When is the piss taking going to stop?

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

More here

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.

DIS states;

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

Admiral: 12

Geoff: If they are twice as good you only need half as many so we will just have 6 then


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Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
May 17, 2011 3:44 pm

TD: “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.”

Surely if a company is *essential* to a country’s Sovereign Capability, then it should be Nationalised, or at least the Government should retain at least a 51% stake in it?

As to the myth of writing requirements and then puttinf them out to competition, that went out thewindow years ago. Now, most defence companies have been bought out and are merely “brands” fronting for a handful of massive conglomerates.

It’s a bit like chosing between a Seat, a Skoda or a Volkswagen. They are all the same platform, using the same engines and built in the same (Polish or Spanish) factory. All that changes is the body panels, badge and the type of upholstery!

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
May 17, 2011 3:50 pm

Ah, Westlands. Remind me again how awful it would have been for them to continue doing what they had been doing from 1960, license producing Sikorsky sucessfully. Instead, we got a “European champion”, which primarily resells Agusta, and screws up most of it’s own projects. Another example of how prefixing “euro” in front of a defense company makes it into an instant white elephant….

Paul R
Paul R
May 17, 2011 3:56 pm

I liked your joke about the Type 45s. I prefer the Sir Humphrey type of joke. “Yes, they can track hundreds of things” “They’ll be good in a conflict then” “I said track minister, shooting something down is quite different”

May 17, 2011 4:11 pm

I’m beginning to think the anarchists have got the right idea

May 17, 2011 4:26 pm

corruption, pure and simple.

May 17, 2011 6:35 pm

The book to read on Westlands is Alan Bristow’s (auto)biography.

paul g
May 17, 2011 8:33 pm

i know people would lose jobs in the south west, however i can honestly say that if i was in charge of buying, I would rather suck my own shit through a sweaty sock than hand “buff” hoon a contract, that would make him money

May 17, 2011 8:37 pm

On a more positive and slightly irrelevent note: we did once have great defence ministers, the likes of Rifkind and um… Rifkind.

May 17, 2011 8:44 pm

I actually can’t see what AW get out of this.

Hoon Or TCH (see arrsepedia) is widely reviled in the Uk defence community So much so that anything he touches is likey to be seen as joke.

May 17, 2011 8:47 pm

Chris B

Sometimes, just sometimes, Lenin comes to mind

‘You have a man you have a problem, you shoot the man then theres no problem’

First up against the wall when the revolution comes!!!

Phil Darley
May 17, 2011 8:50 pm

Yep total fcuking disgrace. As you say TD, if the man was a business guru then ok . He isn’t he us IMHO a total fcuking waste if space. This can only be payment for the selection of the future Lynx/Wildcat!!!

May 17, 2011 9:24 pm

“First up against the wall when the revolution comes!!!”

I hope you’re talking about Geoff Hoon.

May 17, 2011 9:44 pm

Can I nominate Gordon Brown to be a close second perhaps also followed by Tony Bliar to face the firing squad although I would imagine there are plenty more nominees.

May 17, 2011 9:48 pm

Just remember TAC…. They’re All C….s

May 17, 2011 9:54 pm

Oh yes

Definatly TCH, Brown, Blair; then please can I do the entire BT Business broadband organisation!

May 17, 2011 10:03 pm

We have no ammunition. All you can do is put them against the wall and shout BANG. But not too loudly because of health and safety.

paul g
May 17, 2011 10:09 pm

I’m off to the bookies tomorrow, putting a bet on mass redundancies in yeovil, production moving to italy. Geoff hoon goes on tv,blames the govt for not ordering a billion merlins,wildcats etc etc (interview will come from bastard shit fuckwit tosspot hoon’s new villa in italy)

May 17, 2011 10:09 pm

In the case of BT Business broadband, I am prepared (nay may even prefer); to strangle them with my bare hands!

paul g
May 17, 2011 10:11 pm

used to work for another major business broadband supplier,have had to work with BT on off-nets, will gladly help you!!!!

May 17, 2011 10:21 pm

What’s wrong with BT Business broadband? I’m assuming their customer service isn’t up to much?

May 17, 2011 10:49 pm


BT are ‘not up to much’; in the same way as Hitler ‘had a bit of a temper’!

This is the comment (almost verbatum) that I left on their telephone comments line.

‘If one accepts the proposition of opposites; that is that the existence of the negative proves the existence of positive, the existence of ‘up’ implies the existence of a ‘down’ etc; then I would like to thank you.

As BT business broadband is clear, unambigous, evidence of a malign supernatural intelligence, and it’s intention to intervene in the affairs of men, you are clealry the servants of Satan. Since the existence of Satan presuposes the existence of God.

You have therefore done what no other great mind of western Theology or Philosophy has attained: – Proven the existence of god.

I would wish to comment however that burning the the adherants of satan at the stake is a criminal justice policy that has perhaps in these PC times fallen into disrepute and disuse.

Having experienced you ‘customer service’ I believe it is necessary for the ‘powers that be’ to reconsider the perhaps over hasty abandoment of that policy’.


May 18, 2011 12:18 am


God I’ve missed proper British complaints. You may double your rum ration on your own recognisance, sir. May have to crib off of that myself: there’s quite a bit of FrenchConnectionUK-wittery about with broadband providers this side of the Atlantic too, home and business alike.

Requiem @ 2037Z

In a bi (tri ?) partisan spirit, George Robertson deserves a little mention. But really since the name change in ’64, the Secretariat for Defence has generally been held by tosspots. These, however, have usually been common-or-garden tosspots, where The Hoon is clearly a specially bred hybrid designed for a nearly unique tosspottery that thrives like rabbits in Australia on the destruction of the indigenous British defence landscape.

May 18, 2011 12:19 am

My cunning intuition tells me you don’t like BT…..

May 18, 2011 9:22 am

Hi Jackstaff,

We normally agree, so I must take exception with the mention of G. Robertson in the serialised garden gnomes story.

He did an excellent job following Xavier Solana and continues to do an excellent job together with ex-DefSec Cohen. If the reference is to Weir Group, the untoward things happened well before his time (7-8 years before the fines were slapped on).

Not that I am an expert in personal histories, just jarred with my perception…

P.S from the broad brush, from 1964, M. Rifkind should definitely be left out, too?

May 18, 2011 11:20 am

The question I would like to ask is: Why are Defence Secretaries such a waste of space. If I were to be a politician, that would be my preferred department. No one who holds the post seems to understand Defence Issues, or have any competance for the position, or stays long enough to have any meaningful (positive) impact. The plum jobs appear to be the FCO, Home, Treasury. Even Industry and Health seem to attract more talent than the MoD.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
May 18, 2011 11:56 am

: But really since the name change in ’64, the Secretariat for Defence has generally been held by tosspots.

Why only go back as far as 1964, The B’stad Sandys was Minister of Defense in 1957. Actually Hoon is merely a shadow compared to the dread man, Sandys in chronological order;

1938: Revealed inadequate defences in London in Parliament, directly leading to the Official Secrets Act 1939 ammendments.
1947: Helps found the “European Movement” and has a seat on the European Consultative Assembly – which directly leads to the Rome Treaty and eventually the setting up of the EEC.
1957: Made Minister for Defence and imediately publishes the infamous 1957 white paper that causes the British Aviation industry to completely implode.
1960’s: Is instrumental in causing the failure of Fairey Aviations Rotordyne concept.
1960’s Supports Ian Smith in his bid to gain independence for Rhodesia.

All in all ‘Buff’ Hoon has a lot to live up to. Oh, and did I mention that Sandys married Winston Churchill’s daughter in 1935, and it was due to Curchill’s patronage that he got a job in the War Cabinet in 1941? Pure nepotism!

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
May 18, 2011 11:59 am

@ George 18/05:

I thik the problem is that we call it the “ministry of defence”. If we reverted to calling it the War Office, then aybe the caliber and mindset of the hopeful appointee’s might be different?

May 18, 2011 12:04 pm

Geoff Hoon was at a football match with the MD of Agusta Westland and disgraced MP David Laws

Christ, if they’d managed to invite Michael Gove they’d have created the biggest concentration of useless in the universe.

Also, I’d forgotten Hoon was in charge for so long. +1 on George Robertson, though – I’d have him back like a shot.

May 18, 2011 12:09 pm

Hmmm, service ministries again? Not sure about that. Remember, the War Office wasn’t just a more warry version of MoD – it was a single service ministry for the Army, parallel to the Admiralty and the Air Ministry. We already started having a Defence Minister as well in the 30s to try to herd the cats along. Then WSC took the title of Minister of Defence himself because he wanted to give the orders and didn’t really recognise any military/civilian distinction.

May 18, 2011 12:26 pm

“Bob Ainsworth and John Hutton, they seemed genuine sorts”, sure, but you have to have vision (does not take a military career to have that) as well,and then fight for it.

” imediately publishes the infamous 1957 white paper that causes … to completely implode.”
– anyone see any recent parallels?

May 18, 2011 12:59 pm

TD said “Must admit I had had a bit of time for Bob Ainsworth and John Hutton, they seemed genuine sorts and rare amongst politicians”


Phil Darley
May 18, 2011 1:08 pm

TD you are of course right. Guilty as charged!! This retirement lark us not all its cracked up to be!! The time just flies by.

Any topic you particularly want?

I have been thinking about the following:

Navy weapons standardisation
FRES update what vehicles should we be selecting

paul g
May 18, 2011 1:37 pm

FRES update if you’re taking requests phil!! Even in the era of IEDs I can’t wrap my head around a lumbering great beast like ASCOD doing recce.

May 18, 2011 2:54 pm

I agree a good ramble on your thoughts about FRES would be rather nice especially as it’s not something I follow all that closely. Although the BAE Hagglunds SEP is my personal favourite for a future common vehicle family.

May 18, 2011 3:31 pm

Both of these great:
Navy weapons standardisation
FRES update what vehicles should we be selecting

The latter would be feeding in nicely to the piece I have been thinking about myself: “If we had to downsize the army, what would it look like if all front line units, taken together, would equate to the current number of infantry bn’s”

May 18, 2011 3:55 pm

ACC (further up, although I like the comment immediately above, especially the last point — although I’d say that between regulars and TA you could manage the three dozen. But that’s for another comment to handle properly.)

I’m more dubious than Requiem about Rifkind though I’m willing to listen to somebody who was in uniform at the time. The HR nightmare of the Options brain-drain definitely looks like failure to handle the small but important details.

And I was actually endorsing George Robertson, wrt Requiem’s comment about exceptions to the tosspot rule (frankly I think Robertson was one of the last properly competent ministers of any political stripe, God knows that was certainly true of Bliar’s shower of a government.) Sorry it read as though I wasn’t — curse the absence of an edit function :)

Jan Guest
Jan Guest
May 18, 2011 4:43 pm

Blair, Brown, Hoon, BT Broadband all seconded.

Seriously though these people make me sick.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
May 18, 2011 5:13 pm

I read the header this morning and felt sick. But if OGH was to check-out Guido‘s place he be vomiting.

No mention, no credit. Hats-off TD for leading the exposure of the dubious practices of those who are meant to serve the public!

Phil Darley
May 18, 2011 10:58 pm

Euan, ACC FRES update already started. Will complete ASAP. Found an excellent RUSI article on the failure of the various programs:

May 18, 2011 11:31 pm
May 19, 2011 12:09 am

V good, the input will be useful, as with the cancellation (rumoured only) of FRES, what will the FRR parts of the bde’s be doing/ equipped with?

El Sid
El Sid
May 19, 2011 1:13 am

But if OGH was to check-out Guido‘s place he be vomiting.

No mention, no credit. Hats-off TD for leading the exposure of the dubious practices of those who are meant to serve the public!

Err Fluffy – I think you owe Guido an apology, or at least it’s unlikely he got the story from TD. It first seems to have surfaced in the FT, the night before TD posted, albeit with less background than TD :


Hoon lands job with helicopter company

By George Parker and Alex Barker

Published: May 16 2011 23:03