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MPs call Qinetiq sellout execs 'profiteers' - no, really?

Cutlasses, parrots retrospectively seen as clues

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Naturally enough, once the men in eyepatches and big boots have been invited to take over the ship, they predictably unscrew and trouser most of the portable fittings before setting sail for the Spanish Main, making surplus British crew walk the plank as they go.

Then, sometimes, a few people will notice belatedly that something has gone wrong - that we don't have a ship anymore, and we have to rent it back at extortionate costs when we want it. Also that our former captains now indulge in such hobbies as collecting life-size elephant sculptures made of solid gold.

Then we spend the next decade with people like the Public Accounts Committee fighting over who can issue the most showy condemnation of the way the thing was handled - without recommending any action other than bolting that particular stable door in future (which in this case, as the MPs largely admit, has already been done).

Nobody has the guts to suggest that any of the supervising mandarins be fired, or have their pensions taken away. Nobody dares to stain the reputations of the political management who oversaw the deal. After a few years, people will dare to point to the hugely wealthy pirate skippers, and call them mildly ugly names like "profiteer" - like they care - but that's it.

And absolutely nobody bothers to spend time seeking out the skulduggery that's going on now, that didn't happen years ago. Things like Watchkeeper, and Eurofighter Tranche 3, and Future Lynx - and these are just in the MoD. The NHS gets three times the Defence budget - it probably has at least three times as much general burglary and waste going on. And even that is peanuts compared to the various forms of social-inclusion spending.

Come on, MPs. Come on, National Audit Office. We know about QinetiQ. Turn around and look into the future - or at least the present, for goodness' sake - why don't you? ®

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