Ministry of Defence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 26th February 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 7:45 pm, 26th February 2018

It normally falls to the Scottish National party to break the consensual mood of these debates, but I fear that Stephen Kerr has somewhat jumped our gun in that respect. Some of what he had to say was useful, but I will take no lectures on patriotism from a party that is presiding over the housing crisis that he describes, the recruitment crisis that he describes, or indeed the morale crisis that has been adumbrated by so many Members tonight. It takes a bit more than jumping on a tank with a Union Jack to be taken seriously on these issues.

Returning to the consensual points, however, I would like to thank Sir Edward Leigh and congratulate him on bringing forward this estimates debate. He eloquently highlighted the miasma of despair that hangs over the finances in the Ministry of Defence, just as we have done fairly frequently in this Chamber and in Westminster Hall. I half-joked with the Government Whip earlier that the speech I am about to make was the same one I have been making for the past five months—[Interruption.] I have no intention of sitting down! I mean no disrespect to the colleagues who also take part in these debates, but much of what has been said this afternoon and this evening has been said before. And no doubt the response will be the same. We will be told that we have to wait for the review of the new defence modernisation programme, and that is something that we look forward to engaging in.

In one of my sadder moments, one night when I was suffering from insomnia, I was looking for something to listen to on Radio 4 when I came across a programme from 2011 featuring an interview with Dame Margaret Hodge, who was the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee at the time. It was a programme on defence procurement. Anyone listening to that programme tonight—I am sure that many Members will want to go and do just that when they leave the Chamber—would be forgiven for thinking that that interview was conducted last week. So dreadful is the state and condition of defence financing that we are repeating the same problems over and over again. I genuinely want to make a contribution that offers an alternative to the way in which the financing is done, so that we can avoid the shambles that the National Audit Office pointed out only a couple of weeks ago. I will return to that in a moment.