Thursday, 7 January 2010

Ministry of Delay

The Conservatives' in-tray, should they win the general election, just got fuller.

(Labour) Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell has told MPs that a decision on whether to go ahead with a military training academy at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan has been delayed yet again.

He said in a written statement: "Plans have advanced considerably, but the work has exceeded the assumptions made in 2008 and hence the change to when the investment decision will be taken...the project is on track for an investment decision in the Summer."

The current Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, told MPs in July 2008 - almost 18 months ago - that he hoped the contracts would be signed by the end of that year. The MoD now talks of contracts being signed in the autumn of 2010.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain saw a silver lining from the latest delay: "This Government has always shown 100 per cent support for the St Athan project, which will be the single biggest UK Government investment Wales has ever received and will bring thousands of jobs to the Vale of Glamorgan.

"Regular reviews of projects of this scale are always necessary to ensure value for money, but I look forward to work commencing on site at St Athan following a positive announcement in the summer."
Summer begins officially on June 21. So we will enter the general election campaign with no potential party of (UK) Government 100 per cent committed to a project said to be worth billions of pounds and thousands of jobs to the South Wales economy.

The Tories say they support it, yet refuse to commit to it ahead of a defence review; the Liberal Democrats' deputy leader and Treasury spokesman has suggested scrapping it.

Perhaps the prospect of some campaign photo-ops will draw a firm copper-bottomed commitment out of one of the above parties, although you wouldn't put your mortgage on it.

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