Third Reading

Part of Defence Reform Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:39 pm on 2nd April 2014.

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Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence 3:39 pm, 2nd April 2014

My Lords, this amendment fulfils a commitment I made on Report. During that debate I made it clear that the Government supported an amendment, tabled in the names of the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig and Lord Stirrup, the noble Lord, Lord Levene, and my noble friend Lord Roper, that would have required a future Government to publish a White Paper and an impact statement before laying a draft order commencing Part 1 of the Bill. I agreed to bring forward a suitable government amendment at Third Reading, and that is the amendment that is before us today.

I do not intend to repeat the debate that we had on this issue in Committee and on Report. In essence, the debate centred on the need for parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of a future decision to proceed with a GOCO and the provision of sufficient information to Parliament to enable it to have an informed debate prior to the commencement of Part 1. In the end, there was consensus that this should take the form of a statutory requirement on any future Government to publish a White Paper and an impact statement. The government amendment reflects that commitment, although the need for precision in legislative drafting requires us to describe the content rather than the form of these documents. Nevertheless, the information that would be provided under the amendment is effectively the information that would be included in a White Paper and impact assessment.

Amendment 1 therefore makes it a requirement to publish and lay before Parliament a report on the options for carrying out defence procurement that the Secretary of State has considered. This must be done before any draft order commencing Part 1 of the Bill is laid before Parliament. The report will need to cover not only the GOCO option but any other options that the MoD is considering at the time for the reform of DE&S and it must include an assessment of the impact of the options and any other information that is appropriate to enable a proper comparison to be made between them.

It should be noted that the report must deal, in particular, with the option of what is commonly called DE&S-plus-plus—that is, the new DE&S as it will be once the transformation, which began at yesterday’s vesting day, is in place. This requirement specifically to consider the reformed DE&S is covered by new subsection (3D) of the amendment. I know that this is something that noble Lords were particularly keen should be captured in the amendment.

I hope that the amendment will command widespread support. It reflects the detailed debates that we have had on this Bill about the need for Parliament to have oversight of a decision to proceed with a GOCO and shows that the Government have listened carefully to the concerns raised by noble Lords from all sides of the House. The amendment will ensure that Parliament is provided with sufficient information to enable it properly to scrutinise and consider a future decision to proceed with a GOCO. I beg to move.