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Volume 706: debated on Monday 8 December 2008


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In July 2007, my right honourable friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Mr Ingram) was asked to undertake a detailed study into the role of the Ministry of Defence in counterterrorism and resilience. The then Secretary of State for Defence announced its completion in July. This Statement sets out the government response.

The report reinforces a central theme of the national security strategy—that there can be no simple distinction between defence and wider security or domestic and overseas considerations. Counterterrorism and resilience require an integrated approach. Government departments must work ever more closely together and with other stakeholders to overcome institutional barriers, including in respect of funding. This includes defence.

Mr Ingram has looked at the full range of defence capabilities and at all of our linkages with other organisations. In outline, the report endorses the approach that the primary focus for defence’s counterterrorism contribution should continue to be overseas, with any role in the UK restricted to the provision of niche capabilities to the civil authorities or augmentation in times of emergency. The emphasis is on the increasing use of “smart” power to gain strategic insight and intelligence and to develop relationships that enable work across all strands of the Government’s counterterrorism strategy. Within the UK the report concludes that defence should continue to provide specialist support to police forces and that it should be strengthened, including through an enhanced exercise programme.

The study has found that we could make more of some of our strengths, such as in strategic planning, education and research and development. In that context, we may have more to offer on protective security and planning support on security for the 2012 Olympic Games.

I welcome and agree in principle the 29 recommendations outlined in the report. They complement the development of a classified defence capabilities compendium that we have provided to those who may call on support from defence. The recommendations will be implemented across government, co-ordinated and developed where necessary by the National Security Secretariat. The security classification prevents us from publishing the report in full, but the Defence Committee has been given access to the report as part of its inquiry into national security and resilience.