Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400-419)|
DAVIES MP, GENERAL
O'DONOGHUE KCB CBE, LIEUTENANT
FIGGURES CBE AND
16 DECEMBER 2008
Q400 Chairman: So you flew the existing
Mr Davies: We are bringing them
into serviceno, not at all, we have introduced a lot of
new helicopters. Another thing which has not come out so farI
am slightly proud of it because it is something which I took initiative
on in my first week or two in my present roleis that we
are re-engining some of the existing Lynxes so as to make sure
they are available in Afghanistan on a 24-hour, 365-day basis,
which they have not been up to now. That is very important and
that is going to come through as an urgent operational requirement
to be delivered in the course of next year. There is a whole range
of areas where we are increasing genuine helicopter capability.
The stories are very upwards and onwards ones, the story is getting
rid of old-fashioned helicoptersquite rightlyobsolete
helicopters, helicopters that are much less performing and replacing
them with the latest helicopters and helicopters with the specification
that we require to do the job.
Q401 Mr Jenkin: Helicopters are also
essential for protected battlefield mobility.
Mr Davies: Yes.
Q402 Mr Jenkin: Commanders in both
Iraq and Afghanistan have consistently complained they are not
able to get enough helicopter hours, not for hitting things, just
simply for flying people around. By 2020 we will have a total
of 14 Chinook helicopters in the entire British Armed Forces.
How will that possibly be enough unless we are going to cease
to envisage conducting military operations on the scale at which
we currently conduct them.
Mr Davies: Mr Jenkin, I do not
recognise your figures but we are introducing an additional eight
Chinook helicopters which have been specifically refurbished to
provide for the lift role for which we want them, the battlefield
tactical lift role which you just identified correctly as being
so important. We have just bought six Merlins from Denmark and
we will be deploying those in the most useful fashion possible
as soon as we possibly can. We are bringing in a lot of highly
capable helicopters, we are investing in helicopters the whole
time and I have just given you the figures.
Q403 Mr Jenkin: How many helicopters
are you planning that we have by 2020?
Mr Davies: I do not know that
we have an actual figure for that but if we do I dare say my colleagues
will help me with it. Have you any idea what the figure will be?
Lieutenant General Figgures: You
mentioned Mr Jenkin Chinook and you mentioned 14.
Q404 Mr Jenkin: 14 by 2020.
Lieutenant General Figgures: I
think we shall have 48 by 2020.
Q405 Mr Jenkin: That does mean considerable
life extensions beyond the out of service dates that you currently
Lieutenant General Figgures: Indeed.
Q406 Mr Jenkin: So we are going to
be flying older and older airframes because we will not order
any new helicopters.
Lieutenant General Figgures: Chinook
is a robust airframe and we have plans to upgrade the cockpits,
we have plans to have a universal fleet so we have 48 of a similar
standard, we have plans to up-engine it and of course to keep
its defensive aid suites, communications, weapon fit and so on
to match the threat. Chinook actually is a very good example of
the through life capability approach which we have taken to get
the most out of the fleets we own.
Q407 Mr Jenkin: I have put down questions
to ask for straight answers on this and it is only by piecing
together a jigsaw that I am able to put together any figures at
all. Could I ask the Minister in future, if I put down a question,
to maybe provide the Committee with the information that you have
there and maybe we would have a more intelligent discussion about
what these capabilities are.
Mr Davies: Mr Jenkin, I appreciate
your questions and we do try to give the correct answers. I am
quite confident that I have never given you an answer, never given
you an answerlet me say this twice now
Q408 Mr Jenkin: You the Government.
Mr Davies: -- which suggests that
we will only have 14 Chinooks in 2020. I do not know where that
came from; it cannot possibly have come from any answer which
I gave because I can assure you that if somebody presented me
with a draft answer of that kind there would be an immediate inquiry
in the MoD as to how we could possibly be proposing to do any
such thing. I do not know where that figure came from but it certainly
did not come from us, it certainly did not from me in a Parliamentary
Q409 Mr Jenkin: I think you will
find that in order to get more than 14 helicopters you will need
to adjust some out of service dates that you have already published.
The General is nodding.
Mr Davies: You are making all
kinds of assumptions.
Q410 Mr Jenkin: I am making assumptions
on the basis of answers the Government has given me.
Mr Davies: You are making assumptions
that we do not either refurbish or upgrade or buy a single new
helicopter between now and 2020. I have no idea why you think
such an assumption is correct.
Q411 Mr Jenkin: What is the lead
time on buying new Chinook helicopters?
Mr Davies: Mr Jenkin, I repeat,
I appreciate your questions and I repeat there is always a well-informed
interest in our proceedings and it is extremely valuable for us
to have people who take a close interest in things like that.
There is, however, clearly a mistake involved in the assumption
of 14 and I think you have had that confirmation now from General
Figgures. General Figgures has been able to give you a very different
figurethe difference between 14 and 48 I am sure you will
agree is a material difference.
Chairman: Moving on, Linda Gilroy.
Q412 Linda Gilroy: Minister, following
the Pre-Budget Statement the Chief Executive of the SBAC said
"It is a disappointment that the Chancellor has neglected
to include an injection of much-needed funds for the UK defence
industry. This oversight is disappointing given the contribution
that this industry will make to the UK's economic recovery, a
contribution that could be even greater still if the Government
had included it in the stimulus package." How disappointed
were you that there was no injection of funds for the UK defence
industry in the Pre-Budget Statement?
Mr Davies: First of all, Mrs Gilroy,
I have to say that I think the Government very adequately indeed
is funding defence, and the effort we have made has been most
impressive, not only the core defence programme which is increasing
the whole time as I have already saidthe defence budget
as a whole is increasing by 1.5%, equipment and support are doing
extremely well in that context, but also there is the UORs and,
as you know, we are expecting to have UORs of £635 million
in the course of the coming financial year and that is in addition
to the very substantial amounts of money we have provided for
the latest batch of protected vehicles, for 700 new PPVs for Afghanistan,
which was announced last month. That is a record we can all be
very proud of. What I think you are questioning is about the fiscal
stimulus package. Let me go into that a little bit because there
may be some misunderstandings here. It goes without saying, Mrs
Gilroy, that like every defence procurement minister in the world
I imagine I am not in the business of turning down new money;
if it comes to me I am very happy to put it to very, very good
Q413 Linda Gilroy: Did you actually
make the case for more?
Mr Davies: Let me explain to you
about that. If you want to go in for a fiscal stimulation package,
which of course the Government isand I think you and I
agreedoing entirely the right thing about, then we really
need to achieve three criteria. First of all you need to have
spending which feeds through very rapidly into consumptionin
other words you cannot use Crossrail, for example, because by
the time you have all the planning inquiries
Q414 Chairman: Minister, I wonder
if you could do your utmost to answer Linda Gilroy's question,
did you make the case for more defence spending, rather than talk
Mr Davies: I have to say that
you need to achieve three things, Mr Arbuthnot. One is you need
to bring forward this money rapidly into consumption, and defence
is not necessarily ideal for that purpose because the lead times
in defence are quite long between you signing a contractbecause
we are very often at the frontiers of technologyand when
the money actually flows through in the pay packets of the people
who are being employed by contrast to other sectors of economic
activity. That is the first thing that really needs to be said.
Q415 Chairman: It sounds as if we
are building up to a no.
Mr Davies: Perhaps I could be
allowed to just answer the question.
Q416 Chairman: That would be good.
Mr Davies: The second thing is
that ideally to use your money for maximum impact you need to
spend it on goods and services which are labour-intensive rather
than capital-intensive in their manufacture so that the benefits
flow through into pay packets rather than into rewards for providers
of capitalbanks and shareholders and so forth who would
inevitably have a very high propensity to save and a low propensity
to consume. Ideally you need those wages to flow through to people
who are relatively low-paid. That is not the case with defence;
defence is capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive.
Q417 Chairman: Minister, can I suggest
you please do your utmost to answer the question and to say then
"I will explain why that is" if you like. In this case,
when Linda Gilroy asks you "Did you make the case?"
you can say, "No, and I will say why it would have been a
bad case to make" or "No, and I wish I had", or
some other answer but do please try to answer the questions that
we put rather than explaining everything all around the houses
before you actually answer the question.
Mr Davies: Mr Arbuthnot, I am
trying to enable the Committee to understand why actually defence
is not an obviously efficient target for counter-cyclical fiscal
stimulation, which is the question I was asked by Mrs Gilroy.
The third factor is leakage into imports. There is quite a high
leakage into imports in defence, inevitably, and that is not the
case, for example, if you are repainting schools or putting new
roofs on schools.
Chairman: I think you have answered that
question. Linda Gilroy.
Q418 Linda Gilroy: Can I just take
that up, based on the region that I represent part of, where we
have one of the biggest aerospace industries possibly in the whole
of Europe in terms of defence employment, estimated to be about
40,000 with 100,000 indirectly dependent and a very long supply
chain reaching right down into Cornwall from the more obvious
places where the aerospace industry is sited in the region with
a presence from all four primes. Are you saying to me that before
the Pre-Budget Statementand people are still trying to
work this outthere is sufficient in the way that you have
reconfigured the defence budget to enable that supply chain to
Mr Davies: Yes, I believe there
Q419 Linda Gilroy: That is a very
straight answer and a short answer. Can I move on to research
spending then because that puts the other angle on it. I am sure
you will have read the exchange that I had with the Permanent
Under-Secretary on the fears about the cuts in the defence research
spending and the way in which that can impact on the long term
capability and keeping ahead in that capability. Has defence research
spending been cut; if so by how much and in what specific areas?
Mr Davies: We have not made an
announcement about that in the equipment examination. The matter
is under review. I would say, Mrs Gilroy, that we obviously do
not spend money carelessly, we spend money on research spending
because we are very conscious of the benefit we can get from that
particular research programme and, like everything else, we have
to look at it from the point of view of priorities, so I am not
in a position to give you any assurances about that particular