Page last updated at 22:30 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 23:30 UK

Defence report 'not suppressed'

Defence minister Quentin Davies denies defence report suppressed

Defence minister Quentin Davies has denied claims ministers suppressed a report saying billions of pounds have been wasted in defence procurement.

The review, commissioned by the Ministry of Defence, had been due to be published in July, but the prime minister said it would be delayed.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox has claimed its release was stopped because it showed "12 years of incompetence".

Mr Davies said it was not finished, but the MoD said it had a draft version.

Wider review

The BBC has now seen details of the report, which says "the MoD does not really know the price of any kit, and that project management does not exist in the department".

It says the MoD is always late in admitting there is a problem, and time issues are worse than 10 years ago.

It also suggests the budget on procurement will only be in balance if no further equipment is ordered by 2028.

BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said the report added up to a damning verdict on how the MoD deals with long-term decisions about buying kit for the military.

The report, commissioned by former defence secretary John Hutton and led by ex-defence aide Bernard Gray, looked into the MoD's mechanisms for defence procurement.

Downing Street sources told the BBC it would form part of a wider review of defence being conducted by the MoD.

Our correspondent said she understood Number 10 had been reluctant to publish the report on its own before a "direction of travel" had been agreed.

We have a catalogue of bureaucracy, incompetence and time wasting
Liam Fox
Shadow defence secretary

It has been reported the Gray review, which was meant to be published before Parliament rose for the summer, found up to £2.5bn a year was being wasted because the MoD could not afford to pay for projects on time.

Dr Fox has accused the government of wasting money that could be spent on front-line troops in Afghanistan and called for the report to be published as soon as possible.

He said: "By trying to suppress this report, the prime minister has demonstrated that he cares more about the reputation of Labour than he does about the well-being of the armed forces.

"The government has a moral duty to ensure that our armed forces have the equipment they need for the war fighting they are asked to do; instead we have a catalogue of bureaucracy, incompetence and time wasting."

'Pure drivel'

He told the BBC News Channel hard copies of the report had gone out and were being hurriedly recalled. He also said Freedom of Information requests had been submitted to try to force the early release of the report.

Mr Davies told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had seen an incomplete version of the report two months ago.

He said it was now with defence procurement minister Lord Drayson and he had "no idea" when it was due to be completed - but insisted once it was finished it would not be "suppressed".

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

He said many of the issues over defence procurement were related to "legacy" projects from the 1990s such as "Nimrod and Chinook Mark 3" and claimed "we are doing far, far better now".

Mr Davies also described as "pure drivel" a newspaper report that up to 750 jobs were under threat at Rolls Royce because the MoD was preparing to reject its fighter engine in favour of a cheaper American version.

Mr Davies said: "There is no sense at all in which a decision has been taken. We are a long way from taking a decision.

"I haven't in my own mind reached any conclusions. I'm still in the process of examining the evidence, having conversations with people.

"We will move to a decision over quite a lot of months. I'm sorry that all sorts of people may have been upset and agitated in Rolls-Royce from a completely false report."

An MoD spokesman said: "We attach great importance to improving procurement and that is why the former Defence Secretary, John Hutton, commissioned the Grey Review.

"We want to ensure equipment is purchased as efficiently as possible and this review will feed into our recently announced Green Paper on Defence.

"We are constantly improving the procurement process which has seen us deliver £10bn of equipment to the front line over the last three years."



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