HL Deb 17 February 2000 vol 609 c1343

3.24 p.m.

Lord Burnhamasked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether certain major defence contractors have been instructed not to submit any further accounts before the end of the financial year.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, the answer is no. That is because the Question is based on the erroneous premise that government can instruct contractors when to submit bills. As the noble Lord knows, what we do every year is to discuss with industry how to manage expenditure most effectively. This year is no different.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, does the Minister's reply mean that no instructions have been given but that it has been admitted tacitly that it would be wise to leave bills unsubmitted until the following year? If that is the case, what will be the effect of the Budget in that year?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, no instructions are given. The MoD routinely enters into agreements with its suppliers to promote commercial relationships which benefit both parties. Details are commercially confidential between us and the individual companies. Arrangements are freely entered into on both sides.