Politics

MPs Frustrated Over MOD’s 'Lamentable' Failure To 'Get A Grip' On Equipment Plan

The MOD said it was committed to securing the best equipment for the military.

MPs have expressed frustration over the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) continued failure to produce a properly funded plan to equip the Armed Forces.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said its "lamentable" that ministers have still not taken the strategic decisions needed to set the £181 billion equipment plan on a sustainable path.

Instead, it said, the MOD is stuck in a cycle of short-term decision-making, using additional funds to offset financial pressures - resulting in poor value for money for the taxpayer.

According to the latest report by the National Audit Office (NAO), the rolling 10-year equipment plan is between £2.9 billion and £13 billion over budget - with the MOD having little idea how to make up the shortfall.

The committee said it has still not made the "hard choices" necessary to close the "affordability gap" which had risen in part from the failure to fully fund the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

"We are extremely frustrated that we see the same problems year after year and that, despite repeated departmental assurances that it will make progress, there appear to be no consequences for failure to deliver," the committee said.

"The Government has still not taken the strategic decisions required to establish an affordable equipment plan and deliver the crucial military capabilities needed by our Armed Forces.

"The department's lamentable failure to get a grip on the equipment plan continues, despite this committee and the NAO consistently highlighting serious affordability issues in the plan year after year."

Anonymous sailors onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth during naming ceremony 040714 CREDIT MOD
The MOD said it was committed to securing the best equipment for the Armed Forces (Picture: MOD).

The warning comes as ministers have promised a major overhaul of defence procurement procedures as part of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

The review - described as the biggest of its kind in 30 years - has been delayed because of the coronvirus pandemic and is not expected to get underway until 2021.

Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier MP said it is time minsters finally get to grips with the issue.

"The MOD knows what it's getting wrong. We know what it's getting wrong," she said.

"For years we have made concrete proposals to improve delivery of key strategic priorities and here we are again, with the same gaps in our national defence and the same risk to our Armed Forces personnel, year after year."

The MOD said it was committed to securing the best equipment for the military.

A spokesman said: “As the committee acknowledges, managing complex defence programmes can be challenging and we continue to reduce the gap between our budget and predicted costs, achieving £7.8 billion of efficiency savings last year and securing an extra £2.2 billion for defence.”

The report comes after Tory MP Mark Francois criticised the department's handling of procurement last week.

During a Defence Select Committee hearing, he warned the head of the Armed Forces that the Prime Minister's chief adviser will "sort you out his own way" if the MOD does not change its procurement process.

Cover image: Ministry of Defence main building in central London (Picture: Crown Copyright).