From today's Telegraph Money:
I wonder how many sets of body armour you get for Â£87m?Troubled ship deal hit by repair bill
By Russell Hotten (Filed: 06/02/2006)
The cost of the Ministry of Defence's troubled programme to build two logistics ships at the Swan Hunter yard looks set to spin further over-budget after disclosure that the new vessels need immediate repair work.
It now seems likely that the National Audit Office will order a formal inquiry into the project, where the cost of the ships stands at Â£309m, up from an initial Â£148m budget.
The MoD confirmed this weekend that it had put out to tender additional "get well" work on the ships, only one of which is yet to undergo sea trials. Sources said the work was unlikely to go to the yard in the north east of England.
Gerald Howarth, shadow defence secretary, described it as a scandal: "We have learned that the ship will put to sea incomplete and be promptly sent to repair yards," he said.
Controversially, the additional spending will not appear in the MoD accounts relating to the ships' construction, so taxpayers may never know the final cost.
Mr Howarth said: "I have raised the matter with the auditor general Sir John Bourn who assures me the NAO is monitoring the position." The NAO is, however, not expected to launch an inquiry until the contracts are complete.
The MoD said it was normal practice for vessels to undergo sea trials and then require additional repairs. But a spokesman said the department did not yet know what repairs needed doing because trials had not finished.
The contract hit controversy early last year when The Daily Telegraph disclosed that ministers gave Â£87m to Swan Hunter to complete the contract but had to apologise to MPs after failing to disclose it promptly to Parliament.
The MoD later blamed a "clerical error".