The Times reports that the MOD is to reverse pension rules that left long-serving troops tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket, after a “barrage of complaints”. Servicemen and women with so-called split service, those who had more than one period in the Armed Forces, are to be told that they will in future be given pension rights. This follows several high profile cases of long-serving servicemen, including veterans of numerous conflicts, who were tens of thousands worse off despite being reassured they would receive normal entitlement. The reversal of the rules will mean that from December 17, all service personnel under split service will be entitled to the full benefits, including all service personnel due to leave in the third tranche of Armed Forces redundancies on December 16.
Written Ministerial Statement on Defence Police and Guarding Agency
Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Anna Soubry MP has given a written statement following the Government review on the MOD’s civil policing and guarding policy, on 27 March 2012. Ms Soubry said that at the time the Defence Personnel Minister Andrew Robathan announced some broad measures to adjust the number of policing and guarding posts at certain Defence establishments, in order to maintain effective and proportionate protection, against the main security and crimes risks faced by the Department.
Ms Soubry said that following consultation, the Government have decided to implement the measures set out by Mr Robathan, though in some cases with changes arising from the consultation process. Ms Soubry said that for security reasons she could not give details of the new arrangements but could say that while there will be prudent restrictions in security personnel at some sites, many establishments will now have strengthened overall protection, particularly against the terrorist threat.
Ms Soubry did mention that, with regret, significant numbers of civilian posts in the MGS have been removed, with their duties passing to military personnel, who can be armed when necessary to counter the terrorist threat. She went on to stress that everything would be done to support individuals in the MGS adversely affected by these changes. Ms Soubry said she would like to place on record her thanks to member of the MDP and the Military Provost Guard Service (MPGS) for the important roles they perform in support of security across the Defence estate.
Ms Soubry said that overall, the changes represent an improvement in security risk management in the MOD, and they have allowed significant recruitment campaigns to begin in the MDP, the MGS and also in the MPGS who will now play a more prominent role in guarding military establishments.
Oral questions on defence procurement
In an oral question on procurement Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Lee of Trafford asked the Government, in the light of the withdrawal of a private-sector bidder from plans to manage defence procurement through government-owned, contractor-operated organisations, whether they have plans to close off that option,
Defence Minister Lord Astor said that a review is under way to assess two options – a GoCo entity and a transformed DE&S, remaining in the public sector. Lord Astor said the Government remains convinced that it must change the process to deliver the best value for money.
Lord Lee of Trafford followed up by saying that it was impossible to run the GoCo competition with just one bidder and criticised the absurdity and complexity of the bid process.
Lord Astor said that the fact that one commercial bid team has submitted a bid shows that it believes that there is potential deal and it can deliver against the requirement. Lord Astor added that whatever option was chosen by the Government, it would work to ensure necessary freedoms of operation to provide the Armed Forces with the right kit at the right time.
Labour Peer Lord Touhig highlighted that the only outside bidder left in the process was a consortium with a litany of mismanagement of public service contracts
Lord Astor responded that the consortium entailed world-class private businesses. He went on to say that further review will be made across government of the validity of the competition. Lord Astor said that the MOD will be assessing the bid it has on the table for a GoCo, along with a DE&S+ proposal, to see which will provide a best solution. He also added that as far as a further review is concerned, the Government hope to make a decision on validity of the competition very soon, and a final decision on the whole process by the Summer Recess.
Answers to written questions
- Labour MP David Anderson asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many meetings he has had with representatives of employees working at Defence Equipment and Support to discuss the proposals in the Defence Reform Bill.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne responded that the reform of Defence acquisition has been discussed at meetings between Ministers and trade union representatives of Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) staff, most recently at a meeting with the Defence Secretary in September 2013. Mr Dunne said that senior DE&S officials also hold regular meetings with the trade unions at which defence acquisition reform is discussed.
- Labour MP Ian Lavery asked the Secretary of State for Defence what assessments have been made of the effect of defence procurement privatisation on the support and services currently provided to (a) the armed forces and (b) front-line troops.
Mr Dunne said the purpose of defence acquisition reform is to improve how defence equipment is procured and supported for our armed forces and the front line. The materiel strategy programme is currently in the assessment phase and is considering two options, DE&S+ and a Government owned contractor operated model. Mr Dunne said the ability of each option to deliver an improved acquisition and support organisation is a critical factor in that decision.
- Mr Lavery asked the Defence Secretary whether companies within consortia bidding for defence procurement contracts considered high risk, due to previous failings with public sector contracts, will be excluded from bidding.
Mr Dunne replied that all procurements are managed in accordance with the Government’s Strategic Supplier Risk Management policy.
- David Anderson MP asked the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his American counterpart on the Defence Reform Bill and the potential move of Defence Equipment and Support to a Government-owned, contract-operated entity.
Philip Dunne responded that the Secretary of State for Defence regularly meets with Defence Secretary Hagel and most recently at the NATO Defence ministerial meeting in October 2013, where a range of topics were discussed. Mr Dunne said that in April 2013 he met with US National Armaments Director Frank Kendall to discuss the future of Defence Equipment and Support. Mr Dunne added that his team has been working closely with the taskforce which Mr Kendall has established specifically to consider the Materiel Strategy.
- Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Lee of Trafford asked the Government what is the latest estimated cost of examining the Government-owned, contractor-operated option for defence procurement.
Defence Minister Lord Astor of Hever responded that the Materiel Strategy programme is currently in the Assessment Phase and is considering two options; DE&S+ and a Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) model. Lord Astor said the Concept Phase of the programme started in May 2011 and analysed a number of different operating models. It concluded with the approval of the Initial Gate Business Case in April 2013 and cost £12 million. The Assessment Phase is currently developing both DE&S+ and GOCO options.
Defence Reform Bill passes Third Reading, Government sees off backbench amendment
The Defence Reform Bill passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill will now go to the House of Lords for scrutiny and debate. The Bill passed on Wednesday with the addition of an amendment which will ensure the Defence Secretary will update MPs every year on recruitment to the Reserve Forces.
The Times says that the addition prevented defeat of the bill to Conservative backbenchers who have grown increasingly concerned about cuts to the Armed Forces and backed Conservative John Baron MP’s amendment which would have suspended while the current recruitment progress was investigated. Mr Baron said that he was disappointed at the outcome of the vote but would continue to challenge the Government over its Reserve strategy. By contrast, Julian Brazier MP, one of the architects of the Government’s Reserve policy said he was delighted by the result but, as a former TA officer, criticised the bureaucratic and inefficient recruitment process for Reservists.
FT says GoCo plan is “close to collapse”
The Financial Times reports that the plan to outsource procurement of military equipment supply is “close to collapse” after one of the two remaining bidders in the process pulled out. The consortium which withdrew, led by US engineering firm CHRM Hill, said it dropped its bid because it did not trust the MOD’s accounting. It is understood that CHRM Hill and its partners decided the risk of being held to standards based on erroneous assumptions was too great and that there was no way it could make a profit and deliver savings to the MOD. The CH2M Hill consortium also included Serco, which has been involved is current under investigation for allegedly overcharging the Ministry of Justice for electronic tagging.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond MP told Parliament on Tuesday that he plans to push on with the process for the £14 billion contract, even though only one commercial bidder remains. However, Mr Hammond has acknowledged the difficulties in concluding a deal with only one bidder in the process. The FT says that people close to the project say that continuing such a sensitive process with only one commercial bidder was likely to prove difficult. A Labour party source said that this left the Defence Reform Bill as “anything but a shambles”.
Nevertheless, the consortium led by company Bechtel presented the MOD with its detailed bid on Friday and MOD insiders say it still has a chance to win. The FT says the loss of the only other commercial competitor has made it far less likely in the eyes of those who have overseen the process. The FT goes on to say that the question appears to be whether the Bechtel consortium will remain enough of a threat to pry concessions from the Treasury that would reform DE&S radically enough. The alternative to the GoCo end result is DE&S plus, whereby the MOD keeps control of procurement but civil servants will be given more power to inject incentives into the organisation. Under this plan, how much the civil service can reform will be decided by the Treasury and Ministers.
Defence Secretary says backbenchers will not affect personnel changes
The Telegraph reports that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond MP has said that a rebel amendment to the Defence Reform Bill, which would delay the Coalition’s plans to cut the regular Army, will do “nothing to change the trajectory” of the changes to the forces. Under proposals by the amendment, once the Defence Reform Bill became law, the Defence Secretary would have to report to Parliament on the “viability and cost-effectiveness” of his plans, which would not be permitted to go ahead without approval of both Houses. However, Mr Hammond said the Army “cannot go back” and said that the process of cuts was underway. The Future Force 2020 plan will see 20,000 sacked regular soldiers replaced with 30,000 reservists. Hammond also warned that there had been a message of “neglect and disinterest” towards Britain’s reserve forces by politicians and the regular Army.