§ Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the continuing delay on the part of the Ministry of Defence in sending design drawings of AOR1 to Swan Hunter.The matter is urgent and immediate, Mr. Speaker. It was only this morning that I learnt or could have learnt that the Ministry of Defence will not release these crucial design studies until August or September. The implications of this are very serious indeed.
On 24 April the Prime Minister wrote to me about the AOR1 order and gave me an assurance that Harland's bid had been "comprehensively costed" by the Government. That "comprehensive" costing could only be based on the Harland designs. In the same letter the Prime Minister said that the Secretary of State for Defenceprefers the Harland's tender on grounds of design.Thus, the Prime Minister assures me that the Harland designs are being "comprehensively" reviewed prior to the placement of the AOR contract.
I learnt today from a letter sent to me by the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement that, according to Mr. Peter Levene, these designs are still being reviewed by the MOD prior to issue to Swan Hunter. What on earth can there be to review? Surely the review was "comprehensively" carried out before the contract was placed? Certainly, Mr. Levene gave the Select Committee on Defence the clear impression that these designs were already with Swan Hunter when he gave evidence before that Committee on 15 May. He led any reader of the published minutes to believe that Swan 1196 Hunter had been given a definite price—and the designs—to enable it to bid for the AOR2. That is not the case, and Mr. Levene now admits that it is not the case. His own interpretation and apology are published today by the Select Committee.
The implications of all this are serious. Why can Harland and Wolff's designs not be made available to Swan Hunter? The Ministry of Defence must state its reasons or leave us to conclude that there is something to conceal. Are the designs incomplete or faulty in some way, or is scrutiny incomplete? The implication is obvious: whatever is incomplete now was incomplete when the AOR1 was ordered. Some 1,000 men on Tyneside have already lost their jobs because that order was placed with Harland and Wolff, and there are more redundancies to come.
The sense of injustice in the north-east is considerable. If the House is unable to discuss this matter now, may I urge the Select Committee on Defence to send for the designs and designers—in confidence, if necessary—to discover exactly what was completed and when, what remains in Harland's designs to be reviewed by the Ministry of Defence, and why?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the continuing delay on the part of the Ministry of Defence in sending design drawings of AORI to Swan Hunter.I have listened with the greatest care to what the hon. Gentleman has said and I well understand his concern about this matter. I regret that I have to give him the same reply as I gave to his hon. Friend. I cannot say that this matter is appropriate for discussion under standing Order No. 10.