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Defence Equipment and Support

Volume 548: debated on Monday 16 July 2012

7. What plans he has for the future of Defence Equipment and Support; and if he will make a statement. (116897)

I expect to be able to make a written ministerial statement about this issue tomorrow that will give further detail. However, in headline terms, the analysis conducted by the Chief of Defence Matériel on the comparative benefits of changing Defence Equipment and Support into either an Executive non-departmental public body with a strategic partner from the private sector or a Government-owned contractor-operated entity suggests that the strategic case for the GoCo option is stronger. More value-for-money analysis is required to confirm that assessment, and the Ministry of Defence will focus effort over the summer on developing and testing the GoCo option further.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Was it not the case that the Government were always in favour of privatising Defence Equipment and Support but found it difficult to find the evidence to show that that provided value for money for the taxpayer? Were the other options under active consideration and in development?

We have looked at all the options, including what we call “DE and S-plus”: keeping an on-vote solution with enhanced capabilities. At the moment, it is clear that the work being done is pointing in the direction of a Government-owned contractor-operated entity, but I will publish further details tomorrow, and further details still as they become available later in the summer and in the autumn.

While welcoming my right hon. Friend’s willingness to be bold in this area, may I suggest to him that one of the key factors to take into account in deciding just how bold to be—the GoCo is the boldest option—will be how many years Mr Gray is willing to stay in the job? I speak as one of his great admirers.

We are extremely grateful for the contribution that Bernard Gray is making as Chief of Defence Matériel. He is looking at bold and radical solutions that will allow us to deliver the equipment programme within the budget envelope we have set, and thus ensure that the whole of our programme for the armed forces is sustainable, in marked contrast to what the previous Government managed to deliver.