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PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

03 Sep 13. 18th PAC Report 2013-2014. Carrier Strike: the 2012 reversion decision. Chair: The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said, “This u-turn, which will cost the taxpayer at least £74m, is the latest in an ongoing saga that has seen billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money down the drain.
“When this programme got the green light in 2007, we were supposed to get two aircraft carriers, available from 2016 and 2018, at a cost to the taxpayer of £3.65bn. We are now on course to spend £5.5bn and have no aircraft carrier capability for nearly a decade. The MOD rushed into a decision in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review to change the type of aircraft to be flown from the carriers, claiming it would save money and improve capability. Just 18 months later they were forced to admit they had got it wrong and revert to the original choice of aircraft. At the time of the SDSR the Department believed the cost of converting the carriers for the new aircraft would be between £500m and £800m. By May 2012 it had realised that the true cost would be as a high as £2bn. The MOD has admitted that the 2010 decision was based on deeply flawed information, generated under time pressure and in secret. Officials also made incredibly basic errors such as forgetting to include the costs of VAT and inflation. The Committee is still not convinced that the MOD has this programme under control. It remains subject to huge technical and commercial risks, with the potential for further uncontrolled growth in costs. We are also concerned that, according to current plans, the early warning radar system essential for protecting the carrier will not be available for operation until 2022, two years after the first carrier and aircraft are delivered and initially operated. And the MOD does not yet have the funding to replace the shipping needed to support the new carrier. To avoid making the same mistakes again the MOD needs to start planning now for the next SDSR in 2015, including making sure that this time it has the right information on which to base decisions.”
BATTLESPACE Comment: Politics, Scottish politics in particular, have a lot to do with the carrier fiasco. Gordon Brown’s position ensured that CVF won a huge slice of the defence budget and was ring fenced at the expense of the other key items such as FRES, whose budget was plundered for CVF. Wait for more escalations as ‘First of Class’ boats always create problems!

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