The Daily Express reports that sixteen protestors have been arrested at a nuclear weapons facility after attempting to blockade the site. According to the newspaper all were detained on suspicion of obstruction of a public highway and are currently in police custody following a demonstration at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) site at Burghfield in Berkshire. A spokeswoman for AWE said that the AWE on-site security, the MOD Police and Thames Valley Police are currently in attendance and will remain for the duration for any protest action.
Defence Minister Mark Francois announced that, following an open competition, he has recommended the appointment of three new members to the National Employer Advisory Board (NEAB). They are Alun Griffiths, Kevin Goodman and Paul Noon. The NEAB is chaired by Richard Boggis-Rolfe and provides informed independent strategic advice to Ministers, the chiefs of staff and the reserves community about how the Ministry of Defence can most effectively gain and maintain the support of and for employers of reservists for Britain’s reserve forces.
Answers to written questions on loss of equipment
- Madeline Moon, Labour MP for Bridgend and Member of the Defence Select Committee, asked how many items were lost at COD Donnington and COD Bicester since September 2012 and what the value of the items lost were. Moon also asked if the MOD would publish details of the auditing processes for COD Donnington and COD Bicester.
Defence Equipment Minister Phillip Dunne responded that the MOD Annual Report and Accounts includes reportable materiel losses but not “non-culpable losses”, such as accidental damage. He explained that the total value of stock issued from Logistic Commodities and Services (LCS) Bicester and LCS Donnington for the period 1 October 2012 to 30 June 2013 was £3.8 billion, noting that the accounts are audited by the Defence Internal Audit Team and the National Audit Office. The Minister provided a table with the number and value of reportable materiel losses on site and in transit.
- Madeline Moon also asked at what point lost items of equipment are considered to have been stolen and what criteria are used for determining whether lost items should be written off or considered a theft.
Defence Equipment Minister Phillip Dunne responded that it is MOD policy that all losses of materiel are investigated and reported in accordance with the Defence Logistic Support Chain Manual. He said if stocktaking discrepancies are identified an independent reconciler initiates an investigation, the level of which is dependent on the value and stocktaking category of the item. The Minster added that it is during the investigation that the cause of the discrepancy will be identified and, in cases where criminal activity is suspected, the situation is to be reported to the MOD, service or civilian police as appropriate.
He also noted that in November 2012 Defence Equipment and Support began implementing the Inventory Strategic Plan to control inventory within the future Defence supply chain, which intends to drive the practice of high-quality inventory management throughout the Department that will deliver and maintain optimised inventory across Defence.
- Emma Lewell-Buck, Labour MP for South Shieds, asked how many Ministry of Defence Guard Service staff are employed at front line command sites in the UK.
Defence Minister Mark Francois MP responded that 1268 Ministry of Defence Guard Service staff are employed at front line command sites as at 3 September 2013.
Defence Oral Questions
- Labour MP Jim Cunningham asked the defence secretary what progress his Department has made in the assessment phase for reform of Defence Equipment and Support.
Mr Hammond said the MOD continues to make good progress in the assessment phase for the reform of Defence Equipment and Support and said that the Government was testing the GoCo model in the market. Mr Hammond added that the commercial competition for a GoCo provider is well underway and confirmed that two consortia were participating.
Committee begins consideration of Defence Reform Bill
This week, the House of Commons Public Bill Committee, which is considering the Defence Reform Bill, held oral evidence sessions prior to line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill.
The Committee heard from a range of witness, including the Defence Industries Council and ADS Group, RUSI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, relevant trade unions, the Chief of Defence Material, the MOD Director of Material Strategy and Philip Dunne MP, Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology.
During his appearance, Philip Dunne was questioned on a number of issues, including the ability of the potential GoCo contractor to deliver equipment on time, the ability to retain proper oversight of the GoCo contract, and international concerns about a GoCo model.
The Committee further announced that it would be considering the Bill every Tuesday and Thursday from Tuesday 8th October, concluding on Thursday 24th October. The Committee says the intention of the Bill is to implement some of the proposals for reform that have been made in the White Papers on Defence Acquisition and the future of the Reserve Forces.
Central to the bill is the establishment of a Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated model for defence equipment procurement.
Committee criticises MOD for “basic accounting errors” which wasted millions
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee criticised the MOD this week for committing “basic accounting errors” for wasting millions on the wrong carrier aircraft for the UK’s new multi-billion pound aircraft carriers. In a report published on the Tuesday, the Committee said that basic accounting errors, such as failing to allow for VAT and inflation, contributed to civil servants wasting tens of millions of pounds in an aborted attempt to switch fighter aircraft. MPs on the Committee also warned that the aircraft carrier programme faces further spiralling costs and high risks because significant technical problems have not been resolved.
The Telegraph reports that the type of aircraft to be used on the carriers was changed in 2010 when the new coalition Government said it would drop the “jump jet” version of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter in favour of the carrier variant. However, in May last year, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond MP said the Department was reverting back to the “jump jet” version amid concerns about fitting the new carriers with additional equipment for the carrier variant. The cost of conversion was revealed to be up to £2 billion, instead of up to the £800 million originally forecast, in part because officials had not factored in inflation and thought that VAT would not apply. The cost of reversing the decision was £74 million, though the Committee agreed it was nonetheless the right course of action.
However, Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee warned that the UK was on course to spend £1.85 billion more than originally forecast and would be without aircraft capability for nearly a decade. The Committee has also warned they were concerned the MOD has “little control” over the costs of acquiring the aircraft and accused the MOD of a poor record on decision making. In response, Mr Hammond said the MOD had acted swiftly to reverse its decision when the cost findings became clear and said the decision had saved some £1.2 billion.