16 AUGUST 1957, Page 6

A Spectator's Notebook

THE Committee of Public Accounts has criticised the 'abortive expen- diture' of some £40,000,000 on the development of the Swift aircraft, originally designed as a fighter and since relegated, if I recollect aright, to photographic reconnaissance. The committee recommends some ways in which such waste can be avoided in future; but it hardly touches on the main reason, departmental pride. From the time it was first flown, the Swift was never in the race; but instead of writing it off as an unlucky failure, everybody concerned, right up to the then Defence Minister, felt bound to defend it, and to argue that with modifications it could become a worthy fighter. This covering-up process went on even after the Swift's failure had been made public in. Parliament and elsewhere; and the same refusal to admit facts has been carried even further in the case of the Hawker Hunter. What is needed is not the additional minor controls suggested by the Committee of Public Accounts, but a more thoroughgoing investigation of all such contracts to ensure that when criticisms are made, the critics, as well as the whitewashers, are heard in evidence.