A SCOTS MP has said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) cannot ignore that fact that its equipment plan is “holed beneath the water” after the National Audit Office (NAO) deemed a worst-case scenario gap of £14.8 billion was “optimistic”.

Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman was speaking after he co-chaired an evidence session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which highlighted another hole in the project budget.

The committee, which scrutinises the value for money of public spending, grilled MoD witnesses as part of its annual inquiry into the latest version of the government’s 10-year equipment plan.

In its report, the NAO said the MoD “forecasts £193.3bn on equipment and support costs, against a £186.4bn budget, including a £6.2bn contingency”.

Chapman said: “The NAO report concludes that the UK’s Defence Equipment Plan remains unaffordable. This can only mean that projects will have to be cut back, delayed or cancelled altogether – yet the Ministry of Defence witnesses today could not tell us where these cuts will fall.

“For the MoD to be straight with the public we need to see the government’s Modernising Defence Programme which was promised last January, then again before summer recess and here we are, almost a year on still waiting for direction from the top of government.

“We need to see exactly which capabilities the government is prepared to sacrifice in order to fill the gaping black hole in its defence budget. I pressed the witnesses to seek reassurances that their safety and security is not at risk due to the inability of the MoD to budget effectively. I remain unconvinced that this is the case.

“The MoD can no longer ignore the fact that their equipment plan is frankly holed beneath the water line unless they cut equipment programmes out altogether, don’t take on any more projects or get more cash from HM Treasury.

“They need to sit up and take heed of the NAO’s recommendations, and finally produce a plan that is within the realms of possibility, protects jobs in the supply chain and allows industry to deliver with confidence.”