Wednesday 2 May 2018
I am today laying a departmental Minute to advise that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is retrospectively notifying Parliament about contingent liabilities not previously disclosed, due to procedural errors. Her Majesty’s Treasury has retrospectively approved these contingent liabilities.
The Minute describes the contingent liabilities that the MOD holds against 10 Defence Equipment and Support contracts (DE&S). It is usual to allow a period of 14 sitting days prior to accepting a contingent liability, to provide hon. Members an opportunity to raise any objections. Regrettably, this was not done ahead of contract award in these cases and I sincerely apologise for our failure to do so. The purpose of the Minute is to regularise the position with Parliament. The contracts remain fully enforceable and the associated contingent liabilities will be reported in the 2017-18 Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) annual report and accounts.
Failure to notify these contingent liabilities prior to the award of the associated contracts has been reported to the Public Accounts Committee. The Department has noted the Committee’s concerns about this situation and fully accepts the need to follow the correct approvals and reporting procedures. DE&S has put in place a series of measures to address this issue including staff briefing; mandated training; improving the clarity of internal guidance and procedures; and additional controls in the approvals process, to ensure compliance.
The following contracts have a very low risk of the contingent liability being incurred. The liability is assessed as unquantifiable due to the nature, scope, range and scale of possible scenarios that might occur, which means that it is not possible to provide a realistic estimate of cost:
Supply of Cased Telescopic Cannon and ammunition—liability against consequential and indirect losses until 9 July 2018.
CTAI Common Cannon and ammunition project—liability against consequential and indirect losses until 3 June 2019.
Design authority support for Cased Telescopic Cannon—liability against consequential and indirect losses until 31 March 2019.
Supply of 40mm Cased Telescopic Cannon—liability against consequential and indirect losses until 15 July 2022.
BAE Systems Dreadnought design contract—liability against submarine design work until 26 April 2023.
Babcock design contract (submarines)—liability against contractor’s personnel at defence establishments until 26 April 2023.
UK/France test facilities (2010) and sub contract—UK liability for dismantling and decommissioning costs until 2065.
The following contract has an agreed amount of contingent liability up to £1.4 million against a breach of intellectual property rights which expired on 31 March 2018 and a further unquantifiable element against a breach of environmental liability until 31 March 2025:
Land equipment service provision and transformation contract.
If the liability is called against any of these contracts, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal supply procedure.
The following contract had an agreed amount of contingent liability up to £7 million against damage to Ministry of Defence property which expired on 28 February 2018. No liability was called against this contract.
Support to combined arms tactical training system.
As part of our counter-terrorism strategy, the UK is playing a leading role in the global coalition to defeat Daesh—a unified body of 75 members. We have committed nearly 1,400 military personnel to the region to provide support to local partners.
In the air, the RAF has conducted more than 1,600 air strikes in Iraq and Syria—second only to the US—and provides highly advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to coalition partners. These strikes are undertaken in the collective self-defence of Iraq as part of the global coalition to defeat Daesh, and at the request of the Government of Iraq. On the ground, British soldiers have trained over 60,000 members of the Iraqi security forces in engineering, medical, counter-IED and basic infantry skills. As a result of the coalition’s action, Daesh has lost more than 98% of the territory it once occupied in Iraq and Syria, and 7.7 million people have been liberated from its rule.
We do everything we can to minimise the risk to civilian life from UK strikes through our rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of UK service personnel. It is therefore deeply regrettable that a UK air strike on 26 March 2018, targeting Daesh fighters in eastern Syria, resulted in an unintentional civilian fatality. During a strike to engage three Daesh fighters, a civilian motorbike crossed into the strike area at the last moment and it is assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed. We reached this conclusion after undertaking routine and detailed post-strike analysis of all available evidence. There are limits on any further details that can be provided given ongoing operations and consequent national security issues. As with any serious incident the wider coalition also conducts its own investigation and will report in due course.
These events serve to remind us of the consequences of conflict and of the heavy price that the people of Syria have paid. It reminds us that when we undertake military action, we must do so knowing that it can never be completely without risk.
Such incidents will not weaken our resolve to defeat Daesh and rid the world of its poisonous ideology of hate and intolerance. The UK’s commitment to the global coalition against Daesh and to the people of Iraq and Syria will remain as strong as ever.
OSCE: UK Delegation
My hon. Friends the Members for Yeovil (Mr Fysh) and for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) have been appointed as full members of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in place of my right hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd West (David Jones) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Laurence Robertson). My hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Damien Moore) has been appointed as a substitute member.