HOC Thurs 9th Oct 2008
Mr Ainsworth...As in all areas of defence, we continue to examine how we can improve training. The House is aware of the defence training review programme. The review will transform how we deliver specialist phase 2 and phase 3 technical training on a defence-wide basis, and, once complete, will help us to adjust to changes in demand, to make more efficient and effective use of training personnel, to improve accommodation and to make better and more efficient use of the training estate.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con) rose—
Mark Pritchard: As the Minister knows, the defence training review programme is the largest private finance initiative in British history. I hope he agrees that we must get defence training in this country right. Does he share my concern about the reports over the past three or four weeks about the delay in the delivery of that programme—I believe that an announcement will be made today or perhaps next week about a further delay; he just alluded to it—and, more importantly, about the rising costs? Such reports contradict the statement that he just made. The fact is that the costs have increased by £1 billion in the past six months alone. What recent discussions has he had with Treasury Ministers about those rising costs?
Mr. Ainsworth: I am aware of all the ongoing publicity about the difficulties, particularly those in defence package 1. I know that the hon. Gentleman is interested in that because of his constituency interest—
Mr. Ainsworth: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has a national interest too, but he has a particular interest in this matter and, obviously, he pursues it. I am not saying that the costs have not changed. I am saying that we still have an affordable package that is far cheaper than the alternatives, and that has been worked on over the summer. We will be able to go ahead with defence package 1 and get value for money out of those proposals.....David Wright (Telford) (Lab):
......At the beginning of the debate, the hon. Member for The Wrekin rightly pressed the Minister on the defence training review. I want to conclude on this point, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me. Many of us in the west midlands did not agree with the decision to move defence training down to St. Athan.
We want some clarity now on the delivery of the scheme. When the announcement was made, there was a commitment to some continuing training facilities within Shropshire. We want to know that that remains so. We also heard about the relocation of 1 Signal Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade under the Barona programme. We understand that those units will be relocated to Cosford.
The programme has been delayed around St. Athan, and we need some clarity. We do not want to be in the worst of all worlds, whereby a Government decision about Cosford is delayed, and we find out that the Barona programme does not fit with the time frame for establishing St. Athan. In that scenario, we lose defence jobs from Cosford to St. Athan, and we take so long to make the decision that units are not transferred back to the Cosford site.
We must make sure that such decisions are taken quickly and effectively. I would welcome a further update from Ministers on behalf of my constituents who work at Cosford about what is happening on St. Athan. That statement might not be today, but in the coming weeks. However, it is important to nail down the programme effectively, so that Shropshire emerges as a place where we have a long-term commitment to the UK’s defence.The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth):Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD):
Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab):Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con):Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab):Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) (Con):
David Wright (Telford) (Lab):Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op):Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con):