HC Deb 26 April 1988 vol 132 cc186-7
2. Mr. Stern

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to privatise any of the services of the Meteorological Office; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence Procurement (Mr. Tim Sainsbury)

The Meteorological Office is a candidate for agency status within the Ministry of Defence. In the process of reaching decisions on its future operating framework we shall consider whether any of its current activities might be carried out more appropriately in the private sector.

Mr. Stern

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although the collection of meteorological data is a monopoly, interpretation of that data certainly is not? Does he agree also that the Meteorological Office could well benefit from being placed in the same position as a range of organisations, from insurance companies to racing tipsters, in having to base the reliability of current forecasts on past performance? Does my hon. Friend agree that, at the very least, something must be done about the office's appalling service to the public over the Easter break?

Mr. Sainsbury

I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates that meteorology is an inexact science which must deal with extremely difficult and complex data. The Meteorological Office is not a monopoly in the sense that it keeps to itself all the data that it collects. As my hon. Friend will appreciate, the collection of that data is an expensive business and, if the data are to be made available to commercial organisations, that should be done on a commercial basis.

Mr. Heffer

As the Government have been afflicted by privatisation madness, can the Minister assure us that the Government have no intention of privatising the armed forces?

Mr. Sainsbury

I do not think that that matter arises out of a question on the Metereological Office.