AN influential committee of MPs has criticised the MoD for its lack of progress in making the sums add up for its defence equipment plan, which the National Audit Office (NAO) slated as unaffordable, with an estimated “worst-case scenario” gap of £14.8 billion branded as “optimistic”.

The criticism comes in a report today on the Government’s 10-year plan from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which scrutinises the value for money of public spending.

It reflects scepticism from the committee over whether the MoD can realise its requirements within the available funding.

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Douglas Chapman, the SNP’s defence procurement spokesperson led the PAC’s evidence session in December, and said the fact that the plan is still unaffordable – despite repeated warnings – was unacceptable.

“There is now an urgent need for the MoD to identify which projects are facing the axe in order to make the sums stack up,” he said.

“Improvements must be seen in the MoD’s ability to forecast costs and to track and deliver efficiency savings.

“We must also see greater transparency around large costly programmes such as the procurement of the F35s and Type 31e frigates.

“We cannot leave the public in the dark over something as vitally important as the safety and security of these islands.”

Chapman, whose Dunfermline and West Fife constituency includes the Rosyth Dockyard, said the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which was launched in a fanfare of trumpets, has not delivered what it was supposed to.

“All the recommendations were accepted in full by the Government, however there is no sign of a ‘steady drumbeat’ of orders for new ships.

“If anything we hear that the UK intends building Fleet Solid Support Ships in the Far East to save money. If the MoD’s finances were better managed, surely they could be built here.”

The NAO said the plan was forecast to overspend by £7bn over the next 10 years, but warned the worst-case scenario would see costs “increasing by £14.8bn should all the identified risks materialise”. It added: “As we have previously recommended, it still needs to undertake the necessary analysis and make the decisions needed for the plan to be affordable … Given that 84% of the identified affordability challenge falls in the next four years, the department must make decisions now.”

Chapman said the MoD had to get its house in order: “The MoD must get a grip of this situation and take seriously the findings of both the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the recommendations in the Committee’s report and urgently take decisive action to get its house in order.

“Important decisions cannot be avoided any longer. It’s costing jobs and our reputation abroad as the UK fails to meet international commitments. The Government must produce an affordable defence equipment plan without delay.”

A spokesperson for the MOD said: “We are confident that we will deliver the equipment plan within budget this year, as we did last year, as we strive to ensure our military have the very best ships, aircraft and vehicles.

“At the same time, we are addressing the financial challenges posed by ambitious, complex programmes, after securing a £1.8bn financial boost for defence and reducing forecast costs by £9.5bn through efficiency savings. We are grateful for the PAC’s report on the Equipment Plan, and we will carefully review all of its recommendations.”