This afternoon’s defence select committee on the strategic defence and security review began on a sour note.
Like an errant schoolboy, or rather the best friend of an errant schoolboy, armed forces minister Nick Harvey was forced by James Arbuthnot, the committee chair, to explain why it was he and not his boss in the hot seat.
Harvey made his apologies on behalf of Liam Fox, the defence secretary, who had a meeting at the Treasury, but it wasn’t really enough for Arbuthnot, who followed up:
This meeting has been scheduled for considerably longer than the one with the Treasury, I would suspect.
If the answers are not as full as those the secretary of state might be able to give… it will be the ministry of defence that is to blame.
It was left up to former colonel Bob Stewart to restore harmony with some very pally questioning of the military top brass, which at one point got so esoteric Arbuthnot had to step in and get the session moving again.