Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 200-219)



200.  You would expect there to be something in the contract.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Not necessarily, not in this contract.

201.  You just said that was the normal process.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, in current contracts that is the case.

202.  There is a clause in there which allows for some financial comeback. So if you expect there to be a clause in there which allows for financial comeback and it is now some time since you discovered that the equipment did not work according to specification, why have you not looked into it yet?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) The answer to that is that when we procured this tank, it is quite right to have observed that we did not specify full "desertisation" of the equipment. A lot of things we bought in the past were bought for a different war a different concept and therefore we did not specify a range of performance criteria which covered the hottest possible conditions as well as the coldest conditions. We tended to specify them for the north German plain. Today we specify much broader parameters for our equipment, so they have to operate in much wider conditions than before.

203.  Are you saying that these filters were actually made to a higher specification than you had in your contract?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, I was not saying that. I said that it may well be that they met the specification of the contract itself, which may well have been for more temperate conditions than this.

204.  But you said they made it to last 14 hours in the worst possible conditions.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is also true.

205.  I am not sure. Are you saying that "the worst possible conditions" is what was in the contract or not what was in the contract?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, the worst possible conditions for dust were 14 hours operations in complete dust conditions. I do not know. I am accepting your point, but if the point you are making is that we should go back to the manufacturer of the equipment and say they failed to meet the specification therefore they are liable, I shall answer your question that I have not, I must say, been advised on it. My guess is that we were more concerned to up the rate of the production of these filters.

206.  That is a worry to me. It seems to me that as the Permanent Secretary it is surely part of your job, as the accounting officer, to make sure that where contracts are not met and there is a clause in there which allows some comeback for the taxpayer you actually exercise that clause.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I do not know whether they were in breach of the contract specification if these filters did not work in the particular conditions they found in the south Omani desert.

207.  I understand that you do not know that and I understand and accept that you have now agreed to go back to that. My question to you was: why have you not done so up to now? It seems to me that you have had quite a long time to look into this and apparently it was only when Mr Trickett suggested it to you that you thought it was worth doing.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) You are quite right. One's life is full of things one wishes one had done and it is one of the things I have not done. The amount of dust which was going over the engines and over these filters was huge and I would need to check whether that was the precise specification. You are quite right. One's life is full of regrets and this is one of mine.

208.  Are we still dealing with PALL Aerospace?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes. They are the company which produces these filters.

209.  Are we purchasing anything else from them?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) They are the company which responded extremely well to our request to up their rate of production, which they did very well.

210.  Are they providing anything else for the armed forces?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I do not know what else they provide.

Mr Williams

211.  Do we have any indication whether they would meet the 14 hours were that the specified minimum performance if you had the correct skirts and seals fitted to the tank? Do we know that?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) It depends what you mean by correct skirts and seals.

212.  That you would have deemed appropriate.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is a very good question. If we had put these "desertised" features on the tank, then I have no doubt they would have met those criteria.

213.  No doubt?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes. It depends whether they are taking 25 kilograms of dust going onto these filters. I am not sure whether the specification allows for 25 kilograms of dust to be going onto these filters per hour, which was a very, very high rate indeed. That is what they experienced.

214.  Put in another note on this, will you, please?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I shall put in a note.[11]

Mr Rendel

215.  May I go on to another remark you made which was that the side armour was not used in the exercise in case it was needed for a real-life situation which might have arisen at any moment during the course of the exercise.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Correct.

216.  Which tanks would then have been used in the real-life situation?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) The tanks which were not used on the exercise. I am not sure what proportion of our total tank force we took. Perhaps the General can help me here.
  (Lieutenant General Reith) Effectively we took one battle group's worth, whereas we have four armoured brigade's worth with two battle groups each. Probably one eighth of the total Challenger 2s.

217.  How much side armour do you have ready to go on these tanks?

  (Lieutenant General Reith) That I do not know and I could not tell you in this forum anyway.

218.  Presumably not enough to fit to all the tanks, all of the eight battle groups. You took one out of eight and presumably you do not have enough side armour for all eight ready and prepared to go on them if you need them.

  (Lieutenant General Reith) Our defence planning assumption is that we would not deploy all of our armour at any one time.

219.  Not even in an outright warfare situation?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) It depends.
  (Lieutenant General Reith) It depends what sort of war you are talking about.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Our defence planning assumptions—

11   Ev 26-27. Back

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