Defence Training Review Programme
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): Expenditure to date on the defence training review programme is £34.6 million. That includes the expenditure costs of both package 1 and package 2 of the training review programme.
Mark Pritchard: The Minister will know that the defence training review is the largest private finance initiative in British history. It was originally estimated that the cost would be £11 billion, but in the last six months it has risen to £12 billion. Will the Minister confirm whether this programme will go ahead and whether Treasury Ministers have been consulted about the escalating costs?
Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman is right that the financial situation has led to cost growth in the programme, but we have worked with Metrix to see how to minimise the costs. I know that this will disappoint the hon. Gentleman greatly because of his constituency interest, but I have to say that the programme is still affordable and remains more affordable than the in-house alternative, so our plans are to go ahead with the programme on the basis of package 1.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): May I return to the Metrix training contract, in the light of the unsatisfactory answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies)—our new hon. Friend—and, indeed, the answer given to the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard)? The contract costs are more than £1 million a day and are soaring into the stratosphere. Will the Minister say whether or not the following quote was well sourced? The defence training review executive board investigated “major affordability issues” that could not be disclosed to the project board as they were “too sensitive”. What is going wrong with the contract?
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): The costs to which my hon. Friend refers cover the provision of the defence training package over a 30-year programme, so he should not be surprised if some of the figures are high. I am sorry that he found what I said to the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) unsatisfactory, but we have re-examined affordability and remain convinced that the package is the best option going forward and that it is better than the in-house alternative in providing the quality of training that we need at a reasonable price—a good price for the taxpayer.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Will my hon. Friend the Minister comment on the training implications of the future strike capability of the RAF? In particular, does he think that the Metrix consortium’s contracts to train military personnel over the next 30 years, which have increased in cost by £1 billion, are adequate for the purpose? There seems to be a cabal of private companies locking the taxpayer and the military into a private finance initiative scheme that is costing much more money over the years for a far inferior service to the RAF and other forces.