The reforms that we have put in place to improve the equipment acquisition process of the Ministry of Defence have made good progress and substantial savings have been made. We completed the implementation phase of the smart procurement initiative in summer 2000 with the final roll-out of 138 integrated project teams. We are sustaining and broadening smart procurement principles under what we now call smart acquisition.
A company in my constituency had to take a prime contractor of the Ministry to court to obtain payment, and since then has received no work from the contractor. Will the Minister confirm that payments to prime contractors under the smart procurement initiative have been delayed because the Ministry has lost control of the delegated payments and it has run out of money this year?
I clearly cannot comment on an individual case without prior notice. We are well aware of the problems that contractors and subcontractors may experience if payment is not made, promptly and we do our very best to correct them.
Is my hon. Friend aware that when the Conservatives left office they left a legacy of £3.25 billion of overcost on the top 25 equipment projects? When we consider that alongside the cuts that were so damaging to the strategic performance of our armed forces, we see that it surely proves to the people of this country that we should never again trust the Conservatives with the defence of our nation.
You, Mr. Speaker, will not be surprised that I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. I am happy to say that thanks to our improvements to the procurement process, we are on course to save some £2 billion.
That is another piece of iterative behaviour from Conservative Members. We have considered the question of the cannon at great length on many occasions. It is the wish of our Royal Air Force that the cannon should not be fitted to this aircraft because it might cause problems, and we are happy to go along with that.