Cameron takes aim at procurement in defence review

20 October 2010
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20 October 2010 | Lindsay Clark

“Getting to grips with procurement is vital,” said Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday in UK Parliament, as he announced cuts to defence spending of about 8 per cent. 

In yesterday’s statement on the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the prime minister took the opportunity to lay into the previous government’s track record on military procurement. “There’s only one thing worse than spending money you don’t have,” he told Parliament. “And that’s buying the wrong things with it – and doing so in the wrong way.”

He singled out the Nimrod programme as an example, saying it cost the British taxpayer more than £3 billion, while the cost per aircraft had increased by over 200 per cent and it was over eight years late, he said, before announcing its cancellation. 

Although the large part of cuts would come out of reduced numbers of personnel in the armed forces, Cameron also announced changes to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), as well as cuts to capital equipment programmes.  

Although the MoD would see real growth in its budget, he said, it would cut its Estate, dispose of unnecessary assets and renegotiate contracts with industry. He also said it would cut its management overheads, including a reduction in civilian numbers by 25,000 by 2015.

Taken together, these changes in the MoD will save £4.7 billion, he said. 

On top of Nimrod being axed, Cameron also announced cuts to procurement programmes including a 40 per cent reduction in the number of tanks and heavy artillery. 

In the Navy, he said there would be the procurement of a fleet of “the most capable nuclear powered hunter-killer astute class submarines anywhere in the world”, six Type 45 destroyers and a new programme to develop less expensive, more flexible, modern frigates. However, the Ark Royal would be scrapped early, along with the Harrier jump jet, he said. 

The government would extend the life of the Vanguard class Trident submarine so that the first replacement submarine is not required until 2028 saving billion £2 billion. It would also change specifications to save around £1.2 billion.

In response, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Delay of Trident is a large un-funded spending commitment [which is] precisely the problem [the Prime Minister] told he wants to get away from in procurement.”

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