HC Deb 19 May 1981 vol 5 c150
20. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement regarding the present state of his plans to recover his Department's overspend on cash limits in 1980–81 during the current financial year.

Mr. Nott

I have nothing to add to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend on 14 April 1981.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does my right hon. Friend agree in principle that to the extent that, as we are led to understand, the overspend in 1980 and in 1979 was largely attributable to the accelerated delivery of equipment and the accelerated presentation of bills for that equipment, those bills cannot be duplicated in the current year and that there is therefore an overwhelming case for cash limits in the Ministry of Defence, as in any other Department of Government, requiring a recovery in a subsequent year of overspending the previous year?

Mr. Nott

If my hon. Friend means that if an item of equipment is delivered one year it cannot be delivered the following year, I agree with him on that. The central issue for programmes such as my own which have an extremely long time-span of 10 years or more is—and I think that this is broadly recognised everywhere—that it would be helpful to have some kind of carry-over from one year to another. Some flexibility at the end of the year would be an improvement to the system. I think that this point, however, is different from the one that my hon. Friend has asked and to which I have given an answer at least 10 times.