Ministry of Defence Uses Landmine Removal Money to Maintain Aircraft for Iraq War
From the Guardian:
Money set aside to clear landmines and remove arms from conflict zones is to be raided to pay a private defence contractor to keep Tornado jets flying in Iraq, according to a confidential memo seen by the Guardian. The Ministry of Defence plans to pay BAE Systems from the multimillion-pound Conflict Prevention Fund - which covers projects such as destroying weapons in Bosnia and landmines in Mozambique - to subsidise the £5m-£10m cost of servicing each of the six planes.
The move follows a cost-cutting plan which has backfired for the MoD because of increased military action in Iraq.
The memo acknowledges that the emergency measure is needed because the MoD has closed its own state-of-the-art facility for servicing Tornado jets as a way of saving £500m over 10 years. A scaled-back facility is still not fully equipped for the job. Memos sent to ministers reveal that the ministry has decided to make the request to BAE Systems because the alternative facility, at RAF Marham in Norfolk, has "insufficient capacity".
The memo proposes, and the minister accepts, that BAE Systems in Warton, Lancashire, should take over the work because it has a "gap" between completing an order for Saudi Arabia and new Tornado capability trials. It goes on: "The use of BAE Systems Warton will incur additional costs. BAE Systems are in the process of calculating these costs, but there is yet no timescale for their presentation to MoD. The additional monies will be subject of a claim against the Conflict Prevention Fund." The memo acknowledges there will be anger about the decision, which will attract "adverse comment from the unions". It adds: "Defensive news briefs are being developed to counter adverse media comment." Yesterday the Guardian showed the memo to the union Unite, which called for an inquiry by MPs on the defence committee and said it would seek an urgent meeting with the minister.
Read the whole sordid tale here