David Blackburn

A report that must inaugurate reform

A report that must inaugurate reform
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Chairman of the Nimrod inquiry Charles Haddon Cave QC is convinced that the fire on board Nimrod XV230 would not have occurred had those tasked with ensuring airworthiness fulfilled their responsibilities. Haddon Cave lists Air Commodore George Baber, Wing Commander Michael Eagles and the leadership of BAE Systems among the chief culprits – the MoD and BAE face costly negligence suits and perhaps criminal proceedings in consequence.

Identifying culpable individuals is unusual, illustrating quite how damning this report is to the MoD and the Defence industry – those bodies, as well as allegedly negligent individuals are responsible. The report provides a clear insight into the MoD’s modus operandi. Haddon Cave is in no doubt that cuts and restructuring, amid budgetary constraints imposed by the then Chancellor, took precedence over safety and supply, amid escalating military deployment at the behest of the then Prime Minister. That précis should not be the preserve of the past tense: the Gray report proves that such failings are consistent and ongoing across the MoD; its fatal effects will intensify as budgets contract and deployment increases.

‘Systemic failure’ is an overused, almost meaningless phrase, but its persistent application to MoD practices should inspire Whitehall and Westminster to pursue radical reforms in procurement and foreign policy objectives.