12 May 22. Defence Committee examines Government’s shipbuilding policy, Tuesday 17 May.
On Tuesday afternoon from 2.30pm, the Defence Committee holds an evidence session examining the Government’s shipbuilding policy, following the publication of the Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy Refresh.
The Defence Committee will question a panel of witnesses including Sir John Parker, author of a review of the UK Naval Shipbuilding Strategy for the Ministry of Defence (published in 2019). The Committee will also question Ian Waddell, Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, and Richard Powell, Society of Maritime Industries.
The cross-party committee of MPs is likely to consider whether the strategy refresh:
- guarantees a steady drumbeat of work to sustain British shipyards;
- takes on board the advice the Government has consistently been given, most recently in the Committee’s own report “We’re going to need a bigger Navy”, about how to support the British shipbuilding industry;
- supports the Government’s levelling up agenda and work across the UK;
- develops the skills and technology the industry needs.
The evidence session follows on from recent correspondence Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of the Defence Committee, to Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence and Government Shipbuilding Tsar, on a range of issues relating to the Navy’s purpose and procurement following the Committee’s earlier report “We’re going to need a bigger Navy”.
The correspondence (19 April) raised a series of questions with the Secretary of State concerning the Navy’s procurement programme, including the availability of the UK’s Type 45 destroyers, uncertainty around the replacement of the Harpoon anti-ship missile, and options to replace RFA Argus, the UK’s floating medical facility Chair Letters.pdf (parliament.uk)
The Secretary of State is due to give evidence to the Committee on the shipbuilding strategy refresh and the Department’s other work at a date before the Summer Recess.
Evidence session: National Shipbuilding Strategy Refresh, Tuesday 17 May, 2.30pm, Committee Room 15
This session will be available to watch on Parliament TV.
- Sir John Parker, Independent Reviewer of the National Shipbuilding Strategy (2019)
- Ian Waddell – General Secretary, Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions
- Richard Powell – Chair Maritime Defence and Security Group Council, Society of Maritime Industries (SMI)
11 May 22. Climate Change – Defence Committee launches Defence & Climate Change inquiry.
The Defence Committee has today launched an inquiry on Defence and Climate Change, covering both the global consequences of climate change on UK defence and the Ministry of Defence’s contribution to reducing carbon emissions.
Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said: “Climate change is already making an impact on security and governance in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. Storms, floods, and droughts will hit agricultural productivity, damage economies, and bring mass migration. Global threats, made worse by rising seas and extreme weather events, are also expected to lead to more conflict. While the immediate focus of our defence policy is rightly on Russian aggression in Ukraine, it’s also important we focus attention on the likely impact of climate change on our future defence and security.
“In our Committee inquiry, we will be examining the global consequences of climate change, such as the risk of conflict driven by competition for scarce resources, and the potential impact of population movements, droughts, floods and other extreme weather events. How far are our Armed Forces equipped to meet these scenarios and what steps do we need to take for our forces to adapt to these challenges?
“Our inquiry will also examine the MoD’s contribution to reducing carbon emissions. Defence accounts for half of UK central Government’s emissions – what measures is the Department putting in place to help government achieve net zero emissions by 2050? Will the MoD follow the US Army in setting targets for reducing its greenhouse gas pollution?”
The Committee’s inquiry is the first Defence Committee inquiry to directly examine the issue of defence and climate change.
The Ministry of Defence’s 2021 Climate change and Sustainability Strategic Approach (CCSSA) states that global threats, made worse by rising seas and extreme weather events, will almost certainly lead to more conflict. According to the MoD’s CCSA document, defence accounts for 50% of UK central Government’s emissions. The US Army has set a goal to half its net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.
The Committee’s inquiry will also examine how far UK Armed Forces are prepared for the probable increase in requests for Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) tasks as a result of more extreme weather conditions in the UK, and the increased risk of flooding and rising sea levels.
Evidence sessions for this inquiry are likely to begin in July 2022.
Defence and Climate change – inquiry terms of reference
The Committee welcomes evidence submissions on the terms of reference outlined below. The closing date for submissions is Friday 24 June 2022.
In particular, the Committee welcomes evidence submissions on:
- What needs to be done to achieve the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’s number one international priority of meeting climate change and biodiversity loss commitments over the next decade?
- What will be the impacts of climate change on future conflict and how are UK Armed Forces adapting to them?
- Are UK Armed Forces prepared for the probable increase in requests for Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) tasks as a result of more extreme weather conditions in the UK, and the increased risk of flooding and rising sea levels?
- With defence alone accounting for half of central government’s greenhouse gas emissions, what should be the MoD’s contribution towards achieving the UK’s net zero target by 2050?
10 May 22. Launching Committee Corridor – a new podcast from the House of Commons. Committee Corridor – a brand new podcast exploring the work of Select Committees – will launch on May 12, 2022.
Marking the start of a new parliamentary session, Committee Corridor will air six episodes from May 12 until the summer recess, with a further six episodes expected during the Autumn. This pilot podcast from the Select Committee Team will demonstrate how select committees can influence the arguments and outcomes of some of the biggest topics in 2022.
Each podcast will feature a key interview with an expert external guest followed by discussion by parliamentarians. Select committees reflect the make-up of the House of Commons, resulting in a cross-party balance of members and the opportunity to hear voices from across the political spectrum.
The first host of Committee Corridor will be the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, who takes a deeper look at international affairs. In the first episode on May 12, he explores what Russia’s actions in Ukraine mean for its relationships across the world and with the UK. He speaks with Fiona Hill, a former director for Europe and Russia at the US National Security Council, who served as an intelligence analyst under Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama and later, as deputy assistant to President Donald Trump. The podcast conversation then moves to Foreign Affairs Committee members, the SNP’s Stewart Malcolm McDonald MP and Conservative, Alicia Kearns MP. Future episodes include the security situation in Afghanistan and the status of Taiwan.
The podcast’s first host, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:
“As a new parliamentary session gets underway, it feels like the perfect time to launch a new podcast on the work of the select committees – an essential part of the scrutiny of our Government. I’m delighted to be the first host of Committee Corridor and to bring some of our thinking to a wider audience, starting with international affairs and Ukraine. From her UK/US perspective, Fiona Hill offers us a unique insight on what’s driving the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Opening this to Committee colleagues, we consider the impact of his actions on the UK’s relationships, near and far.”
The Managing Director of the Select Committee Team, Colin Lee, said:
“Away from the heat of the House of Commons Chamber, MPs regularly sit down with colleagues from all parties to focus on examining key questions of the day and how they relate to the work of Government. Working together, Members weigh up the evidence and ask the questions that need asking, resulting in work which challenges and influences Government action. The House of Commons aspires to bring that work to life for as wide an audience as possible. We hope this podcast will offer a new way to engage with the work of select committees.”
Select Committees have become an established and critical part of the UK’s parliamentary democracy. Along the length of committee corridor above the House of Commons and in Portcullis House, cross-party groups of MPs work together to investigate critical issues of the day and put their findings directly to Government, who must respond. Recent examples include failings in maternity hospitals, concerns about smart motorways, the evacuation of Afghanistan in summer 2021 and during the Coronavirus pandemic, MPs pushed ministers, officials and former employees for the evidence to back up Government actions.
Committee Corridor will be available from the UK Parliament website as well as all the usual podcast providers. A transcript of each episode will be published on the day of release. Plans are underway to profile the work of other select committees in a further six episodes in the Autumn.
Notes to editors:
- The trailer for the podcast is available here: https://open.spotify.com/show/1cxDxSwu48OuTZQYiAM9Fa
- Along with Spotify, Committee Corridor will be available from the UK Parliament website and other leading providers.
- Photographs of the Chair and guests are available from Estelle Currie, details below. Please credit any photos used: ©UK Parliament/Andy Bailey
- Find out more about select committees from the UK Parliament website
- Read more about the membership and current work of the Foreign Affairs Committee
- The Select Committee Team is partnering with Message Heard Media to provide Committee Corridor. Find more about their work here.
10 May 22. PAC: Ukraine invasion “begs serious questions about the pace, scope and ambition” of UK defence capability plans.
In a report today the Public Accounts Committee says the Russian invasion of Ukraine raises concerns that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not “identified the modern battle-winning capabilities our armed forces need” in the face of “a number of potential adversaries rapidly developing new military technology”.
The Committee is concerned by MoD’s “inability to control costs in its large programmes” including the Dreadnought class of nuclear submarines. The current Plan relies on “bns of pounds of future cost reductions” but without plans supporting how £4bn of these “expected” savings might be delivered.
Two-thirds of this £4bn needs to be achieved by March 2025 even though contractual commitments limit the flexibility to make savings in the short term, and higher inflation means that any decisions to deliberately delay projects would be costly: the Committee says “without a realistic plan to achieve savings, the MoD risks remaining caught in a trap of short-term, affordability-driven decisions”.
The Committee is also concerned that MoD “sees the Dreadnought programme ‘contingency’ held by HM Treasury as a “blank cheque, freeing it from the need to control costs” in its largest programme.
Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “The MoD trumpeted a step change in this year’s Equipment Plan after the Integrated Review, with new priorities and a huge cash injection – but the invasion of Ukraine has cast in stark relief the realities of current and future warfare.
“Year after year we report on the MoD’s failures to balance its budgets and the immense costs racking up on current projects delayed by years. We can find little cause for optimism that the MoD will become a better custodian of the taxpayers’ money that needs to be spent developing next-generation capabilities.
“Senior officials appear unable to recognise the poor state of affairs in MoD’s procurement or the deep-rooted issues that undermine our confidence that it will actually get a grip on the situation. A diminished role in global security, and enhanced risk to our national security and the service personnel defending it, are the unacceptable costs of the Ministry’s ongoing and repeated failures.”
PAC report conclusions and recommendations
- The invasion of Ukraine highlights rapid technological advances by other potential adversaries beg serious questions about the pace, scope and ambition of the Department’s equipment plan. Since we last reported on the Equipment Plan, the Department has announced it will retire some equipment (including the oldest Typhoon aircraft) earlier than planned and buy some replacement equipment later than it had planned. It is also now funding new programmes such as the Future Combat Air System. While the ‘Integrated Review’ describes Russia as “the most acute threat to our security”, we are concerned that recent events mean the Review downplays the scale of the threat it poses to the UK’s interests. Additionally, while the Department is focussing on filling the capability gaps that currently exist, other countries are rapidly developing new capabilities such as hypersonic weapons. The Department is starting to spend money on developing next-generation capabilities. But it is not clear if it is doing so with sufficient urgency – there is relatively little money available to exploit promising research this decade – and whether the capabilities will be battle-winning. The new radar for the Typhoon aircraft will not enter service until 2030 even though it was first announced in 2015 and development work had started much earlier.
Recommendation: The next Equipment Plan should include an additional section explaining the specific changes the Department has made to reflect developments since it last reported (including changes in international relations and emerging technologies).
- The Department appears complacent about the affordability of its Plan and still does not yet have robust arrangements in place to control the cost of its largest programmes. The Department believes that its Spending Review settlement and the decisions it has taken mean its Equipment Plan is now affordable, and that it is striking a better balance between financial and capability risk. We are not convinced that the Plan is as stable as the Department believes, or that it will be able to avoid short-term budget-driven changes to the Plan. The Department clearly finds it difficult to control the costs of the largest programmes and we are concerned that the Department sees the Dreadnought programme ‘contingency’ held by HM Treasury as a blank cheque, freeing it from the need to control costs. This is the Department’s largest programme and it is imperative that cost control is tight. The Department would like to use similar contingency arrangements for the programme to replace the UK’s nuclear warhead. This programme and the Future Combat Air System are at a much earlier stage of development, meaning that costs could be much higher than the current forecast. This uncertainty makes robust cost control still more important. Rising inflation means the cost of delivering projects is likely to rise, particularly if they experience delays.
Recommendation: The Department should write to the Committee within the next three months to detail the current cost of the Dreadnought, Replacement Warhead and FCAS programmes and set out how it intends to control the costs of these programmes in future.
We recommend that there should be a clearly defined purpose for the Dreadnought contingency and any proposals for a warhead contingency, and that Government should have a robust arrangement in place, including conditions which would have to be met, before HM Treasury would consider providing any additional funds from the contingency. The Department should write to the Committee within the next three months outlining the proposed lines for governance and the timetable in which they will be agreed.
- The Plan’s affordability relies on the Department achieving a number of different types of savings, including £7 bn of ‘cost reductions’ by 2031. The Top Level Budgets (TLBs) do not yet have plans to achieve £4 bn of the ‘cost reductions’, which is almost as much as the savings expected from capabilities cut as a result of the Integrated Review. Two-thirds of this £4 bn needs to be achieved by March 2025 even though contractual commitments limit the flexibility to make savings in the short term. The Department is relying on a “sense of cost control throughout the Department” to achieve these cuts. Higher inflation means that any decisions to deliberately delay projects would be costly, and the Department told us that in any case it wants the capabilities to be delivered. Without a realistic plan to achieve savings, the Department risks remaining caught in a trap of short-term, affordability-driven decisions.
Recommendation: The Department should urgently set TLBs targets to develop and implement concrete plans to achieve the cost reductions allocated to them in the Plan.
- Likely additional costs in other areas of departmental spending, such as on its workforce and sizeable estate, may squeeze the Plan’s budget in future years, further threatening its affordability. The Department’s plans to make substantial reductions to its military and civilian workforces over the next 10 years are already harder than expected as fewer personnel have left the armed forces than normal since 2020 because of the pandemic. Similarly, there are as yet no plans to make an additional £2.5 bn cut to workforce costs, which is also already assumed in the Department’s plans. And the Department does not know how it will afford the pay rises likely to be required as a result of higher inflation and wage growth in the wider economy in the next few years. The condition of the Department’s estate is set to continue to decline despite an additional £500m to be spent on ‘preventative’ maintenance. Service accommodation remains in a very bad way which risks harming recruitment and retention of personnel with key skills.
Recommendation: The next Equipment Plan report must clearly set out the quantified realistic affordability risk to it posed by the Department’s plans for its other areas of spending.
- The Department remains a long way short of having the finance skills it needs to manage the Plan effectively. Strong financial skills are needed to manage the large and complex set of programmes, crucial to a well managed and affordable Plan. But according to HM Treasury, the Department is in the third quartile of government departments in terms of financial capability. The proportion of Finance staff with professional qualifications has only increased from 41% to 43% in two years, against a target of 60%. There are hundreds of gaps in finance staff across the Department. We acknowledge that some progress is being made, with around 400 staff studying for qualifications, but progress is very slow even taking account of the disruptive effect of the pandemic over the last two years.
Recommendation: The Department should accelerate its efforts to increase its financial skills by making a career in finance more attractive and making qualifying easier. It should aim to be in the top quartile of financial capability within government departments within 3 years and set out a credible plan to achieve this.
- The Department has made little impact in its efforts to change its longstanding cultural resistance to change or criticism, which has for many years hindered a clear-eyed view of its equipment procurement performance. Senior officials do not acknowledge the poor state of affairs of current procurement, as outlined in NAO reports and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s assessment of the Department’s performance. There is still intolerance of criticism within project teams, and 10% of MoD staff say that they have been subject to or witnessed bullying, harassment or discrimination. The Department has only implemented approximately half of the NAO’s Equipment Plan report recommendations since 2015. The latest Departmental reform programme is already behind target and flaws have been identified in its governance and coherence.
Recommendation: Within three months the Department should set out when and how it is going to implement the outstanding NAO and PAC Equipment Plan recommendations made in their reports since 2015. At the same time, it should write to the Committee on how it intends to change the culture within equipment procurement and support to make it more open and realistic about performance. /ENDS
Full details of the inquiry including evidence received (under “Publications”): https://committees.parliament.uk/work/6546/mod-equipment-plan-202131/