Not news really, but a very eloquent letter from today's Times. msr http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,59-1204553,00.html From Mr Edward Green Sir, One of the parliamentary successes of the last 25 years has been the all-party select committee system, which allows MPs to build expertise and then to hold government to account in a way which is rarely possible on the floor of the House of Commons, and is strongly under threat in the House of Lords. It is sad therefore to see the arrogance with which the Ministry of Defence has recently treated the reports of the Commons Defence Select Committee. Service chiefs have refused to answer reasonable questions about force levels prior to announcements by the Secretary of State and Chief of the Defence Staff, against the advice of the committee, that we can do with fewer servicemen because of the "smart" equipment we will be buying, which will revolutionise the way we conduct our operations (leading article, July 2; see also letters, August 2, etc). Will the MoD be using the Defence Procurement Agency, just described by the defence committee as "woeful" (report, July 2 and regularly criticised by the National Audit Office, to produce this new equipment on time and to budget? To my knowledge every chief of defence procurement over the last 20 years has been horrified by what he has found and has overhauled the system. Of course we need research and development and to keep MoD in-house and industrial technology, but the thing we do best is to train servicemen and women to undertake a series of roles, from nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, through peacemaking and peacekeeping, to running our utilities during periods of industrial unrest. All these skills will be particularly relevant if we have to fight terrorism again at home. In the case of the Army, it is said that we need more engineers and logisticians; few would raise doubts about engineers, but should we need more logisticians at a time when off the shelf technology is readily available? In the case of the infantry, every cut since 1967 has had to be reversed. The defence select committee has wisely pointed out that the MoD is opting for a high-risk equipment strategy, in which it has no track record of success, at the cost of trained manpower, in which we are acknowledged as a world leader. Is the MoD equally wise? Yours faithfully, EDWARD GREEN, 11 Willowsmere Drive, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS14 9XF. August 3.