Plans for new warships, planes and armoured vehicles could be put at risk because of concerns about the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) ability to find more than £7 billion in savings, a parliamentary committee has warned.
MPs on the Commons Defence Committee said they “seriously doubt” the MoD’s ability to make the necessary savings as it had proved incapable of doing so in the past.
The cross-party group backed the findings of spending watchdog the National Audit Office that the defence equipment plan was at “greater risk” than at any time since 2012.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth went through a commissioning ceremony this month (Andrew Matthews/PA)
The £178 billion plan set out in 2016 involves spending over 10 years on equipment including eight Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy, new mechanised infantry vehicles and nine Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.
However, it rests on finding £7.3 billion of efficiency savings, on top of £7.1 billion previously announced, and the MPs warned about the MoD’s ability to “generate efficiencies on the scale required to deliver the equipment plan or detail how it would proceed to do so”.
“Even if all the efficiencies are realised, there will be little room for manoeuvre, in the absence of sufficient financial ‘headroom’ and contingency funding,” the MPs warned.
“This is not an adequate basis for delivering major projects at the heart of the UK’s defence capability.”
Julian Lewis, the committee’s Tory chairman, said: “It is extremely doubtful that the MoD can generate even more efficiencies from within its already-stretched budget on the scale required to deliver its equipment plan.
“This will inevitably lead either to a reduction in the numbers of ships, aircraft and vehicles or to even greater delays in their acquisition.”
The committee’s report is published against a backdrop of Tory unease about the prospect of cuts to military spending as part of a security capability review being carried out by national security adviser Mark Sedwill.
An MoD spokesman said: “In the face of intensifying threats our £178 billion equipment plan continues to deliver the cutting-edge kit to keep the UK safe.
“As we told the Defence Committee, we are making good progress towards our efficiency target.
“We always look to provide the best value for money for the taxpayer, with all savings reinvested in defence.”
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