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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
MoD 'letting down armed forces'
Soldiers
Armed forces 'may have to go without equipment'
The armed forces may be left without vital equipment because of the Ministry of Defence's "woeful" management of major procurement projects, MPs say.

Delays or cuts in supplies could be caused by the MoD's failure to apply its own "smart acquisition" rules, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said.

Those that would be affected would be the "hard-pressed" forces and not those responsible for the projects, it said.

The MoD said "significant improvements" had been made in the past two years.

'Alarming' shortages

There have been several cases where it has been claimed British troops were not properly equipped for their mission.

No-one is ever held responsible for these failures
Edward Leigh
PAC chairman

There was widespread criticism when Sgt Steven Roberts was shot dead near the Iraqi city of Basra in 2003 after being asked to hand in his body armour because it was in short supply.

And in an earlier warning in March, the committee said there was an "alarming" shortage of battlefield helicopters.

Projects which have caused concern include those involving the Royal Navy's new Astute-class nuclear submarines, and the Nimrod and Eurofighter cases.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said of its latest report: "To all appearances, however, no-one is ever held responsible for these failures and the careers of those involved remain unaffected."
We cannot afford to put our armed forces at risk by cancellation and unacceptable delay
Michael Moore
Liberal Democrat

Defence procurement minister Lord Drayson said the next National Audit Office report on major defence projects would show progress had been made, but he said the committee was right to call for improvements.

The last report from the NAO showed a 4.8bn rise in the cost of the 20 biggest projects over two years and that delays had reached 17 years.

Lord Drayson told the BBC: "There is a lot of work we need to do."

Contractors had been told to do more to meet their contractual obligations, he added.

"Delivery of these necessarily complex and technologically demanding programmes is challenging for every country developing cutting-edge military technology."

'Get a grip'

Conservative defence spokesman Gerald Howarth said the report showed the government had "failed to get a grip" on procurement.

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Michael Moore called the report a "staggering indictment" of the MoD's policies.

"We cannot afford to put our armed forces at risk by cancellation and unacceptable delay," he said.

It comes as a report presented to European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders warned they lacked the political will to improve their defence capabilities, which was a "recipe for disaster".

One of the two retired Nato commanders who wrote the report, US General Joseph Ralston, told the BBC that demographic trends in Europe suggested that over the next several decades the average age would increase by about 13.8 years.

What the nations have signed up for today, in terms of capability, we don't have them. Neither in Nato nor in the European Union
US General Joseph Ralston

He said: "There is going to be increased pressures to increase the amount of GDP that is put on social programmes, such as healthcare and pensions and so forth, and where is that going to come from?

"It most likely is going to come from the defence budgets.

"Just to say you should spend more on defence is unlikely to occur, so are there likely to be any things we can do that are smarter, and do in a different way?

"What the nations have signed up for today, in terms of capability, we don't have them. Neither in Nato nor in the European Union."

Gen Ralston said one answer to save money was to have a "cluster" of countries with particular expertise in an area and have another group of countries concentrate on something else.




SEE ALSO:
Troops 'face helicopter shortage'
18 Mar 05 |  UK Politics
Warning over MoD kit overspend
23 Jan 04 |  UK Politics


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