Thursday, 30 August 2012

MOD in breach of undertaking to the Information Commissioner.

It is becoming clear that the MOD is in breach of duties under the Freedom of Information Act and the Undertaking given to the Information Commissioner in June 2011.

In the undertaking signed by the MOD's  Permanent Under Secretary undertook to

"take steps to ensure the appropriate resource is allocated to request handling and this resource regularly reviewed for effectiveness"

In the undertaking the Information Commissioner said

"having regard to the available evidence, considers that the Ministry of Defence needs to take steps to ensure that requests for information are dealt with appropriately. In particular he considers that the public interest statement of intent, facilitated by this Undertaking, will provide assurance that the authority has embraced the culture of openness and transparency the legislation seeks to promote"

Examples of failure of the MOD to comply with the FOI Act and the Undertaking

We advised that we hoped to have a response to you by 29th August 2012. 
Unfortunately it will not be possible to make this date due to a combination of unavailability 
of subject matter expertise through leave and sickness. We hope to have a final response 
to you by 21st September 2012.

“In the case of your request for the DNESB 2011 report (we have interpreted this as a
request for the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator Annual Report 2011), as there is
information contained within the report which may need to be withheld from the document
for its release under FOIA, a public interest test is required.

Unfortunately the Public Interest Test is taking longer to carry out than anticipated at the
time; this is in part due subject matter expert unavailability. I am therefore unable to
provide you with a substantive response to the second part of your request at this time.
I will write to you again by Wednesday 4 July, by which time I expect to be able provide
you with a final response to your request for information. ”

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Planned Privatisation of the Military Equipment Agency

The Guardian recently reported

"Ministry of Defence plans to privatise the multibillion-pound agency that provides the armed forces with military equipment appear ill thought out, could endanger British troops and are potentially undemocratic, according to a report by a leading security thinktank"

Royal United Services Institute have issued a briefing paper " The Defence Materiel Strategy and the GOCO Proposal for Abbey Wood". "We also wonder if ministers are being asked to take a decision whose major implications are poorly understood. Ignorance is no substitute for forethought and objectivity: the government and the country cannot afford a wrong decision in this area. In the meantime, we wonder if those tasked with making this solution work might use the questions above as an aid to a fuller examination. This might help them to avoid the unintended, and potentially huge, negative consequences that always emerge from complex and challenging undertakings, especially where the pros and cons have not been thoroughly examined."

Some points to consider

Governance, accountability and transparency required in a democratic nation’s public business

Its open to question whether or not the FOI/EIR would apply to the GOCO. If it turns out that the FOI/EIR do not apply to the GOCO there will be a very significant reduction in openness and transparency; as stakeholders (citizens, journalists NGOs) will no longer have legal power to obtain information about the safety issues and environmental harm caused by the countries military nuclear programmes.

MOD as an intelligent customer

Since previous contractorisations of the Dockyards and AWE, D&ES have been the MOD intelligent customer for the services of the contractors running these sites.  If DE&S themselves become a contractor it appears there will be no expertise left within the MOD to act as a intelligent customer for its contractors services or to make judgements on contractor performance against contractual obligations.

Civil Regulation 

If DE&S is contractorised the Naval Bases which support the nuclear programme should be subject to civil regulation and licensed under the Nuclear Installations Act by the Office of Nuclear Regulation , DNSRs MOD internal regulators role being limited to submarines at sea. From a safety point of view this is to welcomed 

I  have recently been informed by reliable sources, " that this  won't happen. The Naval Bases are to be transferred back to Naval Command and the NBC's will be the Authorisees, where appropriate. Similarly the Intelligent Customer function will be Naval Command's".


This organisational chart gives an indication of the scope of work carried out by DE&S that may well be contractorisedIt's also  interesting to note this publicly available chart gives names, post titles, email and phone numbers including Submarines, headed by Director Submarines - RAdm Simon Lister Mil: 9352 37504, Tel: 0117 91 37504 email:

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Serious resource issues effecting the nuclear submarine programme

A recent report in the Telegraph highlighted serious resource issues effecting the nuclear submarine programme.  These resourcing issues have been highlighted in the Milcon Blog  for a number of years.

The Telegraph reports the MOD responding to its article by saying that the MOD

" recognises that the Royal Navy has sufficient manpower for its submarines and we are confident that this will remain the case."

This seems to be at odds with what the DNSR, MOD's internal Nuclear Safety Regulatory has highlighted resourcing as a red risk  in the DNSR's  Annual report for  2011 which states

 "These are that inadequacy of resources, both money and staff complement, and the difficulties in maintaining a sustainable cadre of suitably competent staff (Royal Navy, MOD civilians  and in industry partners) are the principal threats to safety in the DNP in the medium term"

This seems to suggest that the response from the MOD Press Office bears little relation the  situation expressed by the MOD's  own internal Regulator.  

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Radium contamination confirmed at Pulham

In January I said in this blog that RAF/RNAS Pulham  provides a typical  example of a site potentially  contaminated with Radium.

It is now clear from a press report that Radium contamination from past defence activities is present on the site.

It was inquiries made  by Milcon Research and Consulting made to the Local Council that in part prompted the Council to look into the issue of Radium contamination at RAF/RNAS Pulham.

It was also clear the response MOD made to an FOI request that the MOD held no information that would help identify if Radium was present on the site.

It is also clear that there are many more sites such as Pulham where radioactive contaminates and other contaminates are present and may pose a risk to human health and the environment. But that the MOD has long since lost records that would identify such sites.