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Defence Equipment

Volume 525: debated on Monday 14 March 2011

A wide range of options are routinely considered for all defence equipment that is not required for operational use. They include extended readiness, long-term preservation, sale and disposal. In relation to preservation, we take into account factors such as the threats against which regeneration of the capability would be predicated; the cost and practicality of preservation arrangements, which may be significant; and the lead time and costs for ensuring that suitably trained personnel could be made available to operate the equipment.

I welcome the Minister’s answer, but I am a bit concerned about cost. The shipping industry often lays up ships at minimal cost for a number of years, using small maintenance teams and dehumidifiers. Given recent events in north Africa, does my hon. Friend agree that keeping Britain’s reserve defences strong enough to meet unexpected challenges ought to be a priority, especially if it can be done at minimal cost to the taxpayer?

Nothing would give me and my ministerial colleagues more pleasure than to be able to keep all decommissioned equipment in storage, but we can do so only when it makes sense financially and strategically. Sadly, it is not as simple as switching off the engine and placing the kit in an air-conditioned environment. We need to be able to maintain the equipment, retain and maintain stores, have personnel trained to use it and—something my hon. Friend may not be aware of—pay the cost of capital needed to hold it in reserve. Sadly, it is more complicated in the MOD than it is in the private sector.