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Departmental Procurement

Volume 522: debated on Monday 31 January 2011

The Government are determined to drive out the mismanagement of the equipment programme experienced under the last Administration. Developing a balanced, affordable programme must be our first priority. The strategic defence and security review and the current planning round process are major steps on the road to achieving that, but ongoing acquisition reforms, the work of the defence reform unit, and the appointment of Bernard Gray as Chief of Defence Matériel are also signals of our determination to address the issue successfully.

I thank the Minister for his answer. I also welcome Lord Currie’s review of single-source pricing regulations. The major projects reports produced by the National Audit Office in 2009 and 2010 issued scathing assessments of the last Government’s record of purchasing defence equipment. How will the Currie review ensure better value for money for taxpayers?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of the review, which I announced to the House last week. Given that some 40% of work by value is secured through this route, it is crucial to the taxpayer that we secure value for money from procurements. It is important for industry to be given incentives to reduce costs, and this will be good news for small and medium-sized enterprises, many of which find the present procedures for procuring work exceptionally onerous. Moreover, by making industry more competitive on world markets we will increase our export potential. It is a win-win situation.

Can the Minister tell the House what the implications of the strategic defence and security review are for organisations and companies that depend almost entirely on Ministry of Defence contracts—for example, Remploy? The Remploy factory in my constituency depends entirely on MOD contracts and its workers are frightened for their jobs. Can he give me assurances that I can offer to those workers that their jobs are secure for the future, based on MOD contracts?

I cannot offer that specific assurance—I am not aware of the specific situation—but I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the situation in detail, if that would help.

What is the nature of the inquiries taking place into the procurement of the search and rescue helicopter contract? Do they involve the police or potential disciplinary action? When will we know whether the contract has been completely invalidated by what has been discovered?

The investigation into the issue notified by the preferred bidder is ongoing. Until the issue has been properly considered it is not possible to progress to procurement. I hope that it will be possible to make a further statement to the House on the way forward. No decision has yet been taken on this matter and, in view of the issues involved, there is nothing more I can say at this stage to the House.