Parliamentary Committee identifies gap in MOD spending scrutiny

Ministry of Defence Main Building, Whitehall (Harland Quarrington © Crown copyright 2021)

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has identified a gap in parliamentary scrutiny of Ministry of Defence (MOD) spending in a report published in March. The report, which focusses on the MOD’s 2023-2033 Equipment Plan, states that some parts of the plan “cannot be scrutinised in the public domain for security reasons” and that none of the arrangements and mandates of the other relevant committees allow for proper scrutiny of these areas.

The 2023-2033 Equipment Plan was previously the subject of scrutiny by the National Audit Office (NAO), but was never published by the MOD. It showed a £16.9bn shortfall, compared to a surplus of £2.6bn in the previous year’s plan. The PAC said the MOD had lacked the “discipline to balance its budget by making the difficult choices about which equipment programmes it can and cannot afford,” and was instead hoping circumstances would improve over the next decade so it could increase its budget to 2.5% of GDP.

The PAC report did not identify the specific areas where there was a gap in oversight. However, a substantial rise in spending on the nuclear programme was a major factor in the Equipment Plan overspend and both NAO and PAC reports contain a section dedicated to nuclear spending.

The other committees cited by the PAC as not providing scrutiny were the Defence Select Committee, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy and the Intelligence and Security Committee. The PAC said it would work with government and within parliament to try and address the gap.

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