Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been criticised for forcing through the appointment of Bernard Gray, a former journalist and publisher, to head a revamped agency without any public scrutiny.
Mr Gray will have to face the influential Defence Select Committee for a pre-appointment hearing next month, even though Mr Hammond has already said that he will lead Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), which has a £15bn budget, when it is reformed in April. DE&S buys kit for the armed forces – everything from pots and pans to fighter jets.
Mr Gray last week failed to privatise the Bristol-based agency after opposition from unions and staff. He offered to step down as Chief of Defence Materiel after the Ministry of Defence could not drum up enough private-sector interest in managing DE&S.
However, Mr Hammond (pictured) has instead rewarded his top reformer by naming him as the first chief executive of DE&S-Plus.
Defence Select Committee chair James Arbuthnot acknowledged the hearing “may seem a bit late”, but he wanted to know “precisely how [Mr Hammond] came to the conclusion” that Mr Gray was the right man for the new job.
Bernard Jenkin, a former shadow defence secretary, said: “It’s entirely right that somebody taking an appointment for a role with such a huge amount of capital expenditure should have to go through a pre-appointment hearing.”
At the select committee hearing last week, MPs implied that Mr Gray was not popular among DE&S staff. However, Mr Gray insisted that “as with most leaders in most organisations opinions would vary”.
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