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22 Jul 08. SITUATION IN IRAQ IMPROVING AND UK DOING A VITAL JOB, SAY MPs. The security situation in Basra has been transformed in the past six months and the UK is helping the Iraqi Security Forces become self-sufficient and effective, according to a Report published today by the House of Commons Defence Committee (Fifteenth Report of Session 2007-08, UK operations in Iraq and the Gulf, HC 982). The Committee visited Iraq and the Arabian Gulf in June 2008 and found increasing security and stability being established in and around Basra. The Iraqi-led Operation Charge of the Knights has dealt a severe blow to the insurgency in southern Iraq, and with increased stability are coming the first steps in economic recovery and development. The UK contributes to military, naval and police training teams which are helping to build up the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces. This is now the most important task for UK Forces in Iraq and the Ministry of Defence will have to consider how best to maintain the activities of the training teams as it plans its future presence in the region. UK Forces also perform a vital role in protecting Iraq’s oil infrastructure in the Gulf. Oil is the key to the future prosperity of Iraq, and helping the Iraqis ensure stability and security in the Gulf is a vital role for the Coalition. The Committee pays tribute to the work that UK Service personnel are doing and recognises the often difficult, sometimes dangerous and always delicate nature of operations in that area. Commenting on the Report, Committee Chairman Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said: “We have visited Iraq regularly as part of our scrutiny of the UK deployment there, and this year the security situation in Basra is a world away from what we saw last year. The Iraqi Security Forces have restored law and order to many parts of the city and the UK is working with them now to safeguard that stability and develop their capabilities. That will need a continuing commitment from the UK to maintain a military training presence in Iraq. The cornerstone of Iraq’s prosperity and security is economic development. Iraq is not inherently a poor country, but the UK and the rest of the Coalition must help Iraq develop its economy and infrastructure to reap the benefits of its natural resources.

Jul 08. Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2007. Publication of the Committee’s 33rd Report, Session 2007-08. Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
“The Ministry of Defence is trying to persuade Parliament that the forecast costs of major defence equipment projects are under control – by moving expenditure from those projects to other defence budgets. This is not acceptable: it diminishes Parliamentary accountability; and the transferred costs will doubtless have resulted in those budget holders who have taken them on having to cut their own defence activities.

“It is a well-established principle that delaying major equipment projects leads to higher costs in the long run. The Department should identify lessons from the five and a half years it took to award the contract for the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers.

“In the light of a long line of critical reports by our Committee, the MoD has made numerous reforms to its procurement working practices. Lasting improvements have not resulted. The Department must address the systemic weaknesses underlying cost increases and time delays. There is a ‘conspiracy of optimism’ in the Department and industry leading to the acceptance of unrealistically low estimates of the cost of bringing major equipment into service.”

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 33rd Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Ministry of Defence, examined allocating expenditure outside the boundaries of the Major Projects Report; achieving value for money from procurement strategies; and improving performance against cost, t

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