Starting a new job just before something goes badly wrong that the role is recognised as being responsible for is clearly very difficult. If of course the problem was not in any way predictable, then that is just bad luck, however if the problem was very evident to the person taking on the role then that suggests either a very brave approach or a very ignorant and incompetent approach. If Jeremy Quin, the MP for Horsham took on the Minister for Defence, Procurement role (back on 13th February 2020) with the understanding that the source of nuclear missiles to replace Trident were going to be announced imminently, then he would be well prepared. Although the Pentagon has gone public on this before the Houses of Commons and Lords have been informed, let alone hypothetically consulted, Jeremy will one assumes be well prepared to come to the table to explain why he and his colleagues have failed to explain this to the people who they are supposed to be accountable to. However if he was unaware of this then he is not going to be well prepared for what is bound to be a very difficult set of debates next week following this piece in last nights Guardian and he may shortly need to resign. My own personal view is we should not be buying new nuclear weapons as after all our Government was one of the authors of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty back in 1968 and they voted for the United Nation treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons in July 2017. Two years later in June 2019, Lord Howe who was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence from 1995-1997 explained to a colleague in the House of Lords:
“The Government is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons and continues to work internationally, within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, towards achieving the conditions in which all nuclear weapons possessor states are willing to relinquish their nuclear weapons.”
The reality is that since the latest Government was established following the election on 12th December, there has only been two comments relating to this issue. The first one came from Ian Blackford who is the SNP leader in Westminster and spoke on 19th December stating “The Scottish National party MPs reject the wholly immoral replacement of nuclear weapons at a cost of over £200 billion, and we call on other parties to follow us, to say no to Trident and to remove those weapons of mass destruction from the Clyde.” and the second came on 13th January from a Tory MP, Alec Shelbrooke who said “I agree with Dominic Cummings when he says that there is a major problem in procurement in the Ministry of Defence. We read only this weekend that the Trident replacement is already £1.3 billion over budget. How does that happen? How can we possibly try to build up our armed forces and build more ships when a project that is hardly under way is already over budget by billions?”
It was clear that the role that Jeremy took on after the latest Cabinet reshuffle had been handled very poorly over the last few years. The role was created in 2012 and Philip Dunne held it for nearly 4 years, then Harriet Baldwin for 18 months, followed by Guto Bebb for 6 months. Stuart Andrew then managed to hold onto it for a whole year and then Anne-Marie Trevelyan for 5 months and James Heappey for 2 months prior to Jeremy last week. We have yet to find out how long Jeremy Quin will hold onto this role. However it will certainly give him a higher profile than he and his colleagues may have expected!