Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Supplementary answer from the Ministry of Defence (22 May 2000)


  Mr John Howe will shortly leave his present appointment as the Deputy Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency to take up a secondment with Thomson-CSF Plc.

  The secondment is expected to last for two years and is part of a Civil Service wide programme of interchange with industry designed to improve understanding and co-operation between the public and private sectors.

  During the secondment Mr Howe will remain an employee of the Ministry of Defence. The MoD will continue to be responsible for payment of salary, pension contributions, Earnings Related National Insurance Contributions (ERNIC) etc in accordance with Civil Service rules. As part of the formal agreement between the MoD and the company, the MoD will recover salary and other costs at the rate equivalent to the Civil Service grade held by the secondee.

  All Civil Servants on secondment must conform to the normal Civil Service rules and may not engage in any occupation or undertaking which might in any way conflict with the interests of the MoD or be inconsistent with their position as a public servant.

  An internal Whitehall competition is being conducted to appoint Mr Howe's successor as Deputy Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency. Mr Howe takes up his new post on 30 May.

  At a time of continuing consolidation in the defence industry the secondment will be important to the MoD in ensuring that the Company is able to provide the MoD with the best possible value for money. Mr Howe will not be involved in preparing bids or executing contracts for UK defence work. His duties will include:

    —  Protection of security classified information relating to both UK and overseas interests.

    —  Assisting with the company's relationship with the US.

    —  Integration of the company's business particularly from a Human Resources viewpoint.

    —  Chairmanship of certain subsidiaries.

    —  Advice on smart procurement and prime contracting.

  The Chief of Defence Procurement, Sir Robert Walmsley, wrote on 9 March to six of the MoD's leading prime contractors, advising them of Mr Howe's forthcoming secondment to Thomson-CSF. He wrote in similar terms to the Director General of the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC). In his letter, Sir Robert set out the background to the secondment and invited the recipients to discuss with him any concerns they might have. No objections were made; indeed support for the arrangement was expressed.

  Mr Howe's secondment is part of the MoD's Interchange programme, which has an important role in the wider Modernising Government and civil service Reform Agenda. It is increasingly important that the civil service should seek closer links with other sectors of the economy in order to encourage and develop innovative thinking, broader horizons and different skills. The MoD, as a consequence of its close links with industry, has run an Interchange Programme for many years and greatly values the benefits that it brings. The MoD is aware of the need to protect against actual or perceived conflict of interest issues and the terms of our secondment agreements are carefully constructed to that end.

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