Douglas Carswell MP: "In the House, it has become the Table Office’s default setting to refuse to accept questions about BAE and its Saudi dealings, despite the existence of sufficient evidence to warrant such legitimate questions.
While Members of the legislature are no longer able to hold the Executive to account, a sophisticated lobbying exercise aims at shutting down the debate. How many Members of Parliament who, like me, have taken part in the armed forces parliamentary scheme know that it is funded by the same contractors as the defence industrial strategy privileges? I suspect that the answer is not many, because the armed forces parliamentary scheme refuses to open the books.
I raised the subject of defence contracts and procurement after my visit to Afghanistan and I was directly pressurised by the organisers of the armed forces parliamentary scheme for asking such questions. Without accountability, the defence industrial strategy will remain unchallenged. Its retention will maintain the near monopoly of BAE and a handful of others. As long as BAE remains the monopoly supplier, we will not get value for money. For all the management consultant speak about smart procurement and through-life contracts, basic economic literacy shows that, in defence as elsewhere, a near monopoly provider means that the buyer gets a poor deal. When there is a constraint on supply, the seller sets the terms of trade.
Recently, BAE was handed another £124 million contract to build an unmanned aerial vehicle that we should have bought off the shelf. If one is in Helmand and one needs a UAV that works, one does not care where it is built.
We do not merely need to buy off the shelf; we need to break the monopoly of the few suppliers. If we did that, we might buy the kit that we need instead of waiting until BAE is ready to supply what it is willing to provide. We might supply our armed forces with the best kit available. If we did that, we might well have less outmoded kit—fewer anti-Soviet tanks, less submarine-hunting kit, fewer Eurofighters to defend the skies over the north German plain, fewer old-style frigates ready to take on the communist navy in the north Atlantic—and more of the kit that our armed forces need to fight the wars to which we send them."
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