Feeds

MoD's Baron techwealth quits for Le Mans biofuel bid

Wants to spend more time with his alcohol car

Mobile application security vulnerability report

The UK's tech-millionaire aristocrat defence procurement minister has quit, saying that he wants to spend more time racing biofuel cars.

Paul Drayson holds a PhD in Robotics from Aston University and made an estimated £80m personal fortune during a business career that included a management buyout at Trebor, the sweets maker. In 1993 he co-founded a medical-technology company called Powderject, which sold in 2003 for more than £0.5bn despite serious questions as to whether the vaccines it sold actually worked - not to mention the fact that the eponymous needle-free injection system has never made it to market.

Drayson has been a substantial donor to Tony Blair's Labour party and was ennobled as Baron of Kensington three years ago, becoming defence spokesman in the Lords and then government minister in charge of defence procurement in May 2005. One Labour Lord refused to share a bench with Drayson, saying that his ennoblement was "malodorous".

During his time as the MoD's chief kit purchaser, Drayson bought a vast number of things, including a "Loitering Munitions Demonstrator" robo-missile prototype for £500m and an unmanned stealth skydroid for £124m. He also wrote the UK Defence Industrial Strategy, effectively a guarantee of continued existence for large parts of the British defence sector.

James Arbuthnot, Tory MP, former defence procurement minister and now chairman of the Commons defence committee, said early in 2006 that Drayson had "made a favourable impression... he has given a strong impression of knowing industry, being prepared to listen to industry... He has been among industry and has listened to it."

In answer to repeated pleas for more helicopters from frontline troops fighting for their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, Drayson made some curious moves.

In early 2006 he placed a £1bn order for 70 Future Lynx helicopters from AgustaWestland. The Lynxes will thus cost an average of £14m each and will be delivered from 2011, securing an estimated 900 jobs at AgustaWestland's West Country factory.

Troublemakers occasionally suggest that Drayson could have done better for our boys and girls in uniform - and for the taxpayers too - pointing out that the US Navy ordered a dozen rather larger choppers from Sikorsky five months later, getting a price of £6m apiece and delivery by the end of this year. These troublemakers sometimes suggest that in fact Drayson could have bought the whirlybirds from Sikorsky, given each sacked worker at AgustaWestland a half-million-pound payoff, and still saved £180m for the taxpayers.

The noble lord's good friends in the UK arms biz say that buying helicopters made in Blighty is better, because then you needn't go cap in hand to the Yanks for parts. This is to conveniently ignore the fact that the Future Lynx uses US engines.

In other moves to get more helicopter support for our forces, Drayson also bought additional Merlin HC3s from AgustaWestland. Merlin HC3s cost around £30m and can lift 24 troops or four tons. By contrast, Chinook HC2s from Boeing - also in service with the British forces - cost £20m, lift 54 troops or ten tons, and are vastly more reliable.

The Merlin needs American tech support, too, so it's really hard to see why it was ever bought - except that, of course, the UK arms sector needed it to be.

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.