MoD bribes scandal cost hundreds of British jobs

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The Independent Online
HUNDREDS of workers in the British armaments industry lost their jobs as a direct result of the activities of Gordon Foxley, the senior Ministry of Defence official convicted earlier this week of taking pounds 1.5m in bribes.

A retired senior manager at Royal Ordnance in Blackburn, Lancashire, has told the Independent that he and colleagues gave a warning 10 years ago about the way their factory was losing MoD work. Their fears were ignored and the factory saw its business go to overseas companies paying backhanders to Foxley.

The manager said the work awarded by Foxley was not over and done with. One contract given to Gebruder Junghans in Germany to supply the DM111A3 fuse is a rolling five-year pounds 25m order that could still employ 450 people in Blackburn. 'The Blackburn Royal Ordnance factory used to make 10,000 mortar fuses a week,' said the manager. 'By Gordon Foxley's fiddling, the work has gone to Junghans.'

The manager is constrained by the Official Secrets Act and cannot be named. He said staff from Royal Ordnance visited the MoD as long ago as 1983 and also voiced their concerns to MPs. 'We were suspicious something was wrong but we didn't know what. Eventually, we realised it had to be Foxley. One of my colleagues went to see the Master-General of the Ordnance to complain and returned with a flea in his ear.'

MoD officials claimed the Junghans fuse was better than the Royal Ordnance model. But, said the manager, the Blackburn product was cheaper and had won praise from the Americans. While Junghans was in effect saved from bankruptcy by the MoD's order - it has since built a new factory to accommodate the British work - Royal Ordnance, now part of British Aerospace, has seen its Blackburn workforce continue to slide, from 2,700 in 1973 to just 270.

Jack Straw, Labour MP for Blackburn, has put down a Commons motion calling for an inquiry into MoD ammunition contracts from 1980 to 1988, to examine why the Royal Ordnance factory did not win them.

'In the mid-1980s, staff and trade unions were complaining to me that they were not getting contracts. They were able to offer what they thought was the right price but the work was going to companies in Germany, Italy and other countries,' said Mr Straw. 'The assumption was that they were undercutting Royal Ordnance. Clearly, that was not the case. They were getting the work because they were bribing Mr Foxley.'

Mr Straw said he found it astonishing 'that one guy could have had so much power'. The least the MoD could do would be to end any continuing Foxley contracts immediately and award them to British suppliers.