07 Nov 07. Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson has taken a “leave of absence” from the government in a bid to take part in the world-famous 24-hour Le Mans race.
In a personal message to all defence staff Lord Drayson said: “It has been a privilege to work with the military and civilian staff at the MoD to improve defence procurement over the past two and a half years. Making sure our Armed Forces have the equipment they need has been my number one priority, and I would like to pay tribute to their professionalism and dedication to duty.”
Lord Drayson went on to say that “I believe the improvements that we have achieved together have been outstanding, and I would like to thank both those within the Ministry of Defence and those within the defence industry, who have worked so hard to deliver this transformation over the last two years. We have delivered an unprecedented amount of new equipment to the front line, from large complex platforms such as the Typhoon fighter down to new kit for the individual soldier, such as the automatic grenade launcher. We have also delivered an enormous number of urgent operational requirements to support our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of it in very short timescales such as the new Mastiff protected vehicles delivered in 23 weeks.
“Our military personnel are better equipped now on operations than they have ever been.”
“The publication of the Defence Industrial Strategy in 2005 provided the framework for the reforms and marked a turning point in the relationship between government and industry. The merger of the DPA and the DLO into a single organisation, Defence Equipment and Support, has been a great success and will enable these reforms to endure and be built upon.”
“I entered politics in order to make a difference, and feel that together we have done that. Thank you for your hard work and your support.”
The BBC reported that he is resigning from his unpaid post to take part a series of qualifying events in the United States. A government spokesman said it was “a key step towards his eventual dream of success” in Le Mans. Lord Drayson came second in the British GT championship this year, driving a “unique bio-ethanol fuelled” car. The millionaire businessman, who in 2004 was Labour’s biggest individual donor, made his fortune in the technology sector.
In a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Lord Drayson said: “As you know I have a passion for motor racing and over the past year have competed in the British GT championship racing a unique bio-ethanol fuelled race car, achieving a ‘historic first’ win for a green fuelled car and coming second overall in the championship.
“A number of special circumstances have now presented me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take my racing to the next level.
“I have the opportunity to race next year in the American Le Mans series in the US, a key step towards my eventual dream of success in the Le Mans 24-hours endurance race.”
“You are of course lucky to have that opportunity but you are showing your customary boldness and imagination by pursuing it.” Gordon Brown
He said next year was the first time bio-ethanol cars would be allowed to compete, adding: “So this is a wonderful opportunity to showcase British motorsport technology for environmentally friendly racing.”
Lord Drayson also said: “Unfortunately it cannot be combined with the challenge of full time government office.”
Mr Brown wrote to say he was sorry to lose him and looked forward to “your return to government when your leave of absence ends”.
He added: “I understand your desire to take up the extraordinary opportunity which has now emerged to achieve your great life’s ambition.
“You are of course lucky to have that opportunity but you a