Top brass are said to have boasted of access to ministers, sparking a crackdown on lobbying at the Ministry of Defence
General Lord Richard Dannatt, the former head of the army
The Sunday Times claimed Dannatt had offered to help two executives from a South Korean defence company who wanted to sell the UK military a hi-tech drone. Dannatt offered to speak to Bernard Gray, the civilian chief of defence materiel. He was quoted as saying he had engineered a seat at a formal dinner with the Ministry of Defence’s new permanent secretary, Jon Thompson, to help another company, Capital Symonds, which is bidding for a £400m contract to manage the MoD’s estates. The two men were school friends, he said.
In a lengthy rebuttal, Dannatt said he had made it clear to the undercover reporters that “I would need to meet the manufacturer and verify for myself whether the product was viable. I also told them that I was not particularly up-to-date with defence procurement matters and in particular had no idea whether the MoD had already contracted to acquire such a mini UAV.” He admitted that an “indirect approach” to senior people such as General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, Gray and Thompson might be helpful. With regard to Capital Symonds, Dannatt said he had “no contract with them, have received no payment or benefit from them, hold no shares in the company and am not a director”.
He said he had “never been asked to lobby and have no intention of lobbying” for them and said the Sunday Times had got confused about the conversation. The general said he had not lobbied in a way that contravened rules and would regard any such claim as “seriously defamatory”.
Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, president of the Royal British Legion
The Sunday Times claimed Kiszley boasted he knew the 10 currently serving generals that he regarded as worth talking to with regard to procurement. The paper said Kiszely described having a close relationship with the new armed forces minister, Andrew Robathan, who was going to stay with him over Christmas. Kiszely also said his ceremonial roles for the legion gave him access to Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, and Richards. One such occasion was the annual Festival of Remembrance, when he stands next to the prime minister. Confronted by the Sunday Times, Kiszley insisted he “always kept my role as national president of the Royal British Legion completely separate from my business interests”. The MoD said Robathan had not received an invitation to Kiszely’s at Christmas. “They have only met infrequently and he never raised the work of private clients,” the MoD said. The Royal British Legion said it intended to hold its own investigation into whether Kiszely had broken any rules.
Admiral Sir Trevor Soar
The commander in chief of the Royal Navy fleet until March this year, Soar told the undercover reporters he knew “all the ministers” at the MoD. As he has only recently retired, Soar is one of two former officers who could have flouted the guidelines set out by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). This stipulates that you cannot lobby for two years after retiring. Soar is quoted as saying “theoretically we are banned from lobbying ministers … we call it something different”. Soar said he preferred the term consultant. He has since said all his private jobs had been given official approval and that he is only motivated by wanting to bring “battle-winning equipment to the navy”. He denied breaking rules.
Lieutenant General Sir Richard Applegate
The Sunday Times claimed the former head of army procurement boasted about having spent the past 18 months working on behalf of an Israeli arms firm and had successfully lobbied the MoD to release £500m for a helicopter safety programme. If true, he could be in breach of the ACOBA rules – because the activity would have taken place within two years of him leaving service. But, approached by the paper, he denied breaking any rules and said: “At no stage did I lobby or agree to a covert political lobbying campaign.”
Lord Stirrup, the air chief marshal and former chief of the defence staff
Stirrup made clear he had never lobbied the government for private clients, but told the undercover reporters the defence minister in the Lords was “a friend” and that he also knew the minister for the armed forces and other serving senior members of the military.
Speaking on Sky news, Stirrup said: “I was asked about my contacts. If you’re pressed about them then of course you say what they are. I was asked about whether I know ministers – and I do. What I also said, which was not reported, was that approaching ministers is not the way to do it … you need to understand the military’s requirements, and they’re not set by ministers.”
General Sir Mike Jackson
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 14 October 2012 19.13 BST
Find this story at 14 October 2012
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.