Hammond to crack down on defence lobby

PHILIP Hammond yesterday pledged to investigate defence lobbyists and “shut down” inappropriate meetings with former military leaders, in a move that could affect recently awarded military contracts.

The defence secretary was speaking after an undercover sting caught some of the British military’s most respected former officers boasting of their ability to influence Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials.

“The revelations are deeply damaging to the individuals concerned and their reputations,” Hammond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “I’m satisfied that the system we have is completely robust... but if they’re abusing that access for commercial purposes, then we will have to tighten it up or maybe even shut it down.”

Reporters at the Sunday Times approached the ex-officers to work as lobbyists for defence firms. They include ex-chief of defence staff Lord Stirrup, two former heads of the army and a former Royal Navy fleet commander.

At one point Lt Gen Sir John Kiszely, president of the Royal British Legion, described the Festival of Remembrance as a “tremendous networking opportunity”.

Former officers are banned from defence lobbying for two years after they leave the service. Two of the men – Kiszely and ex-MoD procurement chief Lt Gen Richard Applegate – allegedly boasted that they lobbied on multimillion pound deals within this two year period.

The MoD confirmed yesterday that it was investigating whether any breaches of the rules took place. This could potentially result in challenges to affected deals.