back to article Tories may cut Met Office funding

The UK's Met Office may receive far less cash - or none at all - from the Ministry of Defence under a Tory future government, the shadow defence minister has said. The BBC reports today that Liam Fox, Conservative spokesman on Defence, has said that funding for the Met Office may fall a victim to the need for cost-cutting at …


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  1. Dominic Tristram

    Private funding?

    Am I the only one who can see a problem with private industry funding global warming research? I'd hazard a guess that there are very few industries that would benefit from anything other than trying to hush it all up.

    What a ridiculous 'cost saving' measure. What about saving money by doing something that is unambiguously good such as, say, scrapping ID cards or Trident?

  2. Anonymous Coward


    The Met Office should be funded as a public concern - whether that's part of the MoD spending machine, or somewhere else, I really care not.

    The alternative is along the lines of "This flood alert is bought to you by MegaInsuranceCorp and SueThePantsOffThem liability service" - which is totally unacceptable. Or just checking if you need to bring suntan lotion or umbrella for a day out becomes a 'premium' service for subscribers only. Like I said, to switch into RegSpeak, either of these are a "FAIL" in my books.

    Heck, if the politicians are serious about climate change (prevention of) then surely keeping the MetOffice going is a good first step. Or are they to busy trying to score points off of each other and figuring out where to get their new white goods (paid for on expenses) from?

    To be expected, because the Tories don't exactly have a good record on treating "Defence" science well - e.g. the Qinetiq debacles. Why not take the money saved from that damned stupid ID card scheme and channel that?

    (No, I'm not an M.O. employee - just someone who get's pi55ed off with politicians)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    You could replace the met offiice with....

    a standard message that said "The summer is going to hotter than average" and "The winter is going to be mild".

    After all, that is all the say every year.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    pay by results?

    Personally I'd be happy to pay for the Met. Office (well, my portion of the costs, that it) is only they'd GET IT RIGHT. I don't just mean predicting nice weather in the summer - which they got wrong, but even having a 3 day forecast that was good enough to rely on. Hell, even being able to predict tomorrow's weather would be a start. E.g. their prediction yesterday for where I am was that it would be a nice day - sunny even. Well, wrong! Cloudy with rain is what we're getting, although they have at least altered their forecast to reflect what the weather actually is. I suppose it's marginally less effort than looking out the window but far less reliable.

    The thing is, there are online forecasters who are just as accurate as the Met. Office but don't cost me a penny to use.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should the BBC get its forecasts free?

    At the last count the MOD had c42 staff working full time at the BBC planning and presenting weather forecasts. Given the commercial alternatives available, isn't it about time the BBC sourced it's own weather forecasts or at least paid the MOD the full cost of the MOD provided weather service?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    <scratches head>

    Why on earth is the Met Office part of the MOD anyway?

    I can certainly see a case for it being publicly funded, but... Defence...?

    Surely it'd be a far more sensible fit under DEFRA alongside the Environment Agency and what used to be MAFF?

  7. Tom Paine

    Oh no, not again

    Troll, -1.

  8. Onionman

    @Dominic Tristram

    "Am I the only one who can see a problem with private industry funding global warming research?"

    You're right; they might start researching impartially rather than following the Government line that Global Warming is Fact; all other viewpoints are insane.

    Just as valid a viewpoint as yours, you'll find. Not necessarily correct, but just as likely.


  9. Chris Hedley Silver badge

    @AC 11:58

    > "Why on earth is the Met Office part of the MOD anyway?"

    Knowing what the weather's doing /is/ quite important in military planning. Though military planning isn't something we seem to do much of these days, so maybe you're right.

    Whatever the truth behind this, it is a worrying trend. I'm not sure it does any of us any good that Labour and the Conservatives are locked in a "battle to be the most unelectable" contest.

  10. SkippyBing

    @ AC 11:58

    Read up on Operation Overlord and the part the met forecast played in that, should make everything clear.

  11. Ian 49

    You mean...

    ...the Tories have found a service they didn't manage to sell off last time, so they have to get it through quickly this time, don't you?

    After all. The previous national services sold off have performed SO much better in private hands, haven't they?

    Of course private industry will be utterly impartial without serving its own interests, supply equally to all "partners" and charge the Government less than they currently pay for the services they currently receive... right?

    The Government has its own agenda, private industry will have its own agenda. This has nothing to do with that. This is all about the money.

  12. Desk Jockey

    MO Funding and how to rip the taxpayer off...

    The MO has always been funded by the MoD because traditionally weather forecasting has been seen as vital military intelligence. It is still relevent today if you want to launch a cruise missle or use recon assets in an area with heavy cloud cover that would interfere with the electronic or imaging systems. It doesn't matter who the provider is, the MoD will always be a significant customer.

    So let's rewind a bit, the MoD pays for its own people because it is easier, satisfies the security people and takes the load off the commercial people who are there to generate profit not necessarily deal with government priorities. Privatising this bit saves some money up front, but guess what? It means the MoD will then have to 'buy' the service at commercial rates. And a golden rule of economics - the market will price the service/goods at the highest price that the market will bear.

    Conclusion: MoD (and us as taxpayers) will end up paying more in the long term than when the MoD had its own damn people in it. I wonder which Tory has shares/board seats at a commercial weather forecasting company..?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Blood on the walls

    Does anyone else get the feeling that if/when the tories get back in they are going to take a huge axe to substantial parts of government? Without much thought?

    Maggie decommissioned the HMS Endurance to save money, and we ended up with the Falklands War as a result. What unintended consequence are we going to get this time out of Cameron trying to save on spend?

    Still no tax on finance bonuses on the horizon, despite them lot being the cause of the financial black hole in the first place. But they would be tory voters wouldn't they - and scientists are wishy washy liberals.

  14. Dominic Tristram


    Hmm... well, you may think our 'opinions' are 'just as likely, but thankfully I have the weight of actual facts, peer-reviewed research, and the beliefs of all but insane climate-change deniers on my side. I don't claim that I'm absolutely certainly correct, but I'd say I'm several hundred times more likely to be correct than the 'other viewpoint'.

    By the way, the Earth is round, electricity isn't magic and the world wasn't created in seven days.

  15. Kevin Perry

    Good news

    Considering how wrong the Met Office usually is, this is excellent news and something I've been suggesting to my MP for some time now.

  16. Steen Hive

    @Pete 2

    "The thing is, there are online forecasters who are just as accurate as the Met. Office but don't cost me a penny to use."

    It costs them to use the Met. Office though. I can't see Rupert Murdoch out on Rockall reading the wet-bulb thermometer, however attractive an idea that sounds. Your forecast is simply being subsidised by you looking at adverts.

    That said, I am of the opinion that all data provided by the likes of the Met. Office, UKHO, Ordnance Survey and similar bodies should be freely available for bona-fide UK organizations and individuals to use at no cost.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To Dr. Fox

    "There's a very strong case to look at the assets of the MoD and say do these deliver anything for the front line?"

    A quick flip through some history books (you can claim them on expenses) suggests that knowing the weather forecast does have some influence on military campaigns.

  18. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Blithering idiot

    "We can't afford to have 16 per cent of the whole civil service in the MoD," he added.

    Why not? Is he saying there should be less war in the world so that he can cut his defence budget? Nice idea, but this year's Nobel has already gone. Try again after the next election.

    As Lewis helpfully adds, the MoD is currently responsible for approximately five per cent of government spending, which in the eyes of this bean-counter mentality probably makes the MoD is about 3 times more "efficient" than most other branches of government.

  19. paulc

    anonymous b*ll*cks...

    "Maggie decommissioned the HMS Endurance to save money, and we ended up with the Falklands War as a result. What unintended consequence are we going to get this time out of Cameron trying to save on spend?"

    crap... HMS Endurance saw action during the Falklands conflict...

    "On 19 March 1982 while the ship was at Stanley, South Georgia was occupied by Argentinian civilians. The Endurance, commanded by Captain Nick Barker, was sent to order the Argentinians off the island. Endurance had a small Royal Marines detachment and took further Marines from NP (Naval Party) 8901, and sailed on 21 March for South Georgia. Arriving on 25 March, she encountered the Argentinian transport Bahia Buen Suceso, which had landed 100 troops, and Endurance landed her marines before returning to the Falklands on 30 March. She joined up with the British task force in April and landed SBS soldiers at Hound Bay on South Georgia on 22 April. With the threat of a submarine presence, other vessels moved into deeper waters but Endurance moved into sea ice near the shore. On 25 April two Wasp ASW helicopters flying from Endurance assisted in attacks on the submarine Santa Fe, which was later abandoned by her crew. When the Argentinian forces surrendered on the 26th the Endurance remained in the vicinity of the island as a guard."

    If she had been decommissioned as you claim, then she wouldn't have been there...

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Whatever ship it was that was sailing around the Falklands, making sure the Argentinians didn't just walk in, was removed from that duty, thus leaving the door open.

    Whatever happened to it afterwards, or if it returned to the Falklands during the war, is irrelevant to the argument of cost cutting that turned out to be foolish.

    More appropriately, the Mad Cow turned the emphasis on University scientific research to commercial ends, rather than pure knowledge.

    I rather thought that the Tory Party had left her ideology at a charity shop, where, a certain Blair, seeking a nearly-new suit, had picked it up cheap. Seems it has found its way home.

  21. Ian 49

    Off Topic, but Endurance...

    ...was *planned to be decommissioned* by the Thatcher Government, which was one of the things that the Argentine Junta took as showing a lack of British interest in the islands, thus opening the way for their attack. The fact that an effectively unarmed (and bright red hulled) ice patrol ship specifically wasn't scrapped at that point is slightly irrelevent, considering that the Royal Navy had to take combat vessels that had been sold to other nations back over on the high seas to return them to the UK, rearm them and sail as part of the Task Force. The landing ship HMS Intrepid, if memory serves, was one of these. HMS Hermes, which served as the Task Force flagship, was also on the market to be sold (and was, soon afterwards, to India).

    The Met Office provides huge amounts of specialist information, accurate or otherwise, to a wide array of users from farmers, through sailors and pilots, mountaineers and hill climbers (and mountain rescue teams) to the aforementioned military forces. It is essential to many of those people, a lot of whom will be seen as easy cash cows by the private sector in the same way that rail passengers and similar are now by other privatised industries. The service won't get better, but the costs will increase massively, because the priority of the organisation is no longer the service, it's making money.

    Selling the country to the lowest bidder at great expense still seems to be a priority to those who read the potted jingoistic version of British history. Maybe forcing Politicians to study history rather than law might help? I doubt it. They'd just convince themselves that history never happened, to prove that they are somehow right, in the face of all the evidence.

  22. Steve Bush

    Cut them back savagely I suggest

    Just like roses and vines, most institutions age and rot if not cut back. Have no fear, they will grow back healthier than ever.

  23. Duncan Jeffery

    Civil Servants boys - not soldiers

    Dr Fox was opining on the number of pen-pushers in the MOD, not the frontline staff - I beleive the current ratio is something approaching 1:1 - no war was ever won by a detachment of the Queen's Own Bureaucrats (although I did once work with a South African who did his national servies in the tax office !)

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