Drayson back at MoD, retains biznovation portfolio
'Malodorous' supersonic-car lord returns
Controversial former military equipment purchasing boss Lord Drayson has been made a Defence minister once again. Details of his portfolio have yet to be announced, but Drayson will outrank the current equipment minister - and will retain a position at the new department of "Business, Innovation and Skills".
According to the Number 10 Downing Street website, Drayson returns to the MoD at "Minister of State" grade, making him senior to the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) minister Quentin Davies, who is only an Under Secretary of State.
Drayson originally entered government in 2005 following his elevation from the common herd to the peerage. One Labour lord refused to share a bench with him at the time, saying his ennoblement was "malodorous".
As DE&S chief, Drayson was regarded as a staunch defender of the interests of the UK arms industry. He authored the Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS), effectively a guarantee of continued existence for large parts of the UK arms sector, and followed a policy of ordering British-made equipment wherever possible.
James Arbuthnot, Tory MP, current chairman of the parliamentary defence committee and former MoD procurement minister himself, said 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 particular, Drayson ordered the controversial £1bn Future Lynx purchase that year, buying upgraded Lynx helicopters from British-Italian firm AgustaWestland. The Future Lynxes are to arrive from 2011.
Critics suggested that Drayson could have ordered larger and more powerful Blackhawk and Seahawk helicopters from Sikorsky instead, got them sooner - perhaps saving lives among UK forces - and spent less money to boot. The AgustaWestland deal, however, safeguarded an estimated 900 jobs in the UK. The deal was also defended on the grounds that it would reduce UK military dependence on foreign suppliers: though in fact the Future Lynx has American engines and also requires significant support from Italy.
Drayson's previous business career was also the subject of some debate. The company which made him rich, Powderject, has been the subject of some question as to whether the vaccines it sold actually worked: and the eponymous needle-free injection device never actually appeared.
In 2007, Drayson resigned his position at the MoD, stating that he wanted to spend more time racing his biofuelled car at Le Mans. This was widely disbelieved, however, with rumour suggesting that he had in fact quit over successful moves by the Army to resist his plans for their armoured-vehicles project (the Future Rapid Effects System, FRES).
Drayson would have used the £14bn FRES budget to revitalise the moribund British tank industry: the Army preferred to avoid reinvention of American wheels, and wished instead to simply buy a vehicle from General Dynamics.
UK arms industry
"...What other reason is there for continuing to trumpet such biased c**p and attempt to attack anyone who's actually for the UK arms industry"
Because he's reasonably well informed, and knows that most of the equipment is foisted on the forces despite being more expensive than a lot of solutions that can be bought off the shelf so that we can actually use it when we need it. If that wasn't enough there is also a depressing tendency for the home grown equipment to not to the job adequately as well.
We failed miserably in Iraq, mostly because of a lack of helicoptors which forced troops to use unprotected ground vehicles, which in turn resulted in us being unable to do anything useful. Eventually the yanks had to bail us out by retaking southern Iraq.
Despite this, we still don't have enough helicopters or protected vehicles. Because of this we have just been humiliated in Afghanistan as well. Depressingly, the americans have had to take over the control of helmand province from us because we couldn't do the job. Why? Well, it looks like its the same lack of equipment again.
Having just lost two wars over a stretch of time longer than the second world war we still don't have basic kit the army needs like transport helicopters and sufficient numbers of protected vehicles. If it can't be provided within the time we need it, we should buy from someone that *CAN* deliver it while it can do us some good.
Because, well you know peoples lives depend on getting this equipment. Not only those that die, but those that live crippled having lost limbs. Why? Because seemingly British arms companies would prefer that our troops don't have the equipment at all if they aren't providing it.
I'm all for us using our own equipment, but only up to the point where we can actually supply equipment fit for task when our troops need it at a reasonable price. If we can't, then we should buy it off the shelf from someone that can can.
"...though in fact the Future Lynx has American engines and also requires significant support from Italy."
True, but the engines are manufactured by a company 50% owned by Rolls-Royce so they could probably stick a few together in Bristol or Derby or somewhere if it made sense to do so.
Understatement of the Year ?
"Drayson's previous business career was also the subject of some debate."
I appreciate the author must be careful in these circumstances - but the powderject makes for interesting (if disturbing) reading.