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PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

22 Feb 11. MoD: Value for Money Speech. The Defence Secretary delivered (22 Feb 11) a speech entitled Value for Money at the MoD. A Major Projects Review Board, chaired by the Defence Secretary, is to be established initially to monitor the 20 biggest projects by value but expanding to the 50 largest. ‘Projects of Concern’ are to be published every quarter. The MoD has entered into a period of “intense negotiation” with a number of major suppliers, with 130 contracts being reviewed. The number of contracts is set to increase to 500 over the next 18 months. At the same time, arrangements for single-source contracts (the ‘Yellow Book’ pricing mechanism) are also to be reviewed. The Defence Secretary intends to establish a Defence Suppliers Forum with representatives of all the MoD’s suppliers reflecting the Defence Industry as a whole.
Comment: The Defence Secretary also mentioned the forthcoming reforms of Senior Rank structures and the Reserves as well as Lord Levene’s work on Defence Reform. All three are long overdue. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 11/09, 28 Feb 11)

22 Feb 11. Major Projects: Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Report. The PAC published (22 Feb 11) The Major Projects Report 2010. The PAC only examined four projects in detail, but was able to identify over £8,000m of taxpayer’s money which has been written off or incurred simply for reasons of delay. The four projects are: the two aircraft carriers; the final Typhoon aircraft purchase; the Nimrod MRA4 aircraft (now cancelled) and the Sentinel surveillance aircraft (to be taken out of service in 2015 rather than in 2035).
Comment: One of the PAC’s main conclusions is that: “The new Accounting Officer must at all times have affordability at the forefront of her mind and be prepared to act decisively if she sees it is threatened.”. This is clearly a reflection on the previous Accounting Officer who was allowed to retire without censure but with his Knighthood and four-star pension intact. The Report is published, as HC 687, for £11:00. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 11/09, 28 Feb 11)

01 Mar 11. The time has come for a political surge in Afghanistan says Foreign Affairs Committee. The British Government must use its influence to persuade the US to engage more fully, and swiftly, with the process of political reconciliation in Afghanistan if the US wishes to disengage its forces there, says the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in today’s (Wednesday 2 March) report, “The UK’s foreign policy approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan”. The report states that although the current international emphasis favours intense military pressure, aimed at defeating the insurgency, it is clear that military pressure alone is not enough to bring security and stability to Afghanistan. Chair of the Committee, Richard Ottaway MP, says, “There is a danger that without appropriate political leadership, the current military campaign is in danger of inadvertently de-railing efforts to secure a political solution to what is essentially a political problem. The US should not delay its significant involvement in talks with the Taliban leadership because, without US support in this respect, there can be no longer-term peace in Afghanistan.”
The evidence presented to the Committee has suggested that the current full-scale and highly intensive ISAF counter-insurgency campaign is not succeeding. Richard Ottaway says, “We question the fundamental assumption that success in Afghanistan can be ‘bought’ through a strategy of ‘clear, hold and build’. The distinction between al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which is so often overlooked or confused in current debates, is crucial to generating appropriate policy responses in Afghanistan. We question the Government’s logic that a full-scale counter-insurgency campaign aimed at the Taliban is necessary to prevent al-Qaeda returning or that it could ever succeed.”
The Committee says that despite the significant resources that ha

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