Advanced Research and Assessment Group

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 3rd November 2008.

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Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury 2:30 pm, 3rd November 2008

What work is being undertaken by the advanced research and assessment group at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom; and how many of its reports have been published.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

The advanced research and assessment group conducts research and analysis on a range of geo-strategic and operational issues to influence the development of defence and security capability. During the financial year 2007-08, the group published 91 papers.

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Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury

The Minister knows that we all support the excellent work of ARAG at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. Will he ensure that that the excellent work undertaken at that establishment is better understood across Government, and that wherever possible it is shared not only with Government Departments but with the civil community—for example, through the publication of the excellent Shrivenham papers?

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. I know that he and other members of the Defence Committee met members of ARAG when they were at Shrivenham on 16 October, and I will pass on their thanks to the staff there. The papers that they produce are already shared across Government where appropriate, but his highlighting of the issue will give them a wider circulation.

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Photo of David Crausby David Crausby Labour, Bolton North East

My hon. Friend mentioned that the Defence Committee recently visited the Defence Academy, and saw its excellent facilities. However, we were concerned that those world-beating facilities could be even better used. Does my hon. Friend have any plans to extend the work being done in the Defence Academy to utilise those facilities fully?

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

As my hon. Friend knows, in a previous life I visited Shrivenham with him, and I pay tribute to the work done there, not just in support of UK forces, but in supporting international links and many students from a variety of nations. I am due to visit Shrivenham, and I will take back my hon. Friend's message.

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Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that not only the work of the advanced research and assessment group, but that of many other groups, is extremely important in the promotion of defence diplomacy? Would he agree that that is an important part of defence policy, and one that in different days will become even more important?

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

I will break the habit of a lifetime and agree with the hon. Gentleman. The work conducted at Shrivenham and the diplomacy that it does on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, and UK plc in general, is very important. It is also important to ensure that its work is recognised in Government, and that its reports influence policy—and not just in the MOD.

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