MoD's failure to control nuclear costs 'completely unacceptable'

By agency reporter
May 14, 2020

A new report from the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee says the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has left the taxpayer to shoulder billion pound cost increases due to the MoD’s poor contract design and management. 

The MoD said it “immensely regretted” the huge waste of taxpayers’ money, which was caused by poor management of three nuclear infrastructure projects, resulting in a combined cost increase of £1.35 billion and with delays of between 1.7 and 6.3 years. 

The report finds, as the department itself admitted, that the risks associated with nuclear programmes, civil or military, are too large for private companies, and must be managed by the department, regardless of whether it owns the relevant sites or not. 

The MoD was unable to explain why it has repeated past mistakes – many of which have been repeatedly commented on by the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee for more than 30 years – and has failed to learn lessons from comparable projects in the civil nuclear sector and in the United States. The MoD accepted that it must not operate in the same way in the future.  

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “To utterly fail to learn from mistakes over decades, to spectacularly repeat the same mistakes at huge cost to the taxpayer – and at huge cost to confidence in our defence capabilities – is completely unacceptable.  We see too often these same mistakes repeated.

“The Department knows it can’t go on like this, it knows it must change and operate differently. The test now is to see how it will do that, and soon.

“We expect the MoD to report to us later this year, in its 2020 update on the Dreadnought nuclear submarine programme, on how it is working with industry and other departments to develop and keep in place the skills it badly needs to take forward nuclear work. We also expect a detailed assessment, of whether the current ownership arrangements for nuclear regulated sites are in the best interests of the taxpayer, to be provided to us by the end of this year.”  

Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, said: "The billions being wasted on Trident by the MoD is a national scandal. Trident has become a bottimless pit for spending, with billions being poured in and nothing useful coming out.

"This is morally contemptible when we consider the heroic efforts of carers, nurses and doctors, who are fighting a pandemic for a National Health Service that has been starved of the resources it needs for a decade.

"The billions being wasted on a phantom threat should be spent on addressing the real threat before us. Use the money to give carers a pay rise, to give them the PPE and equipment they need, and invest now in healthcare and real security to get on top of this crisis and prepare for future threats." 

* Read the full report here

* Public Accounts Committee https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/127/public-accounts-committee/

* Camapign for Nuclear Disarmament https://cnduk.org/

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.