Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 119)



  100. The destroyer?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I do not think that is over budget either but I am just going to turn now to the right figure, if I can find it. It is a pre-main gate project and I do not have the destroyer figure to hand so I cannot answer that.

  101. Would you have the figures for the anti-armour?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Yes, I do. The cost of the AAW has dropped two per cent.

  102. And the BOWMAN?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) BOWMAN is another pre-main gate project, so I do not have it. It has not changed much[6].

  103. You are able to provide me with one of the four at the moment.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) That is because the report—

  104. I understand. I understand absolutely.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) BOWMAN is pretty steady.

  105. Based on times of delivery or expectations or perceptions of delivery, on what you have offered there two of them are at least five years late and one is 10 years late although one of those has been cancelled. I am not trying to make a wider point here, but who pays the price in terms of the failure to meet these targets for these delivery dates or in-service dates? In any other sector, in any other business, in any other world, someone would be told this just is not good enough. Who has been told that?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I have been told it is not good enough in this room on several occasions. I cannot re-write history. I wish I could. Projects which are late do not get better. I get beaten every year for the same offence.

  106. You have told us on two or three occasions this evening already that projects which have been late have got better. That has been one of your lines of defence.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I meant recovering the slip. You do not recover slip. Of course, if they are later—and I do not offer this as an excuse, it is a consequence of being later—they tend to have more modern technology.

  107. Vice Admiral, how does it make you feel as a customer?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It is obviously a matter of concern if things arrive late, if the consequence of that is that we are stuck with weaponry which does not meet the threat.

  108. Surely "a matter of concern" is an understatement. I ordered a settee to be delivered for Christmas. It did not arrive and we had people sitting on makeshift chairs at Christmas dinner. That was a matter of annoyance. Are you telling me that when you cannot get a frigate within five years of your expectation it is a matter of concern? Surely it is much more than that.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) No, it is a matter of concern. The Type 42s which we have are able to deal with the role which they are required to fill today.

  109. What would it take to make you as a customer feel frustrated and angry? Only five years late where the frigate is concerned.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Frustrated and angry is perhaps quite close to concern. I want it to change. The important thing is that we are looking here, although it is a pity, at history which I cannot change.

  110. I am simply asking how it makes you feel as a customer, making strategic planning based on what you in good knowledge and good faith thought was to be delivered.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It makes me feel that we need to do a very great deal better. That is where my efforts are bent.

  111. Has the operational performance of the Royal Navy in particular been protected by this failure?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Its theoretical ability is going to be less in 2002 than it would have been if the Type 45 had arrived on time. As of today it was not expecting to have a Type 45.

  112. Like everyone on this Committee I do not have the experience which you bring to the Committee. I have to say I do not understand that answer. What is the theoretical ability?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) The Royal Navy for the most part, and this is a simple fact of life today, is up to its neck in operations. Its major concerns are today's operations. It was not ever expecting to have a Type 45 in service in the year 2001, so it does not notice the lack of it. By and large most people in the Royal Navy are so focused on what they are doing that I do not suppose they have given a great deal of thought to it. That is my job and I am unhappy about it, but I cannot rewrite history. This is a project going back ten years or more.

  113. You have given a lot of thought to it, unlike most people in the Navy. Do you feel that the fact that it is five years late will compromise the capability of the Royal Navy to do its job properly?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) The ability in the Navy will be less in the years 2002 to 2007 than it would have been if we had had this ship in service.

  114. Is "less" close to "compromised"? In the same way that "anger" is close to "concern", is ability being "less" as a consequence of this, in the phraseology you use, in some way similar to "compromised"?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) No. I am slightly less anxious about it than I would have been if the world had not changed a few years ago.

  115. The world changed a few years ago and this report should have changed a few days ago. Is there anything else you want to tell us which is in this report which you just have not managed to track down as being a major change?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I do not think there is actually. This is the only one which would have come to my mind.

  116. So there is nothing else we have to ask about.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) You might find something else in here. I am not aware of anything else.


  117. May I make a suggestion? We have another meeting on Wednesday. Between now and then we are absolutely sure there are no changes. Can I have that undertaking?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) In the spirit in which you have asked for it, Iwill. I cannot guarantee that every number has not changed.

  118. This is a substantive change. We are not talking a decimal point change on one of the numbers.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) In the spirit in which you asked for the assurance, I can give you that assurance: this is the only change. I can give that now.

Mr Murphy

  119. Paragraph 3.14 has been the cause of some concern. It says, "The first three Type 45 Destroyers will enter service with some capability shortfalls because some capabilities, such as sonar, have been traded-off to make the ships affordable and to enable them to be brought into service sooner". In the last week or ten days or so, we have sonar. The assumption must therefore be that we cut back on something else. If we could not have sonar before because it was not affordable and it is now affordable, what are the cuts which have taken place?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) No, they have not actually. What happened was that on 20 December we placed the prime contract for the first three ships. It was at that point that we started to put some certainty, as opposed to estimates, into what the cost of those ships will be.

6   Note by Witness: Although the cost variation for the pre-main gate work reported in MPR 2000 is +£206 million, the total acquisition cost for the project is little changed. Back

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