It makes me sick when politicians bang on about the military covenant but allow the revolving door between the defence industry and government employees to swish around faster than ever.
Announced today is news that the widely reported ‘most useless Secretary of State for Defence’ in the history of useless Secretary’s of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, supposedly the author of the famous Hoon Defence, is to join Agusta Westland, that famous British helicopter firm owned by that other famous Italian firm, Finmeccanica, as executive senior vice-president of international business, responsible for sales of helicopters outside the UK and Italy.
Of course he has loads of credibility in the role as vice president of international business, after a glittering career in commerce, in which he grew several businesses from nothing, generated significant value and managed the strategy of a number of successful international corporations before becoming an MP he is uniquely placed for the challenging job of selling complex military equipment.
Hang on, rewind a minute.
He has never run an international business in his life, some unkind wags might say the only thing he had ran, is the MoD, into the ground that is.
And lets not forget his role in the Iraqi intelligence scandal, the dodgy dossier, failing to allow the military to properly prepare for Iraq, pissing the whole nation of Canada off by trying to charge them for rescuing HMCS Chicoutimi, the David Kelly affair and the cash for influence sting operation carried out by Channel 4
What a catch, if I were the HR Director at Agusta Westland I would be chuffed to bits at landing such a superstar.
Let’s remind ourselves of what he said
- One of the challenges I think I am really looking forward to is sort of translating my knowledge and contacts about sort of international scene into something that bluntly makes money
- There will be opportunities for American companies in particular to look around at some (em) vulnerable European companies because those companies will become vulnerable as their own governments cut back on defence spending. I foresee, its one reason why I’m talking to American private equity firms, I foresee a period where we may well see American companies in effect, buying market share in Europe because they will be buying up national champions who are not getting the support they need to, to continue.
after being caught red handed
Translating knowledge and contacts into cash, why, no better place than the defence industry.
Lets remind ourselves of a few pertinent dates.
Geoff Hoon, the honourable member, was Secretary of State for Defence between the 11th of October 1999 and the 5th of May 2005
In October 2004 it was reported that the sale of GKN’s stake in Agusta would NOT be referred to the Competition Commission, thus allowing Finmeccanica to purchase their 50% stake, the end of British ownership in the industry.
GKN’s disposal of its 50% stake in Agusta to Italian partner Finmeccanica is not to be investigated by the Competition Commission, it was decided.
Commenting on the decision, Arthur Taylor, regional secretary of the union Amicus for the South West said;
We need the Future Lynx [helicopter] contract as the site is in danger without it and we have been putting pressure on Geoff Hoon about this
On March the 25th 2005, the Guardian reported;
Defence minister Geoff Hoon said the MoD had chosen Yeovil-based AgustaWestland’s Future Lynx helicopter as the preferred option for the UK armed forces land reconnaissance and maritime surface attack requirements.
The deal is expected to be worth around £1bn – a third of Britain’s defence budget for helicopters over the next 10 years.
The choice of the Future Lynx to fulfil two of the five main helicopter defence requirements comes two months after AgustaWestland said that it was cutting its 4,000 West Country workforce by some 680.
Commenting on the selection of the Future Lynx helicopter, a helicopter that answered the question no one in the MoD was asking, so the question was changed, Geoff Hoon said
This is excellent news for Agusta Westland, for the highly skilled staff at its Yeovil plant, and for the British defence industry, including Smiths Industries at Cheltenham, Thales at Raynes Park and Taunton, GD(UK) in St Leonards-on-Sea and South Dorset Engineering Ltd in Weymouth
Also on the same day, in what was not widely reported, the MoD and Agusta Westland entered into a ‘partnering agreement’
Future Lynx by the way, is now worth £1.7 billion, at least, a shade more than reported in the Guardian in 2005 and we are getting fewer aircraft as well, a bargain.
In January last year This is Dorset reported that Geoff had made a visit to Yoavilton, home of Agusta Westland
YEOVIL Town’s home match with Exeter City saw a high profile spectator at the weekend in the form of former defence secretary Geoff Hoon.
His presence at Huish Park followed speculation that Mr Hoon may be considering a career outside of politics after the General Election.
He was with AgustaWestland managing director Graham Cole and Yeovil MP David Laws.
Mr Laws said Hoon was at the game with friends from the Yeovil area. He said: “Geoff Hoon has been a very influential figure for Yeovil. It was Mr Hoon who first signed off the £1 billion order for Future Lynx helicopters, which has been so crucial to AgustaWestland and which will sustain a much needed helicopter capability for our armed forces.”
So in January last year Geoff Hoon was at a football match with the MD of Agusta Westland and disgraced MP David Laws, talking about what I wonder, the footie perhaps.
Lots of talk about good news for the defence industry but good news for the armed forces, a bit thin on the ground regarding helicopters.
Defence Management have today reported;
Hoon was not said to have signed off any AgustaWestland contracts during his time at the Ministry of Defence.
Hoon, who was defence secretary from 1999 to 2005, was suspended from the Parliamentary Labour party in 2010 after being secretly filmed by television programme Dispatches offering his consultancy services for £3,000 a day.
Hoon later issued an “unreserved” apology for the filmed comments.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which rules on former ministers professional appointments, cleared Hoon to launch transport consultancy TaylorHoon Strategy in September 2010.
AgustaWestland was said to have been a client of TaylorHoon Strategy before the position was announced.
The guidance on ex ministers taking jobs is here, just in case anyone fancies a look. Of course no guidelines will have been broken, it will all be above board and beyond suspicion but Geoff will be joining a number of mates at Agusta Westland.
If one looks at the UK helicopter line up it is obvious, and hardly a secret, that Westland Helicopters (sorry, Agusta Westland) have a near complete stranglehold and this has had a detrimental effect. The MoD maintains the fiction that requirements are written and then put to competition but it is obvious that the helicopter acquisition strategy starts with this simple sentence;
What are Westland’s selling?
The Defence Industrial Strategy lists helicopters as a key as sovereign capability, operating in a twilight world of quasi commercial strategic partnership agreements that seem to serve the company well but also subvert the decision making process.
We also intend to promote a more open, predictable but demanding partnered relationship with AgustaWestland, to realise business transformation within the company. We wish this transformation to provide better value for money and reduce their reliance on our investment to sustain this design engineering skill-base
Wishing never makes a good strategy.
One might speculate on the degree by which Agusta Westland has an undue influence on the MoD and what link there is between the following;
- Air Marshal Sir Christopher Coville KCB BA FCIPD FRAeS Ministry of Defence, Commander-in-Chief Personnel and Training Command, Non Executive Director Agusta Westland, joined in 2003 followed by Non Executive Chairman in 2005
- Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge KCB CBE Ministry of Defence Commander-in-Chief Strike Command, joined as Senior Strategic Advisor to Finmeccanica January in 2006
- Sir Kevin Tebbit KCB CMG Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary, Chairman Finmeccanica, joined in November 2005
- Lord Bach Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Director Finmeccanica, joined in May 2006
- David Gould CB Ministry of Defence Chief Operating Officer, Defence Equipment and Support, Consultant SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems Ltd (subsidiary of Finmeccanica) and in 2005 Non Executive Director of VEGA Consulting (another Finmeccanica company)
- Professor Sir Keith O’Nions FRS Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Non Executive Director Finmeccanica
All information is from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments that adjudicates on senior government employees seeking employment in the private sector. The MoD is consistently in the top 2 of government departments with its staff seeking employment, perhaps they are so good and therefore in high demand, or is it those companies buying influence, inside information and a well thumbed address book?
The above are only the senior crown servants and ministers, beneath these there are numerous others.
Finmeccanica looks like some well paid retirement village for ex MoD employees and ministers where their favours are returned, allegedly of course.
Geoff joins a long and distinguished list, but any suggestion that something smells like Grimsby Fish Market on a warm June afternoon is met with;
Nothing to see here, move along now
If you really want to read a good report, for the Daily Mail, click the link below, the headline is especially good;
Just in case anyone is wondering what the Hoon Defence is, the joke goes something like this;
Geoff: Are these new Type 45′s any good then
Admiral: yes sir, they can track and destroy twice as many targets as the Type 42 they are replacing
Geoff: How many are we having
Geoff: If they are twice as good you only need half as many so we will just have 6 then