The Ministry of Defence has baffled the defence lobbying sector by
issuing guidelines on acceptable behaviour in securing a lucrative
Iain Watson, the project leader for the pounds 1.7bn Bowman contract to
replace the army's radio system, sent a letter to the three bidders
stressing they must not approach 'MoD personnel' and that contact
between bidders and the ministry would be through 'stage-managed
presentations' run by the MoD.
Watson's letter was sent last month to the three Bowman bidders:
Computing Devices of Canada, TRW and Thales (until last December
The letter made reference to Robert Walmsley, the defence procurement
chief. The wording suggests Walmsley is in agreement with the thrust of
These include a section on publicity for bids: 'Negative messages on
other bids should be avoided ... In general, any statements which
comment on the MoD's position and intent should be cleared with us.'
Bowman has been subject to a fraught bidding process. More than a decade
in the planning, the request for tenders only went out in December. The
MoD has made clear it hopes to secure a contractor by the summer.
Sources close to the Bowman process said that a Sunday Times story
tipping Thales as the likely contract winner, a week before the letter
was issued, angered the DPA. This is understood to have prompted Watson
to fire off his letter.
An MoD spokesman, who initially denied the existence of any such letter,
One source close to a bidding company said: 'In 15 years of advising on
winning government contracts I have never seen a letter like this
David Cracknell, the deputy political editor of The Sunday Telegraph who
revealed the letter last week, said: 'It is clearly irritating the MoD
that bidders are approaching officials and using the media to back up
their case. This has always been considered a legitimate form of
lobbying in the past.'
Despite the letter, the MoD appeared to backtrack when questioned on its
approach to lobbying. 'The aim of the letter was to allow the industry
to focus its efforts on lobbying key personnel in the decision-making
process and to establish mechanisms for them to do so,' a spokesman
PA firms find defence contract lobbying very lucrative. APCO works for
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin uses GPC. The market leader in the UK, BAE
Systems, avoids outside lobbying advice, maintaining an 80-strong
in-house public affairs unit.