Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-128)|
WEDNESDAY 19 NOVEMBER
Q120 Mr Williams: It sounds a rather
equivocal guarantee, if I may say so, from where I am sitting.
Sir Bill Jeffrey: Grounded in
optimism because I think we are genuinely better placed to deliver
this programme on time than might have been the case in the past.
As I have said once or twice during this hearing, bear in mind
that our predecessors did succeed in delivering the Vanguard on
time and to cost.
Q121 Mr Williams: You are saying,
"I think we are", you are not saying, "I am sure
Sir Bill Jeffrey: I am confident,
but it would be a very unwise
Q122 Mr Williams: You are confident,
but. What is the but?
Sir Bill Jeffrey: But this is
difficult and it has got a lot of risks in it. We need to do our
best to manage these risks successfully.
Mr Williams: I regret I will not be here
when the crucial time comes to look at whether you were right
or wrong. Thank you, Chairman.
Q123 Chairman: I think, gentlemen,
that concludes our inquiry. It has been very interesting and a
worthwhile exercise. Clearly this Committee is going to have to
come back and look at this after September. I do not know about
my colleagues, but I am certainly extremely concerned about this
point that we are going to have to design these submarines before
the Americans make their final decision on the design of the missile
compartment, which appears to be the absolutely crucial point.
The Admiral has done his level best to try and reassure us. He
is now shaking his head, and, in all fairness, I think I should
give him a chance to reply to that point. It is something that
is worrying us because there is absolutely no room for manoeuvre
here, these things have to be delivered on time. What worries
me is we are such a minnow compared to the Americans, they are
taking such vast decisions compared to us that I would have thought
our bargaining position with them if there is any problem with
the design of the missile compartment is quite weak. It is only
fair the Admiral has a last say.
Rear Admiral Mathews: Just to
give you a feel for the programme, Chairman. Our aim is that we
are going to design these missile compartments with the Americans.
We have not decided where we are going to build them, it might
be the UK, the US, it might be both.
Q124 Chairman: That is a fairly crucial
point for a start.
Rear Admiral Mathews: This an
ongoing piece of work, as you would expect. Just to give you a
feel for how these missile compartments come out: numbers 1 and
2 will be for the UK, number 3 will be for the US, so that missile
compartment will be in construction when the first compartment
is delivered to the UK.
Q125 Chairman: Will be in construction?
Rear Admiral Mathews: Will be
Q126 Chairman: We do not even know,
but you think they will be built in America now. We have not heard
Rear Admiral Mathews: What I said
is we have not made a decision about where we are going to build
them. When I say that, there are a number of options for us about
how we do this. If we are building between 3 and 4 for UK, probably
between 12 and 16 for the US, how do you productionise this. If
you were to count the number of missile tubes, there are over
300 missile tubes, how do you productionise that, how do you drive
out cost and make sure you design the productionisation at the
start. Those are all the questions that we have got to go through
having made the decisions.
Sir Bill Jeffrey: The reason the
Rear Admiral reacts as he does is the whole point of the discussions
we are having with the Americans now about the common missile
compartment is in essence to advance that crucial decision so
that it is taken to influence our build as well as theirs, allowing
for the fact that they will be replacing later than we are.
Q127 Mr Davidson: In relation to
this question of the missile tubing and, indeed, other parts possibly
being built here, possibly there, the partnership that is going
to build the aircraft carrier, and the partnership that is building
the Type 45, involves bits being constructed in different locations.
Is there any suggestion that any of the American bits will be
built in Britain and shipped there, so in terms of driving down
cost, as has been done on the aircraft carrier, the longer run
and so on and so forth, will any British facilities have contracts
for all the UK boats and the American boats as well?
Rear Admiral Mathews: That was
absolutely the point I was trying to make. There is that potential
in this deal, it is very different. There are certain UK companies
which have world leading capabilities to do this.
Q128 Mr Davidson: The argument then
would be that the American deterrent was not truly independent
in as much as it was dependent upon bits being built in Britain.
Rear Admiral Mathews: If you took,
for example, major forgings, which Sheffield Forgemasters make
in the UK and potentially make for the US, then I think buying
a large forging does not mean that your system becomes dependent
on another country, that is done for economic and technical reasons.
Chairman: That concludes our hearing.
May I say that although I was a bit rude about the Senior Responsible
Owner, I always try to congratulate a witness where I can when
he performs well in this Committee, and Mr Lester has been very
clear in his submissions to us and I am very grateful for his
fluent testimony, and indeed to the Admiral. Thank you very much