Jo challenges MOD over local company job losses

Jo has asked the Ministry of Defence to investigate a surprise decision by the Royal Navy not to renew its contract with an East Dunbartonshire shipping company, resulting in the loss of 16 jobs.

Milngavie-based company J & A Gardner has operated the coastal re-supply service to the Royal Navy in the Falkland Islands for 26 years, and was surprised this week to discover the latest contract has instead been awarded to a Dutch company with a Filipino crew.

Questions were raised over the tendering process after it was revealed that the Navy did not produce a shortlist of tenderers as it had promised to, and altered the requirements of the contract after it had been awarded.

Jo has urged the Ministry of Defence to look into the circumstances surrounding this contract and the decision, and also questioned the Business Minister in Parliament to find out more information. The MOD has insisted that its guidelines have been correctly followed, however Jo intends to pursue the case further.

Commenting, Jo said:

“When a successful Scottish company has held this contract for 26 years, questions must be asked about the sudden decision to award it to a foreign company, especially as the Navy has not followed its own guidelines on the tendering process. When so many people stand to lose their jobs it is important we get to the heart of the matter.”

Commenting, Ms Annabel Struthers of J & A Gardner said:

“We are most disappointed by the MOD’s response, which is a standard MOD reply. With a little bit of investigation, one would find that the interim vessel chosen is deficient in all 3 of their essential criteria for the coastal re-supply operation.

“Our Captain and Chief Engineer were summoned to the proposed interim vessel on 2nd February, to determine if she was suitable for the contract. Clearly she is not, but our crew came away from the meeting with the view that the Navy is determined to give the contract to the Dutch Company, compliant or not.

“We therefore feel very strongly that the tendering process has been abused, and should be considered null and void.”

The text of Ms Swinson’s oral question to the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs appears below:

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): More than 16 jobs will be lost as a result of the recent awarding of a specialist vessel requirement Navy contract in the Falklands to a Dutch company with a Filipino crew, instead of to the Scottish company that has provided the service successfully for 27 years. As there are serious questions about the tendering process, with correct procedure not having been followed, will the Minister ask his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence to investigate the circumstances of this case?

Mr. McFadden: I am not aware of the individual circumstances of that case, but I am happy to ask the relevant Department to look into the issues that the hon. Lady has raised.

The text of Ms Swinson’s written question to the Secretary of State for Defence appears below:

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what criteria were used to determine the successful bidder for the Royal Navy contract entitled Specialist Vessel Requirement S&MO CB/3193; and if he will make a statement.

Quentin Davies MP: The contract for the provision of harbour support and coastal re-supply services to the Falkland Islands was awarded on 23rd January 2009 following an open competition that fully complied with MOD guidelines and EU regulations. All bids received were assessed on a fair and equitable basis against stringent operational requirements and criteria to ensure value for money for the taxpayer. The most technically compliant and affordable bidder was awarded the contract.

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