One of the more eye-catching recommendations in the defence select committee’s report is the proposal to create a “national security minister” who would sit on the national security council and possibly even in the cabinet.
Pauline Neville-Jones was security minister within the Home Office until May this year, but the committee recommended that a new role be set up independent of any department as a “dedicated, powerful and independent long-term voice for national security”.
The suggestion is likely to trigger speculation about who might do such a job. The committee recommended a political heavyweight who would be able to negotiate in disputes between departments. One person fitting that description is Ken Clarke, justice secretary – a likely contender for a job move after seeing his proposals on sentencing overruled by the prime minister this year.
Another possible candidate would be Lady Neville-Jones, who has not taken on a new role since stepping down from the Home Office.
But experts warn there could be significant problems with creating a minister for national security. First, it would be a significant challenge to the authority of the four cabinet ministers already given the task of guaranteeing national security: David Cameron, prime minister, William Hague, foreign secretary, Theresa May, home secretary and Liam Fox, defence secretary.
It would also raise questions about the role of Sir Peter Ricketts, the apolitical national security adviser, whose appointment was welcomed in the committee’s report.
An independent national security minister would also lack the support provided by the full weight of a government department – which Mr Hague has cited as a reason for keeping the job within the home office.