Lord West

Military Hardware Auction 'Sounds Very Dangerous', Warns Former Military Chief

Lord West was concerned that an enemy could "reverse engineer" kit such as defensive aids.

Lord West

Lord West headed the Royal Navy from 2002 to 2006 (Picture: MOD).

A sell-off of military equipment after a storage firm used by a defence contractor went bust "sounds very dangerous", a former military chief has warned.

Lord West of Spithead, who headed the Royal Navy and served as a security minister in the last Labour government, raised his concerns at Westminster over the planned auction of stockpiled defence hardware.

He highlighted the value of equipment such as defensive aids to an enemy, who could "reverse engineer it".

The sale follows the collapse of Used Equipment Surplus & Storage Limited (UES&S), which stored equipment for the Italian defence company Leonardo and its customers, including the British Army and Royal Navy.

The Government, however, said there was "reassuring evidence that the items are not sensitive".

Wildcat Helicopter Locks In 500 UK Jobs
Leonardo make the Royal Navy's Wildcat helicopters (Picture: MOD).

Government frontbencher Baroness Goldie told Lord West that the Ministry Of Defence (MOD) "takes the safety and security of the disposal and storage of military equipment extremely seriously".

She added that Leonardo "is confident that the identified equipment is not sensitive".

But Lord West said: "I remain concerned about this.

"Having been deeply involved in the intelligence world for many years, I know the value of getting hold of equipment such as defensive aids, because you can reverse-engineer it, and look at it to see how that country is developing techniques, even if it is an old bit of kit.

"Are we now going to go through in detail the equipment listed by the liquidator to see if there is anything we should not have allowed to go onto the open market?

"It sounds very dangerous indeed."

Ministry Of Defence

Lady Goldie said: "The storage company, UES&S, was contracted by Leonardo to provide secure storage and disposal of military equipment that Leonardo no longer required.

"There was no contract between that disposal company and the MOD."

She added that the company is following "all relevant processes" and disposing equipment "in accordance with government policy and its List X obligations".