Nuclear weapons programme over budget by £1.3bn

A new report from the National Audit Office has claimed that the Ministry of Defence's ‘poor management’ of Britain's nuclear weapons programme has led to rising costs, which have now reached £1.3 billion.

According to the NAO, almost half of that £1.3 billion figure in increased costs are due to construction starting too early and then having to be revised, with the MoD criticised for not having the controls in place to overcome barriers and prevent infrastructure designs from being over-specified and to ensure designs are ‘cost-effective’.

Having looked at three security sites in England, known as the Defence Nuclear Estate, the spending watchdog has also reported that the infrastructure projects to build and maintain the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent in Cumbria, Derbyshire and Berkshire face delays of between one and six years.

Additionally, civil servants have had to rely on the work of three monopolistic suppliers – the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Rolls Royce and BAE Systems – which means that contracts cannot be terminated if poor performance is identified. In fact, BAE Systems earned an extra £10 million in management fees following cost increases, even though the company has no liability for costs and damages relating to non-performance.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “While these infrastructure projects are complex, the MoD has encountered similar challenges before in its nuclear work. Although it has recently introduced changes to enhance its oversight of the projects and improve its contracts with suppliers, it should have learnt earlier from past mistakes and the experience of others in the nuclear sector. Instead, the MoD’s failure to mitigate commercial and delivery risks early on has led to project delays and cost increases, as well as impacting its wider work.”

Tory aide Dominic Cummings is reportedly seeking to launch a review of Ministry of Defence spending and strategy next year.


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