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Departmental Reform

Volume 520: debated on Monday 13 December 2010

10. What recent progress has been made on reform of the structure of his Department; and if he will make a statement. (29886)

So far, the defence reform unit under Lord Levene has considered the key activities defence needs to undertake: an analysis of our current structure; how a number of other countries manage aspects of defence; and the benefits, disadvantages and robustness of a range of different operating models. It is currently considering proposals on how better to manage defence infrastructure and to deliver corporate services across defence. It is also examining the relationship between the head office, the rest of the Department and the armed forces.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his response and congratulate him on the progress made. Can he assure us that the much-needed restructuring of the Ministry of Defence will not impact on the operation in Afghanistan or the provision of services to any of Her Majesty’s armed forces?

As I have said, defence reform is, effectively, a root-and-branch reform of the entire Department including, essentially, everything other than the front-line capabilities that were covered in the SDSR. It will have no impact on what is happening in Afghanistan, which will remain the prime effort of the MOD.

In the context of reform, when does the Department intend to implement the recommendation in the report of the Secretary of State’s party colleague, the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), envisaging the establishment of a veterans information service?

That is part of our ongoing programme. Between now and next summer, we hope to unveil a number of measures relating to that and similar aspects of how the MOD and the armed forces interact.

Will the reform of defence acquisition be included in the work of the DRU, and when will the DRU be likely to report?

Yes, acquisition will be part of what the DRU does; my right hon. Friend makes an important point. There will also be an announcement—I hope in the very near future—about a new chief of defence matériel, who will be important in that process. I hope the report on the acquisition reform will be available before the end of July 2011.

The SDSR projected savings from the redundancies of 25,000 civilian civil servants in the MOD. In answers to parliamentary questions, the Secretary of State has previously stated that the cost of redundancy packages are yet unknown. Will he today share with the House the cost of making 25,000 civil servants redundant, or is this just another area of the SDSR where announcements are being made before the work has been done?

Given the financial position the Government inherited, it was necessary to make major reductions in costs, not least in personnel. How those costs ultimately are manifested is dependent upon whether we require compulsory redundancies, how many are voluntary redundancies and how many are early retirements. These matters are subject to discussions with the civil service at the current time.