The Strategic Defence and Security Review and the National Security Strategy - Defence Committee Contents

Written evidence from Greenpeace

I have information that I wish to submit for you to consider as part of your inquiry into the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and the National Security Strategy (NSS).

The information I have, focuses on Chapter 3 of the SDSR, called "The Deterrent". There are three central criticisms I have with the SDSR related to this section.

1.  Transparency: there is inadequate information on how value for money is being achieved in the Trident successor programme

1.1.  Paragraph 3.8 of the SDSR stated that Trident would be "scrutinised to ensure value for money". It then went on to confirm that this Value for Money Report (VfMR) had been concluded.

1.2.  However the SDSR only lays out the summary conclusions of this VfMR, not the VfMR itself. This is confirmed by a statement in Parliament on 11 November 2010 by the Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox:

The value for money review's outcomes were published as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review…

Because of the classified nature of much of the supporting paperwork there are no plans to publish anything further.

1.3.  The conclusions of the VfMR which are laid out in the SDSR suggest a number of methods by which the MoD will ensure value for money for Trident and how savings will be made in the project. This is addressed in paragraph 3.10, 3.15 and 3.16.

1.4.  However the SDSR does not at any stage give adequate details on how these savings will be made. In paragraph 3.16 for instance, the SDSR states that:

"We have identified a number of areas where spending can be reduced and in some cases deferred in order to minimise expenditure. As a result, we have agreed to defer and potentially to remove over £1 billion of future spending on infrastructure over the next 10 years."

1.5.  The opacity of the SDSR and its inability to providing adequate information on Trident cost savings is evident in Parliamentary questions requesting for more information:

For example, on 8 November 2010, Bernard Jenkin asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what account his Department took of (a) defence inflation, (b) unforeseen design risks and (c) changes in specification between 2010 and 2016 in identifying cost savings in the Trident value for money review.

More recently, on 10 January 2011, Tessa Munt asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assumptions were made in respect of the number of submarines to be manufactured when his Department made its estimate of the cost of replacing Trident included in the summary of the Value for Money review.

These are just two examples which show the need for more information on the findings of the VfMR study and to understand how it was conducted. And in both of these cases, Dr Fox was able to provide a ready answer. This fact indicates that there is (in spite of the reported sensitive nature of the VfMR study's supporting documents) a great deal of information in the VfMR which is not sensitive but has not yet been released.

1.6.  The exclusion of the VfMR from the SDSR contradicts earlier statements by Dr Fox. I refer specifically to the BBC's Andrew Marr show where Dr Fox said:

The wider review into the costs of Trident, I hope will be able to be made available as soon as we can do that because I think it's important that the public can see that we've been properly scrutinising the costs of something that we promised as part of our election manifesto.

1.7.  As Dr Fox indicates, there is a strong public interest in the release of the VfMR report. This public interest is further displayed by the repeated attempts by Members of Parliament who have directly asked for the release of the VfMR review:

Jim Cunningham:15 December
Bernard Jenkin:8 December
Jeremy Corbyn:8 December
Tessa Munt:8 December
Paul Flynn:11 November
Mike Hancock:25 October
Caroline Lucas:22 July
Sheila Gilmore:19 July

1.8.  In order to ensure that the MoD can achieve the required efficiency savings and ensure value for the Trident project, it is important that they are transparent and release the full VfMR. If certain documents are deemed too sensitive, then the government should release an edited version of the VfMR into the public domain, and allow a relevant parliamentary committee to have oversight of the sensitive aspects of the review in a closed session.

1.9.  In support of this information and to present the case further, I refer you to the document: "Trident Parliamentary Brief", of submarines to be manufactured when his Department made its estimate of the cost of replacing Trident included in the summary of the Value for Money review.[132]

2.  The opportunity to debate alternatives to "like for like" Trident replacement and Parliament's oversight role is derailed by a lack of information and transparency

2.1  Paragraphs 3.8 and 3.13 of the SDSR, as well as the procedure required under the MoD's Acquisition Operating Framework, all indicate that before the Government commits to the submarine replacement, there should be adequate opportunity for a debate on alternatives and Parliamentary oversight prior to the "Main Gate" decision point.

2.2  The lack of information available in the SDSR and the lack of transparency surrounding the Trident project, will detriment efforts for a useful Trident debate. It is important to have all the facts available on the cost viability of Trident and to have access to any studies that may have been conducted on alternatives to Trident replacement.

2.3  The extent to which debate and oversight are threatened by lack of transparency is evidenced by information in a Freedom of Information (FOI) reply.[133] This document details how an extensive list of "Long Lead" items will be bought ahead of the 2016 Main Gate decision point. These items are as follows:

Hull Structure and Structural Fittings
This category includes castings and forgings, steel and control surfaces.

Primary and Secondary Propulsion Systems

Electrical Generation, Conversion, and Distribution
This includes turbo generators, platform management system (software), main switchboards, internal communications, diesel generators, main static converters, main DC distribution - distribution convertors, cathodic protection system, degaussing system, computer information systems, main battery, and remote visual surveillance system.

Various components of the Combat Systems

Ship Services
This includes the air purification system, chilled water plant, main hydraulics system, HP air bottles, submarine control console and atmosphere analyser system.

2.4  The items listed above suggest that most of the first submarine or submarines will have already been bought during the Assessment Phase, potentially making any 2016 decision on whether or not to continue with the submarine replacement programme a moot point.

On 31 January 2011, Tessa Munt asked in Parliament:

It would appear from the answers to freedom of information requests that the steel, the computer systems and the combat systems, among other things, for the first submarine have been ordered and will have been paid for. It also appears that the three reactors for the first three submarines will have been ordered and paid for before MPs can scrutinise the main gate business case. What will remain unspent for the first submarines? Will we be so financially committed that the whole main gate decision is made irrelevant?

2.5.  Subsequent FOI requests to the MoD to seek clarity on the above have been denied.

2.6.  In support of this information and to present the case further, I refer you to the document: "Trident Parliamentary Brief".[134]

2.7.  For there to be adequate public debate and Parliamentary oversight on the Trident successor project, it is imperative that the public is given access to the VfMR, studies on alternatives to Trident, and necessary information on contracts and expenditures during the Assessment Phase. As stated earlier, it is my view that the issue of sensitive defence information could be dealt with by releasing and discussing these in a closed session of the relevant parliamentary committee.

3.  There may be significant funding gaps for the Trident successor programme

3.1  A recent Financial Times article has already highlighted severe funding gaps which were not accounted for in the SDSR, suggesting that the process may have to be redone. This report encouraged Jim Murphy MP, the Labour Party's Shadow Defence Secretary, to speak out, requesting the MoD to "come clean immediately".

3.2  These MoD funding gaps only increase the urgency of addressing the serious concerns that still exist about estimates given for both the construction and operating costs for the Trident successor programme.

3.3  These include the concerns that were raised in late 2008, by the National Audit Office (NAO)[135] that the MOD's £15-20 billion 2006 White Paper estimate for Trident replacement was not robust enough.

3.4  These concerns are also raised in the 2009 Greenpeace report "In the Firing Line" that both the capital and running cost for Trident replacement had been seriously underestimated.[136] These concerns have not yet been addressed by the MoD.

3.5  It is important for the MoD to be clear about what Trident replacement costs are clear and which are not; what has been budgeted for and what has not. Until parliament and the public have access to a detailed revision of the estimated build and running costs for Trident replacement, these concerns cannot be addressed. This information should include the VfMR.

3.6  In support of this information and to present the case further, I refer you to the document: "ITFL_trident_report".[137]

February 2011

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Prepared 3 August 2011