Defence Reform Bill — Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:01 pm on 10th December 2013.

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Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence 6:01 pm, 10th December 2013

My Lords, we have had a constructive and well informed debate on the Bill. I share the generous thoughts of the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, about Lord Gilbert. The debate has shown that there is a large degree of consensus on the need to reform the way in which we manage and deliver our defence capabilities. It is important that we provide our Armed Forces with the equipment and support they need and that we take the appropriate measures to ensure that the Reserve Forces can be used as part of the integrated Future Force structure with individual reserves appropriately protected in their role and their employers better rewarded for the contribution they make in supporting the Reserve Forces.

The measures set out in the Bill represent a real change to how the Ministry of Defence will conduct its business in future. They will allow us to ensure that equipment and capabilities are delivered on time, on budget and to the right specification.

At this point, I am going to cut short my speech as I have been bombarded with questions, and I will try to answer as many as I can tonight. There is no way I will be able to answer all of them, so I will write to all noble Lords who asked questions and copy in other speakers.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and other noble Lords asked why Part 1 should remain if we are no longer proceeding with the GOCO. I am well aware of the mood of the House on this issue. We believe that a GOCO remains a potential future solution for transforming DE&S once we have put in place a more robust baseline from which to contract with a GOCO partner. It would therefore be prudent to have Part 1 in place should a future Administration decide to go the GOCO route. We very much hope that the new DE&S-plus organisation will be robust and successful. We should not be afraid of the competition that potentially testing the market for a GOCO in three to five years’ time would provide. Keeping the possibility of a GOCO would provide an incentive for a new organisation to maximise its performance.

The noble Lord also asked what “at a future date” means in relation to a possible future GOCO. We do not envisage reopening the GOCO option for at least two to three years, certainly not before the next election.

The noble Lord asked how much money has been spent on the GOCO commercial process and whether the Bechtel consortium will now make a claim against the MoD for the money it has spent on the bid. This was also asked by the noble Lord, Lord Davies. We have spent £7.4 million on supporting our work on the GOCO option. The money is not wasted. We have gained valuable insights from this work that have not only helped us understand the commercial landscape but will stand us in good stead for the new organisation. On Bechtel, we have always made it clear that we will not pay bid costs.

The noble Lord asked about the draw-down of regulars prior to build-up of reserves. We have had no choice but to reduce regulars to stay within the budget. The cost of 20,000 regulars is £1 billion a year. In line with the SDSR, there is a drawing down in some areas to build up in others, such as cyber, as the noble Lord knows. This is about doing defence differently.