Guarding against bias?
44. David Melding AM, stated that one of the major
fears of his All Party Group was that "there will be extraneous
cultural considerations, where some of the people in senior positions
in the military will say, 'Wales is unfashionable; it will be
difficult to recruit and difficult to get people to locate here'".
Furthermore, there were concerns that "institutional inertia"
and "vested interests" amongst senior members of the
military could act in a prejudicial way against the St Athan bid.
Brigadier Nield dismissed those accusations. He had confidence
in the rigour of the evaluation process and also told us that
in his conversations and briefings with the senior military community
he had "sensed none of what you suggest".
45. A further concern was the suggestion that at
least one individual in the Ministry of Defence was actively opposed
to a "Welsh" solution to the MoD's training needs. Confronting
that claim, Tom Watson MP declared that he had not heard of any
such comment but stated that he would be "surprised if a
senior military person did say it".
Brigadier Nield stated clearly that he "could not be associated
with any form of comment of that nature",
before reiterating the rigour of the process as a defence against
such a view becoming policy. Nick Evans from the MoD, agreed that
the process for awarding the contract would not allow for such
a position to be taken. He reinforced the MoD's position which
was to find "value for money solutions".
46. Tom Watson MP succeeded Don Touhig MP as the
MoD Minister with responsibility for the award of the contract.
When Don Touhig MP was the Defence Minister he was pressed on
the fact that he had to make an impartial decision while at the
same time being a Member of Parliament for an area of south Wales
that could benefit from locating the training centre at St Athan.
At that time, Don Touhig responded by saying that
"As a Welshman and the minister responsible
for the tender process, I have to be seen to be above regional
47. By coincidence Tom Watson MP, a Member of Parliament
for the West Midlands faces a similar dilemma. When asked about
any similar conflict of interest, the Minister said that
"When I realised I had inherited this project,
I thought this is the can't-win project for a young politician.
What I did hear about Mr Touhig when he was responsible for this
was one argument to say that this was disastrous for south Wales
because he was going to have to give the bid to somewhere else
so he did not look as though he was giving a favour. I also heard
that it was great news for south Wales because he was going to
give it to south Wales because he was a south Wales MP. I am sure
the same allegations will be made in some of the more scurrilous
parts of this building. All I can say to you is that I shall assess
the recommendation and my decision will be based on what the best
defence outcomes are".
welcome the clear statement from the current UK Minister, Tom
Watson MP, that his position as a west Midlands Member of Parliament
will not affect his decision on the award of the contract and
that his decision will be based on what is best for the armed