New Forest East


[Mr Kenneth Clarke: ... The Minister [The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Chris Skidmore)] says the Government are considering further improvements, so will he invite my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to consider setting out some principles: about the amount of notice the NSC has of such decisions, the length and fullness of discussions – that applies to Cabinet, too – and the right of individual members of the Cabinet to have access before a meeting to security advice and defence advice if they wish to prepare themselves for the discussion?

Chris Skidmore: I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his recommendations. I am sure the National Security Adviser will be listening closely to this debate, and the fact they have been put on the record means it will be important for him to have regard to them. I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend will understand that at the time he mentions we were facing a bloodbath in Benghazi, that intervention was vital and that we would not now row back on that intervention.]

Dr Julian Lewis: I do not wish to add to any difficulties in this respect, but one problem is insufficient military input to the NSC; it all comes in through the voice of one man, the Chief of the Defence Staff. The Defence Committee has suggested that one way to strengthen the NSC would be to constitute the Chiefs of Staff Committee as a sub-committee of ‚Äčthe NSC. In that way, a Prime Minister with a bee in his bonnet would not be able so easily to sweep away military concerns.

[Chris Skidmore: I thank my right hon. Friend for his separate recommendation and note that the Minister for the Armed Forces is in his place and listening carefully. That is not a new recommendation, but we will consider closely all recommendations from this debate. ...]

[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]