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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 16:33 GMT
Defence staff 'need big TV sets'
 Andrew Flintoff plays a shot during the fifth day of the second Test match against Pakistan
The Test Match is proving compulsive viewing
Ministry of Defence officials have defended spending 348,000 on flat screen televisions - and rejected the claim they are used to watch cricket.

MOD chiefs say the 134 state-of-the-art 2,597 televisions are needed for video conferences and watching the news.

Their comments came after Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said he was told they were great for watching Test Matches.

Mr Lamb said it was "cavalier" of the MoD to spend so much when army equipment funding was under strain.

'Profligacy'

Mr Lamb told the BBC: "I was attending a meeting at the Ministry of Defence and I was walking through their open plan offices.

If people are sitting watching cricket matches they can be disciplined for not doing their job
MoD spokesman

"I was completely gobsmacked by the number of televisions all around, in every work space.

"And they weren't modest little things like we have here in the Houses of Parliament, with small screens. They were whopping great flat screen, wide screen sets.

"I said to the official 'do you watch al-Jazeera on them?' and he made a comment about how they were great for watching the cricket."

Mr Lamb said although it was "only a little example" it "smacked of central office profligacy" and was "symptomatic of the attitude" of government departments towards costs.

"It is not the greatest message to be sending when you have a tightening of belts in the services," he added.

'Energy efficient'

The cost of the television sets, which were bought in 2003/04, was revealed in a parliamentary written answer by armed forces minister Adam Ingram.

An MoD spokesman denied the cost was excessive.

He said there had been a competitive tendering process and it was the best deal available.

The widescreen LCD televisions were a "one-off" cost and had to be used by 3,300 staff at the MoD's London headquarters.

They were more suited to open plan offices and also "more energy efficient" than conventional televisions, he added.

He said the televisions were a "genuinely important communications facility", which were used for "operational briefings" and to keep staff up to date with the news.

"If people are sitting watching cricket matches they can be disciplined for not doing their job. That is not what they are intended for," he told the BBC News website.


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