Monday, 10 December 2007

Labour spin was unfair to Lord Drayson

Remember Lord (Paul) Drayson, who resigned on 7 November from his post as Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support to spend more time motor racing? How did we ever fall for that improbable story? Drayson is a multi-millionaire businessman. According to Sunday Times correspondent Mick Smith, Drayson resigned after Defence Minister Des Browne refused to back him in rows with Bill Jeffrey, the Ministry of Defence’s top civil servant; the motor racing story was a cover-up put out to save Gordo from embarrassment. Gordo’s addiction to spin seems as bad as Tony Blair’s.

According to Smith, Chief of General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt (among others) was calling for new armoured personnel carriers for the army, but the purchase was repeatedly postponed for lack of funding. Drayson got involved, announced a shortlist of three vehicles – a British, a French and a German-Dutch – and decided to speed things up by selecting the French one. This led to the rows with the top civil servant, who wanted the British one. So the Army has to wait longer for its armoured personnel carriers. The word “Afghanistan” comes to mind.

Thanks to the spin, Lord Drayson came in for quite a bit of press criticism last month for such apparently irresponsible behaviour, that now seems totally unfair. With friends like that....!

Lord Drayson devised the Defence Industrial Strategy published in December 2006 – see http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm66/6697/6697.asp
- under which, put shortly, business acumen was used to come up with significant changes in Ministry of Defence equipment purchasing practices to increase the pace of the defence acquisition cycle, which was hailed as important for improving cost effectiveness, to the benefit of the Armed Forces as well as us, the taxpayers. Sounds like a good idea to me. A second document on the Defence Industrial Strategy – DIS 2 – was due to be published on 13 December but there is a funding problem, so, as predicted by industry-watchers, on 21 November Baroness Taylor, Drayson’s successor, announced that DIS 2’s publication was postponed.

All this makes the Government's commitment to pressing ahead with replacement of dangerous, expensive and useless Trident seem even more questionable.

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