The Times said Mr Osborne doubted the Ministry of Defence had the necessary skills to deliver the successor to the Vanguard-class submarines by 2028 – the agreed timetable for ensuring continuity of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
“This has far more to do with the Chancellor’s aim of succeeding the prime minister than it does with sound defence policy,” said Dai Hudd, deputy general secretary of Prospect, the union representing 11,000 defence specialists across the public and private sector.
Hudd added: “This move would be crass and deeply irresponsible when there is a debate about the future of this programme, which by its very nature will require the support of future governments before it is completed.”
Prospect says the perceived lack of skills in the MoD is the result of arbitrary cuts, recruitment bans and the most severe pay restraint in decades.
“Skills have been neglected in all major government departments and a major rethink and investment is required to reverse this trend,” said Hudd. “We have pressed this point with ministers on numerous occasions but it has fallen on deaf ears.
“The idea that the Treasury – or indeed the Cabinet Office – has the skills to manage such a complex and technologically-challenging project as the Successor Programme, is fanciful and needs to be fiercely challenged.
“Mr Osborne’s land-grab will send shivers across Whitehall. Many will be wondering which major project will be next in his cross-hairs,” Hudd concluded.