Examination of Witnesses(Questions 180-199)|
TEBBIT KCB, CMG, LIEUTENANT
REITH CB, CBE AND
MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2002
180. That is not the point I am making at all.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) You did mention it
at the beginning, so it is fair
181. It is in the report.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I think it is fair
for me to explain that this is part of an ongoing medical co-operation
programme with the Netherlands and I think the phrase "only
because" in the report may have led you to imply that this
was somehow a derogatory thing or a bad thing. I think it is a
182. Is that something else you have not read
properly as well?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No. I hope this hearing
is to try to get a balanced view of what happened. I am here to
assist you in understanding what the exercise was about. I am
sorry if it becomes a conflictual thing, because I am trying to
explain facts to you. The first point is that our relationship
with the Netherlands on medical co-operation is something we think
is positive in relation to our operations, not negative. Secondly,
you were right, we are under strength in our medical services
to a significant degree. It is one of the key priorities we have.
Over a number of years we are putting about £350 million
into improving our medical cover, improving recruitment and retention
of nurses, consultants and specialists. It is also true that as
part of our Strategic Defence Review in 1998, we took a decision
that in future, we would not have quite as many people in the
armed forces and we would rely more on targeted reserves, including
reserves in the National Health Service. We provide our doctors
and nurses in normal peace time to help the National Health Service
and in times of operational requirements, not exercises, we take
people from the National Health Service to meet surge requirements.
That is the basis of the arrangement.
183. I certainly do not want to be conflictual.
I am trying to hasten your replies, but in doing so, I see they
actually get longer, so I shall try an alternative technique.
I have asked a Written Question about the number of nurses, GPs,
medical consultants and other health care professionals who are
reservists. I wonder whether you could provide us with that information?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I shall be happy to
184. There is clearly an interlocking set of
questions about the work of your department and its impact on
the Government's domestic agenda.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I shall be very happy
to do so. At the risk of being extensive, may I add that I have
a concordat between myself and the Permanent Secretary in the
Department of Health in this area so that we move forward together.
185. You said earlier on that you took the hardest
possible test you could find and that this was the most arduous
exercise we could have set up. I think those are two quotes from
answers you gave right at the beginning.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes; compared with
186. It seems rather odd, if so, does it not,
that you were grading the environment as A3? Are A2 and A1 not
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, they are.
187. So it was not the hardest environment?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No. The alternative
exercise areas we had to consider were North America or Poland,
the north German plain, so we chose the toughest one.
188. So not the hardest test you could face across
the world, simply the hardest test area available to you.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, I would venture
to suggest that the southern Oman desert was probably about the
hardest test you could possibly have found.
189. So why do you have an A2 and A1 grade if
A3 is actually the hardest you can find anywhere in the world?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Actually the southern
Oman desert turned out to be closer to A2, but you are quite right,
we could have found different climatic conditions, but not really
for tank warfare. Those also cover things like jungle warfare,
Equatorial Africa, those sorts of things. It gets hotter in Sierra
Leone for example.
190. They are not A2 and A1 necessarily.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I am not sure what
Sierra Leone would be.
191. They tend to have rather higher humidity
and the whole point about A2 and A1 is that they have even lower
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I think it is the
heat, but I am not an expert on climatic conditions. For the sake
of argument, let us take it that this was a very arduous environment
in which to test our Joint Rapid Reaction Force concept.
192. I am sure it was and presumably it would
have been even more arduous if you had done it in July or August.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, it would have
193. So it was not really the hardest test you
could have done.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We had 2,000 people
out there throughout that period planning it. One needs to understand
the scale of this exercise; it was a very big event. For three
and a half months we had a lot of people there.
194. I am sure it was, but you did say to Mr
Williams that it was the hardest possible test.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) In relation to the
195. It took place in what you accept is not
the hardest possible environment because you had harder environment
gradings and you accept that you did not do it at the hardest
time of year.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I should like to see
the Armed Forces which are doing training of this kind in even
more arduous circumstances I must say.
196. The design authority said that the filter
life expectancy was 14 hours. When they decided that, what were
they referring to? Were they referring to life expectancy if the
tanks had the side armour on?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, they were not.
197. So that was really expected to be the life
expectancy in the very worst possible circumstances even if you
exposed your tanks fully to all possible dust conditions.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is indeed what
198. In that case I really think I have some
sympathy with the questions you were being asked just now by Mr
Trickett about the contractual arrangements. Is there anything
in that contract which says they have to meet those design specifications?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I honestly do not
know. I have agreed to look into that.
199. When you set up these contracts for purchase
of equipment do you normally say that if the equipment does not
meet the design specifications there is some financial comeback
to the armed forces?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, indeed; there
are various forms of redress which can be sought and it is part
of the Procurement Agency's duty to be able to seek redress if
they fail to meet specifications. There is a general point here.
10 Note by witness: I undertook to provide information
sought in a written Parliamentary Question tabled by Mr Trickett
about the number of nurses, GPs, medical consultants and other
health care professionals who are reservists. This has now been
provided (HC Deb, 28 October 2002, col 695W and HC Deb, 31 October
2002, col 883W). Back