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Levene Review

Volume 533: debated on Monday 10 October 2011

2. What progress he is making in implementing the recommendations of the Levene review of defence reform. (72900)

Since entering office, we have made significant progress in transforming defence. The new Defence Board and the Major Projects Review Board are up and running. The Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Defence Business Services organisation have both been established. We have appointed the first commander of the new Joint Forces Command. In addition to the specific recommendations in Lord Levene’s report, we have completed the basing and reserves reviews, and, even more importantly, established a broadly affordable future defence programme. This ambitious, but achievable, programme of work is part of transformation across defence, the likes of which has not been seen in a generation.

I commend the Secretary of State on the substantial work that he has done so far in implementing the Levene report and ask him to stick to his guns in dealing with the £38 billion hole in the budget. Has he had any word of apology from the Opposition?

I think it is unreasonable for my hon. Friend to expect an apology from the Opposition as they do not yet understand what they did. They are still deficit deniers who not only fail to recognise what they did to the MOD budget, but do not yet understand what they did to the broader British economy.

Levene recommended strengthening financial and performance management to ensure affordability and accountability. However, the National Audit Office rated the MOD’s response to the major projects report as weak, and criticised the Department for not submitting the multi-million pound costs for contract cancellations. When will Parliament receive the necessary details to be able to scrutinise these big ticket decisions?

The Department will be fully audited on its equipment programme, and let me tell the hon. Gentleman one of the big differences we have made. The Defence Board is the primary decision-making body of the MOD, and we inherited a board that had 24 members and was not chaired by the Secretary of State, which in my view was an utterly absurd position to be in. We now have a Defence Board of nine, chaired by the Secretary of State and with far more vertical management structures, accountability and responsibility.