Sunday, 25 November 2007

AMs, Cllrs and MPs support the Metrix bid but why?

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Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Fourth Report

3 The Metrix Bid


15. Metrix is a consortium which is bidding for both of the packages and propose to site them both at St Athan. Chris Bryant MP, Chairman of the M4 St Athan Parliamentary Steering Group explained that Metrix was a consortium of companies that included "some of the biggest players in their respective fields". [20] The full list of consortium members are Augusta Westland, City and Guilds, Currie and Brown, Dalkia, EDS, Laing O'Rourke, Land Securities Trillium, Nord Anglia Eduation Plc, Qinetiq, Ratheon, Serco, Sodexho Defence Services and The Open University.[21]

16. We do not set out the details of the Metrix bid in this report as they remain commercially confidential until the conclusion of the competition. Instead, we gauge the support for the bid in Wales.

17. While the two Metrix bids represent a significant proportion of the St Athan site, we were told by a number of our witnesses that the Metrix bids would not impinge on the current commercial development of the site. Furthermore, the two bids could be located on the St Athan site alongside existing contracts with ATC Lasham and the Special Services Support Group. John Smith MP, a Member of the M4 St Athan Parliamentary Steering Group and the local Member of Parliament told us that RAF St Athan was the largest military base in the United Kingdom covering 1000 acres. He confirmed that St Athan could "accommodate the two packages for the Defence Training Review on 600 acres of the remaining land" which would still leave between 200 and 300 acres to continue the development of a commercial aerospace park on the site.[22] Therefore, development of the site for the training academies could proceed without any disruption to existing activity at St Athan.

Benefits of the Bid for Wales

18. Jenny Randerson AM, told us that successful bids would have an important impact on the economy of south Wales. She explained that St Athan had "a travel-to-work employment population of 600,000 people within 45 minutes' drive-time" which included the population of Cardiff where there was "an academic and training infrastructure to support this development".[23]

19. Councillor Harvey also highlighted the potential for a successful Metrix bid to act as "a motor for economic growth not only in the Vale of Glamorgan but in the sub-region and the Welsh economy as a whole". He added that the bids would also help to "maintain and grow the critical mass we need to have a sustainable, expanding aerospace industry.[24] Jane Hutt AM agreed that successful bids would have a significant impact on employment in the region. She argued that it could create "up to 1,500 direct construction jobs during the building of the academy, and creation of 5,550 permanent jobs - 4,000 on site and 1,500 off-site; once the academies were up and running".[25]

20. In 2004, our predecessor Committee published its report on Manufacturing and Trade in Wales. That report examined the defence sector, including defence spending in Wales. One of the witnesses in that inquiry, Professor Gripaios, the Head of South West Economy Centre, University of Plymouth, argued that while Wales did well in identifiable public expenditure, which was defined as "expenditure incurred on behalf of a particular population", Wales did "very poorly from the non-identified component of public expenditure, principally Defence". In conclusion he asserted that Wales had the lowest defence spending of any UK region.[26]

21. During our inquiry our witnesses returned to that issue. Representatives of the M4/St Athan Parliamentary Steering Group stated that while 9% of military personnel were recruited from Wales, only 6% of MoD public spending and procurement came to Wales. They saw a serious inequity in that situation and argued that St Athan could help to restore that balance.[27]

22. David Melding AM also believed that the MoD had to recognise the fact that all the home nations should be able to contribute fully to the defence of the United Kingdom, and that the Metrix bid would help Wales to achieve that goal.[28] In addition, Chris Bryant MP highlighted the military tradition in south Wales, which he described as being "an enormously supportive environment for the military".[29] David Melding AM concurred. He argued that Wales had "a very proud military tradition in supporting the defence of this country and abroad, and we want to go on doing that". He also argued that locating the training academies at St Athan would have "a major impact on the morale of people in Wales as well as being an opportunity in terms of economic development".[30]

23. In relation to the MoD's physical sites Tom Watson MP, Under Secretary of State for Defence, Ministry of Defence, acknowledged that this was a legacy from 50 years ago when many RAF bases were established in the east of England.[31] Nick Evans Director General Management and Organisation, Ministry of Defence, added that like all other government departments, the MoD was subject to the Lyons Review recommendations to relocate people from London and the South East of England, which would reverse that trend. While the Minister declared that not investing in Wales was not an MoD policy, he reiterated the fact that MoD investment decisions "have to be made against what is best for our military outputs".[32]

Support for the Bid

24. In this short inquiry we took evidence from all tiers of government in Wales to assess support for the Metrix bid. Our witnesses included representatives from the Vale of Glamorgan Council, backbench Members of the National Assembly, the Welsh Assembly Government, and backbench Members of Parliament.


25. Chris Bryant MP, Chairman of the M4 St Athan Parliamentary Steering Group explained that his Group had been established to help promote the Metrix bid. It was made up of Members of Parliament from all four political parties represented in Wales, and included Members with English constituencies. He argued that such a range of support was important in order to:

"show that there is very strong political support across ideology, across different kinds of constituencies, both rural and metropolitan, both north Walian and south Walian, valleys and cities, and stretching into the work zone of England as well because we believe that that support will be an essential part of delivering the outcomes that the MoD needs".[33]

26. John Smith MP, a member of the Group and the local Member of Parliament, agreed with his colleague's assessment. He stated that it was "vitally important that this campaign be seen as a much broader campaign than just a Vale of Glamorgan campaign" because "the benefits of a successful Metrix bid would go "far beyond the Vale".[34] Furthermore, he was clear that the role of the Group was to promote the merits of the Metrix bid rather than campaign for "some sort of quid pro quo for recent disappointing decisions about DARA". To that end, he believed it was vital to have an All Party Group whose membership extended across Wales and into England.[35]

27. We were told that the role of the Parliamentary Steering Group was to raise support for the Metrix bid "locally, nationally across Wales, and to make sure Ministers understand the unique aspects of our bid".[36] It also tasked itself with presenting the high level of support for the bid to Ministers.[37] John Smith MP explained that the Group had the objective to seek assurances that the evaluation process would be "robust, fair and objective", and was confident that if it was, then the Metrix bid would win on merit.[38] Chris Bryant MP summed up the role of the Group as one of ensuring that "if any ministers in the MoD had a Cosford chip on one shoulder, they at least had a St Athan chip on the other shoulder".[39]


28. We also took evidence in Cardif from the National Assembly for Wales All-Party Military Academy Group. David Melding AM, a member of the Group explained that its principal focus was to help the Welsh Assembly Government in its support of the bid. He argued that although colleagues at Westminster had the principal responsibility for "bringing some pressure to bear on the Ministry of Defence", his Group had an important role to play to "demonstrate that there is an enormous amount of grass-roots support in the community" for the Metrix bid.[40] Jane Hutt AM, a member of the Welsh Assembly Government, but talking to us as a member of the All Party Group and the local Assembly Member, told us that the two all Party Groups, alongside the Vale of Glamorgan Council, had demonstrated strong support for the bid. She declared that "there has not been a voice of dissention at all in all of the weeks leading up to the public launch of this bid. It has been universally supported locally".[41] Jenny Randerson AM described the bid as being "of importance to the whole of south Wales".[42]


29. Councillor Harvey, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Tourism and Leisure at the Vale of Glamorgan Council confirmed the support of his Council. He told us that Council Members had attended meetings with Assembly Members, MoD Officers, and representatives of other Local Authorities to promote the Metrix bid. In addition to those meetings he confirmed that the Council was taking the initiative on "infrastructure matters" in relation to St Athan.[43]


30. Andrew Davies AM demonstrated the strong support of the Welsh Assembly Government for the bid. He explained that in relation to the Metrix bid, initial contact between the consortium and the Welsh Assembly Government was between Welsh Assembly Government officials, headed by David Swallow, a Welsh Assembly Government official. Andrew Davies AM explained that David Swallow now headed "Team Wales" which was the Welsh Assembly Government's team to support and assist the bid, and that the Team had representatives from his Department, from the Department for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, and the public sector, and included "a very great deal of support from the Vale of Glamorgan Local Authority".[44]

31. In addition to the work of Team Wales, Andrew Davies AM confirmed that both he and the First Minister had already held "a series of meetings, conversations, exchanges and correspondence in terms of saying that in our view the Metrix bid is the best bid not only for Wales but it will be good for the MoD and the armed forces".[45] Furthermore, he confirmed that the Rt. Hon. Rhodri Morgan AM, First Minister, had held meetings with the Armed Forces Minister, while he had held meetings with Wales Office Ministers.[46]

32. We are impressed with the high level of support for the bid and welcome the cross party cooperation at all levels in promoting the Metrix bid to locate the MoD's Military Training Academy at St Athan.

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