The House of Commons rose yesterday for recess and the political parties will be holding conferences over the next three weeks. The House of Commons will return to Parliament on Wednesday 2nd October while the House of Lords will return on Tuesday 8th October.
According to the Times, a former senior White House official has warned that Liberal Democrat proposals to scale back Britain’s 24-hour nuclear deterrent would leave the country critically vulnerable to attack and would trigger serious concerns in the US. Franklin Miller, former special assistant to President George W. Bush, warned that replacing Trident would raise doubts over the commitment of the British Government to “share the burden of maintaining a nuclear umbrella over NATO”. Mr Miller’s comments follow an address by Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who said he was confident US-UK relations would not be jeopardised if Britain scaled back its nuclear capability.
Answer to written question
- Labour MP Alison Seabeck asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the companies which tendered for the GoCo will be the subject of scrutiny and consideration by the Government’s cross-departmental review of major contracts held by G4S and Serco.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne MP responded that the cross-department review is assessing GoCo competition. Each of the bidders involved has already been through a pre-qualification process. Mr Dunne said that as the MOD progresses towards a decision between a GoCo and public sector solution it will continue to scrutinise closely both individual consortia members and the market more widely.
NAO reports on performance of MOD 2012-13
The National Audit Office has released a report on the performance of the MOD 2012-13. The main aim of the report is to provide the Defence Select Committee with a summary of the Department’s activities and performance specifically since January 2013 – a delay in the signing of the 2011-12 accounts meant that the previous Departmental Overview reflected the period up to January 2013. The report includes detail of the MOD’s responsibilities, recent NAO work on the Department and where the Department has spent its money. The report shows that in 2012-13 the Department employed around 181,000 Service personnel and a further 64,000 civilian staff – the total cost of this was £9.6 billion and £2.4 billion respectively. This accounted for 31% of the Department’s total resource spending.
For equipment procurement the report notes that the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation delivered new equipment valued at £7.8 billion, including £0.5 billion of Urgent Operational Requirements. This was one area where the Office said there was a lack of “robust processes” and a need for better management review. The report says the MOD expects their new strategy on procurement will result in a step change in financial discipline, but until that time financial control within the DE&S will remain a concern.
Meanwhile, spending on major projects for their full-term cost the MOD £88.1 billion, the most expensive being the Typhoon Fighter Aircraft and Joint Combat Aircraft. The war in Afghanistan also unsurprisingly remained a significant activity, with a spend of £2.7 billion.
On pensions, the MOD paid £4.1 billion, including lump sums on retirement to approximately 417,000 retired veterans. In 2012-13 the Department’s contribution was £2.0 billion, with HM Treasury funding the remainder.
On planned changes to Departmental spending, the NAO says that as of April 2013, there were 20,500 (24%) fewer civilians than in April 2010. The number of service personal has reduced by 11,400.
The report also mentions the impact of the Spending Round 2013, including the enablement of the withdrawal of equipment from Afghanistan. It also details the MOD’s digital strategy and highlights attitudes of civilian personnel in the Civil Service People Survey and forces personnel in the Armed Forces Continuous Attitudes Survey.
Labour planning to “ambush” Defence Reform Bill over procurement
The Independent reports that Labour is planning to “ambush” the Defence Reform Bill over plans to contract out defence procurement through Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S). The party’s spokesman on the armed forces, Kevan Jones MP, told the Independent on Sunday that it will make a series of tough amendments to the Bill which will focus on acute conflicts of interest and concerns over foreign control of DE&S. Mr Jones said that Labour will be tabling “a number of amendments around these conflict issues, as well as other questions that need to be answered about things like protecting intellectual property and foreign shareholdings.”
Alison Seabeck MP, Labour’s policy lead on the Bill, added that there were problems with the way contracts are let and supervised, which could be a “potential risk to the taxpayer”. Last week, Chief of Defence Materiel Bernard Gray went before the Defence Reform Bill Committee and was accused of “asking Parliament to take a big punt”. Mr Gray said that he found it hard to agree with the argument “that when something is done for the first time that is a bad thing”. However, Mr Gray did admit the MOD was a month behind in what is an unusually tight timetable for the GoCo bid process.
RUSI report warns against single carrier strategy
A new report published by the Royal United Services Institute says that the decision to adopt only a single UK aircraft carrier would offer poor value for money and compromise the Government’s ability to respond to international crises. Leveraging UK Carrier Capability, which is authored by Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, argues that the decision to operate both aircraft carriers currently being built would cement Britain’s position as “a global player with a military power of the first rank”, and also provide compelling financial benefits. The report says that the decisive factor for policymakers to bear in mind is whether the UK needs a carrier capability or not. “If it does, then a minimum of two are required in order to have one permanently available.”
UK will resist efforts to centralise EU defence procurement
The Financial Times reports that the UK has vowed that it will resist ceding any power to Brussels as the European Commission seeks to centralise Europe’s defence procurement. This week, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond MP said any moves to extend the European Commission’s role in defence would be resisted as it would not be in the best interests of UK industry. Mr Hammond said that Germany also opposes the plan, which the FT says will dash the impetus and political will for this reform. The newspaper says that industry representatives have met Mr Hammond’s words with “great relief”; they were unsettled by the previous Government’s amenable position.
European ministers are expected to discuss the Commission’s proposals at their December summit. The Commission says it wants to cut procurement costs as member countries struggle to equip their armed forces and save jobs in an industry that employed 400,000 people last year. The Commission says that the fragmentation of the EU’s defence market undermines its global competiveness by creating red tape, hampering innovation and causing duplication. The body argues that if all equipment was standardised, EU countries could benefit from economies of scale at a time when European defence exports are weakening against international competitors. According to the think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, last year the UK slipped out of the top five defence exporters.