‘TIMES OF PLENTY’ – THE MIRAGE WE FORECAST
By Julian Nettlefold
18 Nov 08. If the penny hadn’t dropped to our readers that Gordon Brown has no interest in the defence industry and sees it as a cost not a benefit, we only have to look at the savage cuts inflicted this week. The announcements that he would use Capital projects as a way of regenerating the economy obviously did not include the defence industry and some sources say that it has got worse as we say below with the additional cuts suggested of CVF Vs Trident. For those observers who said that he would ‘change his spots’ on becoming Prime Minister, they are wrong. Whilst he strides the world stage as the world’s economic fixer he has troops in theatre who are desperate for support and equipment. Whereto five years hence? He may have grudgingly supported the UORs with the hidden clawback but, after these wars are finished the Army would then be too knackered to wage another one; thus the troops can be kept in barracks and like the Australian Navy, have two months off at Christmas. Wait until the enxt bomb goes off in London. Enter the European Army solution where, as we know, in contrast to NATO, which has defended freedom for 40 years, is reluctant to wage war on a proper scale, preferring to pay lip service and sit on the sidelines while our boys are in the thick of it.
The Opposition has been silent on this issue as it becomes clear that, in spite of our Armed Forces activities and sacrifices, is no longer a vote winner.
The issue came to a head yesterday in the House of Commons Defence Select Committee where the FT reported that Present levels of spending on defence equipment threaten to devastate the onshore sector and leave Britain without a “big stick” to pursue its interests in the world, industry leaders warned on Tuesday.
In a shot across the bows of the Ministry of Defence, industry representatives said the “wheels had come off” the department because of inadequate funding, leaving the defence contractors “in limbo”.
Speaking to the Commons defence select committee, Mike Turner, the former chief executive of BAE Sytems and the chair of the Defence Industries Council, claimed an extra £1.5bn ($2.2bn) a year was required to maintain present capabilities.
Without this, he warned, Britain would lack the ability to fight wars such as
Iraq and Afghanistan within 15 years.
But Mike Turner said he expected “no programme cancellations” would result from the MoD’s examination of the defence programme, which is due to be completed within weeks. Most of the savings would be made by moving several programmes “to the right” and delaying their delivery dates, he said.
“There is not sufficient money in the defence budget to fund the future equipment programme,” he said. “The future equipment programme is paralysed.”
John Hutton, defence secretary, has told officials he is more willing to delay than cancel programmes as presses the department to live within its means. But ministers are still to take the final decision on where to find savings.
In characteristically blunt terms, Mr Turner told MPs the UK industry was in
“decline”. “Unless people pay attention to the budgeting of defence in this
country and the defence industrial base, we will not have a future,” he said
He added: “We do not just want to sit back and watch this country in 5 or 10
years time have no capability of playing a role in the world for its defence and
security interests and frankly that is what we are facing.”
The defence industry representatives argued that delaying programmes cost more
in the long run and said that talk of buying equipment “off the shelf” was “nonsense”.
Mr Turner said the industry had decided to stop pressing government to publish
the second phase of its industrial strategy the present budgetry constraints
would result in “the wrong answer”.
Britain was only able to play a role in Iraq and Afghanistan because of spending
in the “