Backbench Business — [4th allotted day] — Strategic Defence and Security Review
Bill Presented — Illegally Logged Timber (Prohibition of Import, Sale or Distribution) Bill
James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire, Conservative)
The hon. Gentleman is rapidly taking on the mantle of our former colleague, John Smith, who made regular speeches on St Athan, and I pay tribute to him on that account and on many others. Training must be at the heart of maintaining the extraordinary quality of our armed forces. I hope that the process of getting to a proper result on defence training will be concluded at the end of the strategic defence and security review, because we need a degree of certainty, but so far we have had too much delay. My constituency used to contain a base at Bordon, which was seriously affected by the change to St Athan. We ought to leave the result on St Athan to the SDSR.
There has been insufficient consultation with the public at large, armed forces personnel, the defence industry and parliamentarians. With regard to the last of those, the review was initiated before the new Parliament properly began its business. There was a need for some speed in the review and it took six weeks to establish the Defence Committee, and I accept that neither was the fault of the MOD. However, only one debate has been held in the House, during which I was not fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr Speaker. Much of the work of the review has happened during the parliamentary recess and the results will be announced shortly after the conference recess. I can best describe that as a sub-optimal process.
Our concerns include the startling speed with which the review is taking place; the influence of current operations on future capabilities; the lack of future ring-fencing for the Defence budget; the lack of public engagement with the process; the uncertainty over the future funding position of Trident; the MOD's postponement of discussions on the potential savings that future procurement and defence reform could bring; the insufficient consultation with the defence industry; the lack of a proper review of the future of reservists; and a lack of symbiosis between structural change in the MOD and the MOD's future direction. We ask whether operations will be funded in future by the contingency reserve. We are also concerned about the retirement within three weeks of senior people in the MOD who were deeply involved with the SDSR, and therefore that the implementation of the SDSR will be led by people who did not lead in its creation. Quite frankly, the report is a cacophony of anxiety boiled down to 23 pages.