and recommendations. While this is a select committee, which functions largely under usual select committee procedure, it can also meet and function like a public bill committee.
The Committee welcomes written evidence submission on all the provisions within the Bill as well as any notable omissions and additionally on the state of Armed Forces pay. In particular, the Committee has called for evidence submissions in response to the following questions and on the following topics:
Armed Forces Covenant
- Is the ‘duty to have due regard’ the appropriate mechanism to further incorporate the Armed Forces Covenant into law? What alternative mechanisms could be used?
- Is the focus on healthcare, education, and housing matters appropriate? Could this have a detrimental impact on other areas of the Armed Forces Covenant?
- Are the specified persons and bodies proscribed in the Bill sufficient or should these be expanded?
- An assessment of the Bill’s application to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in respect of the Armed Forces Covenant and the Secretary of State’s duty to consult the devolved administrations.
- An assessment of the power of the Secretary of State to issue guidance on the duties imposed by the Bill.
- An assessment of the power of the Secretary of State to make regulations to widen the duties in the Bill by specifying additional persons or bodies to be subject to those duties and to specify additional functions (areas other than healthcare, housing and education) in which the duty may apply.
- An assessment of the enforcement of the ‘duty to have due regard’ and the impact on enforcement bodies such as relevant Ombudsmen.
- What are the resource implications of these measures and how will success be measured?
- Whether the provisions impact differently on Serving personnel (both Regulars and Reservists), veterans, and their families?
Service Justice System Reforms
- What will be the impact of the changes to the constitution of Court Martial boards? Do these reforms go far enough, or should further changes be considered?
- How far does the Bill address concerns about the handling of serious crimes committed by service personnel in the UK?
- Will the duty to agree a new protocol on prosecution of the most serious crimes where there is concurrent jurisdiction ensure that the most appropriate route to justice is taken in these cases? Should there be an explicit protocol covering investigations as well as prosecutions?
- Will the plans for independent oversight of the service police provide effective access to redress, and improve confidence that complaints will be handled fairly?
- What lessons should be learned from the establishment of the Independent Office for Police Conduct and its predecessor the Independent Police Complaints Commission in establishing the new office of Service Police Complaints Commissioner?
- Do the changes to the service complaint appeals process strike the right balance between ensuring fair access to appeals and ensuring complaints are handled efficiently, and are there enough safeguards in place to ensure those who cannot meet the new time limits get fair treatment?
The Committee reminds witnesses that it has resolved not consider individual cases.
Evidence submissions will be accepted until midday on Sunday 21 March and earlier submissions are likely to be referenced during the Committee’s oral evidence proceedings.
Chair of the Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, James Sunderland, said:, “I am delighted to be chairing the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, which will undertake the important job of scrutinising the Armed Forces Bill, as well as providing an opportunity for Parliament to take a broader look at the some of the issues our Armed Forces face. The Committee will work intensively, within the space of a couple of months, to explore not only the Bill itself, but also the current imperatives, such as the efficacy of support available for service personnel, veterans and families as well as the structures in place that both safeguard and ensure accountability. I look forward to working with colleagues, in Parliament and Government, on this unique select committee.”
03 Mar 21. Vital national security legislation becomes law.
On Monday, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Act received Royal Assent and became law.
The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Act provides a clear and consistent statutory basis so that our intelligence and enforcement agencies and public bodies have the right tools to keep us safe.
This longstanding critical capability supports the work of undercover agents in preventing and safeguarding victims from serious crimes, including terrorism, by ensuring they can gain the trust of those under investigation.
Robust independent oversight of the capability is provided by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. All authorisations must be notified to his office within seven days of being granted, providing him with real-time oversight of all criminal conduct authorisations.
He will also have oversight of the enhanced safeguards in place for juvenile and vulnerable adult CHIS.
02 Mar 21. Bill introduced to create high risk, high reward research agency ARIA. The UK’s new independent research body, the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), will be empowered to take an innovative and flexible approach to funding cutting-edge science and technology.
- New Bill introduced to set up UK’s Advanced Research and Invention Agency, an independent research body which will fund high-risk, high-reward scientific research
- legislation will provide ARIA with the powers to have an innovative and flexible approach to programme funding, as well as giving ARIA the ability to pursue ground-breaking discoveries
- the Bill equips ARIA with unique powers and freedoms to invest in ambitious research at unprecedented speeds
A new Bill to create the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), an independent UK scientific research agency that will fund cutting-edge science and technology, was introduced to Parliament today (Tuesday 2 March 2021).
The Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill sets out the legislative framework and governance for the new agency, which was announced by the Business Secretary last month. The agency will empower some of the world’s most exceptional scientists and researchers to identify and fund transformational areas of research to turn incredible ideas into new technologies, discoveries, products and services – helping to maintain the UK’s position as a global science superpower.
The design of the agency allows this work to take place at greater speed, with flexibility and minimised bureaucracy.
The Bill equips ARIA with unique powers and freedoms that it needs to succeed, explicitly allowing the agency a much higher tolerance for failure than other UK funding agencies. This flexibility is necessary to enable the agency to develop technologies at speed that could create profound positive change for the UK and the rest of the world, recognising that failure is an essential part of scientific discovery.
As part of this, the Bill provides the agency with the powers to have an innovative and flexible approach to programme funding, including seed grants and prize incentives, as well as being able to start and stop projects according to their success. This innovative approach to funding will give its leadership the tools and autonomy to push boundaries in search of new discoveries.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said, “This Bill marks a momentous step forward for UK R&D – creating a bold, new scientific agency with invention at its core, putting the UK in a formidable position to respond to the most pressing global challenges of our time. The success of our Vaccine Taskforce has shown the value of putting power in the hands of our best scientists to make swift, high-risk funding decisions – free from unnecessary bureaucracy. With this Bill, I am determined to ensure ARIA upholds this winning formula.”
ARIA will be equipped with all the tools and freedoms it needs to succeed – placing our world leading scientists at the heart of decision making, stripping back red tape and giving our best minds license to invest in the most transformative research at speeds like never before.
ARIA will be based on models that have proved successful in other countries, in particular the influential US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model. This was instrumental in creating transformational technologies such as the internet and GPS, changing the way people live and work, while increasing productivity and growth. More recently, ARPA’s successor, DARPA, was a vital pre-pandemic funder of mRNA vaccines and antibody therapies, leading to critical COVID therapies.
In the US, DARPA benefits from autonomy and flexibility outside the standard government contracting and granting standards. The ARIA Bill will provide the agency with exemption from the existing Public Contract Regulations, enabling ARIA to procure vital services and equipment with maximum flexibility so that it can carry out ground-breaking research at speeds rivalling a private investment firm.
The Bill will also purposefully streamline the agency’s operating structure and minimise bureaucratic processes so it can focus all its efforts and resources on transformational research.
The government’s intention, therefore, is for ARIA not to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act to reduce the administrative time required to process FOI requests and protect Britain’s competitive advantage, while allowing the agency to run an extremely lean and agile operating mode – which is essential to its design and ultimate success.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
Today is another milestone moment for the UK’s world class R&D community, as we introduce to Parliament the legislation needed to create ARIA.
By facilitating fast and flexible funding, removing bureaucracy and accepting failure as an essential part of scientific discovery, this new agency will empower our scientists and innovators to go where they haven’t been before – accelerating the development of future products and technologies that could change all our lives for the better.
While the Bill will prioritise the formation of an agile research agency by stripping back red tape, it will also ensure this is balanced with necessary accountability and oversight.
Administrative exemptions will sit alongside legal obligations for ARIA to proactively share information about its activities. The agency will be subject to scrutiny by the National Audit Office, as is usual for a public body, and will be required to submit an annual report of its functions and statement of accounts, which will be laid before Parliament for scrutiny.
The Business Secretary will also have robust powers to intervene in the interests of national security if required, for example, directing the agency to cease collaboration with certain hostile actors or closing specific programmes.
Recognising that pursuing ambitious, high risk research requires patience, the government’s intention is to provide ARIA with the necessary long-term security: the Bill sets a 10-year grace period before any potential dissolution of the agency can be triggered.
Notes to editors
The Bill’s introduction to Parliament today follows the Business Secretary’s announcement of the new agency on Friday 19 February 2021. The aim is for the agency to be fully operational by 2022.
A recruitment campaign will begin over the coming weeks to identify a world class interim Chief Executive and Chair to shape the vision, direction and research priorities for the agency.
ARIA will be backed by £800m of government funding over the course of this Parliament, as set out by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the March 2020 Budget. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
02 Mar 21. Lords to explore role of military in resilience and emergency response. The House of Lords Risk Assessment and Risk Planning Committee will tomorrow question experts in military and defence, on the role the military plays in building civil resilience and responding to civil emergencies.
The Committee will also explore the significant involvement the defence forces have had in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic to date, as well the military’s preparedness for technological advancements.
The session will take place virtually on Wednesday 3 March at 10:15am and can be followed on Parliament TV.
Giving evidence will be:
- Lord Houghton of Richmond, Former Chief of Defence Staff of the British Armed Forces (2013-2016)
- Sir Chris Deverell, Former Commander of the Joint Forces Command (2016-2019)
- Dr Marc Schelhase, Lecturer at Defence Studies Department, King’s College London at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, UK Defence Academy
Questions the Committee is likely to ask include:
- How might the army’s experience of responding to the current pandemic influence its future involvement in other civil emergencies?
- Is the military more effective than other areas of Government at embedding long-term thinking and investing against high-impact low-probability opportunities and risks?
- How resilient is the military itself? How able is the military to respond or continue operation if an event occurred which also impacted its own capabilities e.g. a blackout?
- Is the military well placed to respond to the accelerating pace of technological advancement, most notably in the area of AI?
- How does the military make use of exercising and wargaming, particularly in assuring resilience?