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PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

Q269 Mr Cran: Could I just ask for a bit of clarification about your point about SMEs and large firms before I come to my next question. It is simply this: that it seems to me perfectly proper that you should be thinking along these lines because of the treatment to the one or the other, the large company and the smaller SMEs, so this is like the weather, it comes and goes, but it has been witnessed for ever, this problem. Therefore, I am not asking you now to tell us what you had in your mind when you said “some action against prime contractors”, you referred to that, but I am just interested in what sort of time-frame have you got in your mind to get some ideas together to help SMEs?
Lord Bach: Well, I hope we are doing that already. The codes of practice themselves have now, I think, been in operation for some time, 12 to 18 months.
Q270 Mr Cran: But, as you yourself say, the codes of practice have no legal binding and so on. I thought I heard you say that although this was their business, the big contractor and the SMEs, you were, nonetheless prepared to get involved and – well, I could use an American expression but I will not – use a bit of influence. Did I understand that correctly?
Lord Bach: You did, but I think you should also assume that some of that has been done already.
Q271 Mr Cran: Indeed.
Lord Bach: The prime contractors know that the codes of practice are not just words and that if they are breached blatantly and flagrantly, and, I repeat what I said earlier, there is no reason to believe that that is happening on a large scale, then we will take what action we can in order to make sure that they are observed.
Q272 Mr Cran: I see.
Lord Bach: That is not necessarily in the future, but that can be now.
Q273 Mr Cran: Okay, I thought that there was a little bit more to this than there is, but what you are doing is perfectly acceptable, so I am happy to leave it at that. We have spoken about specific projects, but Mr Howarth, when he was asking you questions, spoke about a shopping list of new equipment and the like as a result of the New Chapter, but can we look at the other side. Does the New Chapter and all that stands around the New Chapter to make it meaningful lead you to conclude that there are capabilities and equipment programmes which could be curtailed, cancelled, no longer needed, just in the broadest sense?
Lord Bach: Well, I can only answer you broadly and the answer is that we would be foolish if we did not constantly keep under review procurement decisions that were taken some time ago in different environments. We would not be doing our job if we did not do that, so we do look carefully to see what is required now, whether it slips down the order a bit and how important it is when you are trading off capability requirements so that we get a balanced programme that actually corresponds to what we need today than to perhaps what we needed five years ago or ten years ago, so the answer is that we do look, we do keep programmes under review constantly and we are prepared to take decisions about them, which may be painful, if we need to.
Q274 Mr Cran: That is the general answer. Can we have any specifics about anything which is falling down, you used the words, not me, falling down the list and so on and so forth, or indeed may be cancelled?
Lord Bach: I cannot, I do not think, honestly go further than what I have said at the present time because there is a way of doing these things and if there any, they would of course be announced. I am always of course prepared to talk in closed session to the Committee if I can be more helpful in that regard, but I do not think I can be here.
Q275 Mr Cran: Minister, you nearly tantalise me because it was you who said you would give the general answer and then we will look at the specific answer, so you said it, not me.
Lord Bach: As I said it, I realised I might have been in error!
Q276 Mr Cran: It was worth a try! Moving on, could you give

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