Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More than corruption to think about with BAe 

Why on earth did Saudi Arabia buy such a flawed bit of kit as the Tornado fighters and bombers in the first place? That thought is the underpinning of much of the bribery speculation... surely only greased palms could explain such a purchasing decision given the superior equipment on offer elsewhere at the time?

Britain of course itself bought the Tornados and paid thousands of millions over the odds for equipping the RAF. If you accept the arguments in a polemic book* we have to ask whether our defence manufacturing industries are effectively blackmailing British Governments through the politics of job cut threats. Never mind that the armed forces of the crown end up with shoddy UK-built equipment hugely overpriced and decades late.

LibDems are rightly in the lead over the 'bribery is a crime' issue and the Saudi arms deal, and note with interest that theTories are silent on much of this.

Our strength here partly comes because nobody has thought of trying seriously to bribe us - yet. But some of the issues around the deal will hit us in our political target areas - BAe jobs in Bristol for example, not to mention other defence links in Yeovil and Dunfermline.

We are going to have to look seriously at defence procurement policies and why trying to keep 'British Suppliers' in the forefront has cost the UK so dearly. Otherwise the BAe tar baby will stick to us too if we ever get into range of power. Is the purpose of military procurement to get efficent armed forces with modern equipment that can be depolyed nw and the immediate future; or is it to provide massively subsidised civillian jobs in a select range of industries in key parliamentary seats?

* Lewis Page (2006) 'Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs; waste and blundering in the military' Arrow Books. Includes (pp288-289) a skeptical note on LibDem polices and on Paul Keetch.

(According to page at the time of purchase the Tornado fighters did not have the correct radar sytems available and operational, so they were ballasted with concrete blocks in the nose where the radar should have been in order to prerve the aircrafts flght trim. This arrangement was known to RAF wags as 'Blue Circle Radar'. When the Saudis were assessing the aircraft it was in this condition... again why did they even consider it?)

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