The Houses of Parliament rose for recess on Tuesday 12th November. This autumn recess period is very brief and both Houses will returned to Parliament on Monday 18th November.
The House of Commons Public Bill Committee will be publishing its report on the Defence Reform Bill on Wednesday. On the same day, the Bill will also undergo its Third Reading in the House.
Former Defence Secretary Lord Reid has warned that UK warships will not be built in Scotland if there is a “Yes” vote in next year’s independence referendum, the BBC reports. Lord Reid’s warning is in reaction to BAE Systems’ announcement last week of 1,775 job losses at its UK shipyards, the majority of which will fall on Portsmouth.
Lord Reid said that the next Royal Navy vessels scheduled for construction, the Type 26 vessels, will not be built in Glasgow if Scotland becomes “a foreign country”. Lord Reid said: “It is a fact that since the Second World War no UK government of any political stripe has ever commissioned the building of a warship in a foreign country”.
However, Deputy First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon MSP has insisted that the Clyde is the only place where the ships can be built. Ms Sturgeon added that Glasgow was the “most effective location” for the manufacture of Type 26 ships. Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael MP said that Ms Sturgeon needed to “admit she is wrong” on the assertion than an independent Scotland could still build UK warships.
Answers to written questions on MDP pensions
- Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the review of the pension ages of the MDP and DFRS will consider the cost of individuals’ pension contributions and existing net pay deductions; and when he intends to place in the Library the terms of reference for the review of the pension ages of the MDP and DFRS.
Defence Minister Anna Soubry MP said that for details of the remit of the review she referred Mr Reid to the answer given by Defence Minister Andrew Murrison MP in response to Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP on 31 October – this was covering in our monitoring document of 1st November.
Ms Soubry said that copy of the terms of reference has now been place in the House of Commons library. She added that it was regretted that this has not be done earlier.
- Labour MP Kevan Jones asked the Secretary of State for Defence what contracts his Department has with Serco; and what the (a) monetary value and (b) length is of each such contract.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne MP provided a list of the current contracts, which commenced prior to January 2011, which the MOD and its Trading Funds have with Serco, in a table. Under longstanding convention, the list includes contracts with AWE, a Government Owned Contractor Operated company in which Serco have a third share. The list does not include contracts where Serco provides good and services under subcontract to other defence suppliers.
Concerns expressed over Serco’s far-reaching involvement with MOD contracts
The Financial Times reports that Serco is in possession of more than £4 billion worth of defence contracts. The newspaper says the revelation highlights how involved the contractor is with the MOD, and demonstrates Serco’s deep ties with the defence department despite being at the centre of seven investigations into the way it runs government contracts. The FT says that the risk posed by these investigations is considered so serious that analysts expect the group to warn of a gloomy outlook for profits when it updates investors today.
Serco is currently suspended from being awarded new contracts while it is investigated over a series of scandals, including a Serious Fraud Office inquiry into allegations it overcharged taxpayers for tagging offenders. The FT says that it would be “hard” for the MOD to disengage itself from Serco, given the integral role it plays in providing government services. Its contracts range from training RAF pilots to running the Aldermaston nuclear facility.
Labour’s shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones warned that there were “huge questions” over the appropriateness of a company facing such allegations to be considered for sensitive roles. Serco’s partnership with Jacobs Engineering and Lockheed Martin to run the nuclear weapons plant near Aldermaston in Berkshire is worth £2.8 billion and the FT says it guarantees it a place in one of the most sensitive areas of government until 2024, regardless of any fraud inquiries.
Serco’s position is under particular scrutiny recently, as it is among a consortium bidding to help run defence procurement. The FT says that the part-privatisation plan will be put at risk if Serco is forced to drop out of the bidding after the SFO report, another reason ministers may be reluctant to follow through on their threat to exclude the group entirely from government work. Tom Gash, director of research at the Institute of Government, said: “The public are increasingly sceptical about government’s ability to design and manage contracts effectively”.