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Oral evidence
Taken before the Defence Committee on Wednesday 25 June 2003
Members present:
Mr Bruce George, in the Chair
Mr James Cran
Mr Gerald Howarth
Mr Kevan Jones
Jim Knight
Mr Frank Roy
Witnesses: LORD BACH, a Member of the House of Lords, Minister for Defence Procurement, SIR PETER SPENCER KCB, Chief of Defence Procurement, and LIEUTENANT GENERAL ROB FULTON, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability), examined.
Q217 Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. I can recall once a team from MoD admitting that on procurement issues their “A” team was going to the Public Accounts Committee. They did not quite state it as boldly as that. However, we cannot complain on this occasion on procurement issues. Minister, we are very grateful to you and to Sir Peter Spencer and Lieutenant General Fulton. Thank you for coming. We have an interesting and demanding agenda. Perhaps, Lord Bach, you have a few opening remarks?
Lord Bach: I have a few remarks, if I may. I am delighted to be back before the Committee to discuss progress on delivering our equipment programme, and of course the MoD very much welcomes this Committee’s continued and valuable interest in the critical element of our overall defence capability. May I briefly introduce the other witnesses? I am joined today by Sir Peter Spencer, the new Chief of Defence Procurement, whom you have in the very recent past already questioned, and by Lieutenant General Rob Fulton, who took up his post as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability), in other words the equipment customer, at the beginning of June. Chairman, when I was here in May last year, and as part of your Committee’s 2002 survey of major procurement projects, I was very much the junior member among the witnesses before you. One year on, I find myself in the opposite position and to this extent, that compared to the witnesses who were also here, I am the witness longest in post. But this is a strong and expert team that I have with me. You know, I think, already the considerable experience in the acquisition area that Sir Peter brings to his new portfolio; he has a lot of experience in the procurement field. General Fulton is also known to this Committee from his previous role with the Equipment Capability Customer area as Capability Manager (Information Superiority) and for his work in particular in shaping and articulating the concept of Network Enabled Capability. This is a particularly interesting time perhaps to review where we have got to in a range of key equipment projects and in our acquisition and industrial policies. Much has happened in the last year. There have been a number of important developments in the projects covered by your survey, including: the adoption of an “Alliance” approach to the future aircraft carriers; contract signature on two collaborative projects, Meteor and A400M; and the agreements reached with BAE Systems earlier this year on the way forward for Nimrod and Astute. I have some encouraging news to report to you on Typhoon. There is also a number of broader factors which today together provide an unusual context for this year’s review. Let me very briefly highlight two key issues. First, of course, the UK’s armed forces have just taken part in decisive war-fighting operations in Iraq. Our servicemen and women have of course again demonstrated those qualities of professionalism, courage and humanity for which they are renowned. The battle-winning quality of their equipment also made an important contribution to the rapid success of the campaign. We are now, as you know, in the process of identifying and learning the lessons from Operation TELIC. Emerging findings will be published next month before the summer break. The more detailed points will take a little longer to digest. I do not want to pre-empt that work, but I have

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