Truss axes set the National Security Council on fire, sparking concern in the ‘talking shop’ | UK security and counter-terrorism

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Liz Truss has scrapped the National Security Council and merged it with two Boris Johnson-era foreign policy committees in a structure Labor warned risked diluting the government’s security focus.

Created in 2010 under the coalition led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg to better coordinate security policy after the disaster of the Iraq war, the NSC is now to be replaced by a broad eight-member Foreign Policy and Security Council (FPSC).

The NSC brought together senior ministers with spy chiefs and the head of the armed forces to focus on security issues and continued under Theresa May, although it met less frequently when Boris Johnson was prime minister.

John Healey, the shadow defense secretary, said there was a risk the new committee could become “another Whitehall political talking shop”. Britain, he argued, “needs a tough Security Council ready to act”.

Lord Ricketts, a former national security adviser, said he feared the change would “pull ministers even further towards short-term crisis management and mean even less time is spent on strategic cross-government thinking – at a time when we need it more than ever before “.

Cabinet committees are where many of the key government decisions are made. On Friday, the Cabinet Office quietly released a revised list of cabinet committees including which senior politicians sit on them.

Chaired by Truss, the membership of the FPSC includes James Cleverly, the Secretary of State; Ben Wallace, the defense secretary; Suella Braverman, the Minister of the Interior; and Tom Tugendhat, the security minister and the defeated leadership candidate.

Its creation is part of a dramatic downsizing of core government operations, with 19 full committees reduced to five. The others cover economic affairs, home affairs, climate change and parliamentary business and legislation.

However, the “climate action implementation” committee will not be attended by the climate minister, Graham Stuart, according to the newly released list. Instead, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary who has promoted fossil fuel exploitation and fracking, is listed as one of the members.

Other members of FPSC are Therese Coffey, the health secretary; Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor; the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Nadhim Zahawi, and the Attorney General, Michael Ellis.

A former senior Whitehall insider described the decision as surprising “in an age of hybrid warfare” and said the cabinet body looked like it was “reverting to a foreign policy committee” – meaning it could be swamped by a wide range of policy and operational issues.

Richard Reeve, co-ordinator of Rethinking Security, a think tank, said he believed the merger “may be Truss’ way of drawing a line under Johnson’s tarnished Global Britain brand”. But he claimed the Prime Minister and other members “remain wedded to a militarized ‘national security’ approach, particularly vis-Ă -vis Russia and China”.

Truss has also sacked Johnson’s national security adviser, Sir Stephen Lovegrove, almost immediately after becoming prime minister, replacing him with Sir Tim Barrow, a former ambassador to the EU, one of a series of senior staff changes in Whitehall.

A government spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has agreed an updated cabinet committee structure to best deliver on the government’s priorities. The committees can discuss a wide range of policy areas relevant to their terms of reference.”

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