Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Letter to the Chairman from the Minister for Defence Procurement

  I understand that the Defence Committee plans to hold an inquiry to examine the progress on the Future Carrier and Joint Combat Aircraft programmes and that the Clerk to the committee has written to the Ministry of Defence asking for memorandum on each of these projects.The timing of this inquiry is difficult. You will already know that we are negotiating to establish an alliance to take the carrier programme forward. We also continue to work with our international partners on the JCA programme, prior to formal decisions being taken to proceed to the next stage of the JSF project. By the time of your inquiry in the Autumn, negotiations on the carrier programme in particular may be at a critical stage as we approach the major investment decision (Main Gate) on the programme. But neither that decision nor the production decision on the Joint Combat Aircraft will have been taken.Naturally, we would prefer you to amend the timing of your proposed inquiry until after the Main Gate. If that is not possible, I regret that the Department will be forced to be limited in the information that it will be able to provide to the Committee. While we will, of course, respond as best we can, we will inevitably be restricted in the level of information that we will be able to provide. This is because decisions will not at that point have been made, and we will have to have due regard to commercial sensitivities and the need to protect the Department's negotiating position with industry. There will also be sensitivities with international negotiations with France and the USA at this time.

Lord Drayson

20 September 2005

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