What’s going on at the MoD?

5th February, 2013 10:56 am

On Tuesday evening last week David Cameron said he wanted to ring-fence the entire defence budget from 2015. By Wednesday morning Philip Hammond was desperately ‘clarifying’ that the only portion of the budget for which any guarantee could be made was the equipment element, which is less than 40% of the total. What Ministers did not tell you was that on the same day the National Audit Office released a report on defence equipment which said the Government’s guarantees will only be affordable if non-equipment spending is cut, which means more likely reductions in welfare, housing and personnel.

The significance of last week’s governmental incompetence is twofold. First, as part of his apprenticeship for the job in government he has had his eye on for almost a decade – Chancellor – Philip Hammond is desperately trying to build a reputation on ‘balancing the books’, but the NAO report exposed the fact he is failing to do so. Second, the Prime Minister is unaware of his own defence spending policy, which not just accounts for £34bn of taxpayer pounds but goes to the heart of our ability to achieve our ambitions in the world and protect our service personnel.

Many will think will take some beating as an example of government shambles – or as one wag has called it #bombnishambles, or #armygeddon – but there is a ready-made contender. A Defence Select Committee report is published today which revisits the flawed 2010 Defence Review and the Government’s decision to change the planes that fly from our future aircraft carriers. Out went the vertical take off and land variant, which Labour had planned to introduce, to be replaced by the ‘cats and traps’ variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. Standing at the Dispatch Box in 2010 David Cameron announced his plans to reverse Labour’s  policy, scrap all the Harriers, which left us without aircraft to fly from carriers for a decade, sell Ark Royal, build two carriers but mothball one and sack trainee pilots.

Soon the plan began to unravel and, just weeks in to the job, Philip Hammond had the humiliation of performing a u-turn and returning to Labour’s original plans. Their u-turn only came full circle after an embarrassment of errors. They said their policy was cheaper – but it was more expensive by up to £2bn more than planned. They said the UK would be interoperable with the French – but their chosen jet couldn’t even land on the French carrier. The Prime Minister personally derided a policy he has now adopted.

Ministers scrapped the Harrier Jump jet fleet, but the irony now is that the Government are in fact buying a new fleet of jump jets, meaning we will need to retrain and redevelop the skills carelessly cast aside. It is as incoherent as it is ludicrous.

The Select Committee has now concluded that the ‘decision was rushed and based upon incomplete and inaccurate policy development…This decision ultimately led to increased costs to the carrier strike programme and a delay in the in-service date of the carrier.’ The report shows that the decision has cost the taxpayer £100m, and seems set to rise still further.

This all comes as there are rising concerns across the Government’s defence planning.  There are real worries over proposals to increase the number of Reservists to plug the capability gaps left by deep cuts in the fulltime Army. For our nation’s sake we need that policy to succeed but there is as yet no government offer to incentivise employers, who are understandably concerned about losing employees for longer periods of Reservists service. The Government are also now considering cutting those who support our Special Forces at a time when they are needed to help deal with al Qaeda.  Meanwhile the ‘bedroom tax’ could hit Forces families while their loved ones train or serve overseas and changes to public sector pensions have failed to give defence fire and police services the same exemptions in the rising retirement age as their civilian counterparts.  This all shows a set of Ministers either not on top of the detail or inconsiderate of their people’s needs.

At a time when our Forces are being asked to do more overseas in new contexts they are being given less frontline resource, cuts in welfare support and limited strategic guidance. New and complex challenges collide with fiscal realities to make tough decisions and trade-offs necessary, but this must be underpinned by direction, sound financing and a compassion that drives a determination to do the utmost by those who serve and their families.  The last few weeks have shown us that the Government demonstrates none of these qualities. Incompetence is corrosive when it comes to the government’s policy on defence.  They can’t go on like this.

Jim Murphy is the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

  • Pingback: What’s going on at the MoD? | Labour Friends of the Forces()

  • http://www.facebook.com/ptanto Paul Tanto

    Delivering two aircraft carriers without planes to fly from them does, indeed, take a staggering lack of competence / attention to detail.

  • uglyfatbloke

    Just the next step in the sad tale of British defence policy since god knows when. is there a competition between the two parties to see who can do the most stupid things while sucking up to major military suppliers? The carrier programme was pretty silly in the first place and the Tories have made it even more so, but Labour has nothing to boast about here…Trident? The tank replacement programme? What next ? A new bow-and -arrow factory?
    Billions spent on kit that does n’t work and pointless operations, but we can’t pay a decent wage to our service personnel, OTH we can somehow afford more admirals than we have ships, more generals that we have battalions and – so i’ m told – more Air marshals than we have squadrons and there is no control over the revolving door arrangements of senior officers joining defence corporations as soon as they leave the service.
    So that’s great……

Latest

  • Comment Featured Why I introduced the Assisted Dying Bill

    Why I introduced the Assisted Dying Bill

    My main reason for introducing the Assisted Dying Bill is simple. It’s a straightforward question of choice and dignity: with appropriate, strong safeguards, terminally ill adults of sound mind should be legally allowed to choose to have assistance to end their own lives. I value life, and I do understand that some people believe very deeply that ending one’s own life is always wrong. Nevertheless, the depth and sincerity of their belief should not mean that they deny choice to […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Leadership candidates slam Cameron for inaction over refugee crisis

    Leadership candidates slam Cameron for inaction over refugee crisis

    The Labour leadership candidates have this morning weighed in on the refugee crisis, in which it’s estimated over 2,500 people have died since the start of this year. Yesterday, David Cameron made the following statement, in which he claimed the following: “We have taken a number of genuine asylum seekers from Syrian refugee camps and we keep that under review, but we think the most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world. I […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured It will take heart and head to win again

    It will take heart and head to win again

    When I joined the Labour Party in 1979, age 17, I had no idea that for the next 18 years, Labour would be in opposition to a Tory government. As a young activist, I seemed to be on a different demo every week. Thatcher was in power and there was no shortage of worthwhile causes. Marches for jobs, marches against the cuts, Anti-apartheid, the Anti-Nazi League, women against violence against women,… It was a long list. I was full of […]

    Read more →
  • Comment We have the money to make Labour a movement – we can’t lose this moment

    We have the money to make Labour a movement – we can’t lose this moment

    Jessie J may have tried to argue it’s not about the money, money, money, but anyone facing a well-funded opposition at an election knows all too well the difference it makes. One aspect of the leadership contest yet to be fully discussed is the cash that it has generated for Labour. The combination of the volume of people paying the supporters rate, the increase in membership and the levy paid by leadership candidates means a serious amount of money will […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Leadership matters

    Leadership matters

    This week has really shown up the petty squabbling in the Labour leadership contest for what it is – inward looking and small. Because when it matters, the Labour Party has united around the issue of giving much needed asylum to refugees. Our differences may seem big – and sometimes they are . They do matter. But the gulf of difference between the way the whole of the Labour Party has reacted to what is needed and the nasty, small […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit