Wednesday, July 13, 2011

PM blocked inquiry into carriers cost

Source: Press TV

British Prime Minister David Cameron has emerged to have impeded the inquiry of the parliamentary independent financial watchdog into the cost of two controversial aircraft carriers.

The most senior official at the Ministry of Defense, Ursula Brennan, told the Commons public accounts committee that Cameron intervened when the National Audit Office officials got into a dispute with cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell and the PM's national security adviser Sir Peter Ricketts.

Brennan told the committee chaired by former Labor minister Margaret Hodge "the papers that were withheld were policy papers relating to policy matters," adding the Cabinet Office had to decide whether to allow the NAO to see the documents "dealing with government policy".

Hodge said she was shocked to know that “the prime minister stopped the NAO from having access to the papers".

This comes as the NAO representatives at the questioning session told the committee that they needed to access the papers to ensure the MoD carrier projects represented value for money.

"Parliament needs to be able to assure the public that value for money is obtained and government must put in place arrangements to enable parliament to do its job," the NAO said.

"On the basis of what we have seen we cannot conclude on how the accounting officer [the MoD's top official] was able to reach a strategic judgment on the value for money on the carrier ... decision," it added.

The MoD said after the Strategic Defense Review last year that it cannot cancel two aircraft carrier projects because they will cost more to scrap than to build .

That claim has been challenged by the NAO that said documents they have recently accessed show ending the contracts could save the public more than £1 billion.

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