MPs criticise MoD vehicle spending


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The Ministry of Defence was under fire today from MPs who accused it of spending £1.1 billion on programmes to acquire armoured vehicles, without delivering a single vehicle in more than a decade.

In a scathing report, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said the MoD had proved to be both "indecisive and over-ambitious" in its attempts to manage the programme.

However the report provoked a furious row, with Defence Equipment Minister Peter Luff accusing the MPs of "misrepresenting the facts".

The committee said that since the 1998 strategic defence review under Labour, the MoD had failed to deliver any vehicles from its core armoured vehicle programmes, despite spending £1.1 billion.

During operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the MoD had attempted to plug the gap by buying vehicles "off-shelf" through the urgent operational requirements (UOR) system, with an additional £2.8 billion from the Treasury reserves.

But the committee said the system was expensive and that many of the vehicles bought in this way had been designed for specific circumstances and could not meet the wider needs of the Army.

However Mr Luff said the main procurement programme had delivered the Viking all-terrain vehicle, which was deployed in Afghanistan as well as the Titan and Trojan armoured engineering vehicles.

"The Public Accounts Committee is again misrepresenting the facts. It is not true to say the £1.1 billion spent on armoured vehicles has not delivered any equipment," he said.

In its report, the committee said the problems with the main procurement programme had arisen in part from a tendency by the MoD to specify overly-complex design requirements which it could not afford.

At the same time, armoured vehicle projects had suffered bigger budget reductions than other equipment programmes because they tended to involve lower levels of contractual commitment and were therefore easier to cut.

Over the past six years, the MoD has removed £10.8 billion from the armoured vehicle budgets to 2021, leaving £5.5 billion - insufficient to pay for all the programmes that are planned.

The committee expressed dismay that no-one within the MoD had been held responsible for the repeated failures, which have meant that British troops will not have all the vehicles they need until at least 2025.

Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said it represented an "extraordinary failure" by the MoD.

"The MoD seems as far away as ever from establishing a clear set of affordable defence priorities," she said.

"The problem for the armoured vehicle programme is that the department has yet to say how it is going to find the money to buy the vehicles it needs in future to carry out the full range of military tasks.

"It was no surprise to the committee that the accounting officer of the department could not name who was responsible for this serious failure of procurement or whether anyone had paid the penalty."