23 April 2010 | Nick Martindale
The Conservative party has pledged to reduce running costs in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by 25 per cent and review “wasteful EU defence initiatives” should it win the general election.
Launching its armed forces manifesto, the party said it would overhaul the UK’s defence procurement policy after what it called “appalling mismanagement” by the current government.
It quoted a report by the National Audit Office which claimed the 15 top projects were £4.5 billion over budget and had been delayed by a total of 339 months.
The manifesto said: “The MoD must be made as efficient as possible. The problem now is that, under Labour, too much waste and inefficiency goes unchecked. For example, they have spent over £2.5 billion on external consultants since 1997.”
It added: “We will reform the current defence procurement structure and process to ensure that it is as efficient as possible and ensure that equipment is delivered to our armed forces when they need it. We will look at how to improve cost estimation of projects and the commercial skills and expertise of staff in the MoD.”
A Conservative government would provide the defence industry with a firm basis for planning its work through the Strategic Defence and Security Review and set out a new Defence Industrial Strategy, the manifesto added.
All decisions on defence equipment would be determined by five clear criteria: capability, affordability, adaptability, interoperability and exportability, the party said.
The Tories also pledged to make Nato “the cornerstone of defence” and to “re-evaluate our position with the European Defence Agency”.
It claimed Labour’s plans to cut costs on projects such as the aircraft carrier programme would cause higher costs and create further delays in future years.
In its manifesto, Labour said acute cost pressures in long-term defence projects would be addressed by “reforming defence procurement, making further reductions in civilian staff, and cutting lower-priority spending on headquarter costs, travel and consultancy”.
The Liberal Democrat party has pledged to review all major government defence procurement projects as part of a plan to save £15 billion year-on-year if it comes to power.