Monday, November 15, 2004

And another thing…

For all the weeping and gnashing of teeth about those cunning continentals who are rigging the public procurement system to their own advantage, as reported in this posting and further elaborated by The Times, perhaps Mr Brown ought to have a quiet word with his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence about their decision to nominate the German company MAN Nutzfahzeuge, of Munich, as the preferred bidder for the £1.8 billion contract to supply trucks to the British Army. See here, here and here.

As defence contracts are not subject (yet) to EU law, there was absolutely no legal reason why the MoD should not have awarded the contract to an enterprise which would build the trucks in Britain and, as we have reported previously (see links above), all the indications are that the MAN trucks are technically inferior and more expensive.

This somewhat puts into perspective the bleeding heart article in The Times, under the heading "Commission is all but impotent to stop abuses", which starts off with the sorry tale that:
...when the Italian fire service, police, coastguard or forestry department want a new helicopter, they don’t think too hard about where to buy it. The Italian Government has a long-standing policy that all Italian public sector helicopters have to be bought directly from the Italian firm Agusta. No other helicopter company can bid for the contract.
So the Italians get away with an illegal national preference but, in the instance where it would have been perfectly legal for the MoD to have bought British, the Germans get the contract.

Law or no law, can anyone in their wildest dreams imagine the French, the Germans or the Italians, each with their own national truck builders, buying their Army trucks from another nation. But here we are, entirely unforced, destroying any chance we might have had to rebuild our military track manufacturing capacity.

Yet, The Times is weeping about public procurement in the EU being worth €1,500 billion annually. The British Army truck contract is worth £1.8 billion – that's POUNDS, not micky-mouse euros. It is all very well for The Times to bleat in its leader about loss of British jobs as a result of the procurement directive abuses, but what did it – or any other newspaper for that matter – say about the truck contract? Absolutely sod all.


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