HC Deb 02 July 1991 vol 194 cc153-4
6. Mr. Devlin

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the future of the directorate general of quality assurance.

18. Mr. Ian Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the future of the directorate general of quality assurance and the outcome of the study into relocating this to Portland.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

We are continuing to examine, in the context of "Options for Change", exactly what technical services currently provided by the directorate general of defence quality assurance will be needed in future and how they might best be supplied.

Mr. Devlin

Is my hon. Friend aware that the indecision in his Department since November has resulted in one of the five flagship sites on Teesside effectively being blighted? I urge my hon. Friend to bring his review forward as quickly as possible so that we can get on with an alternative development if necessary or with the development of the facility if he decides to send it to us.

Mr. Carlisle

I recognise that my hon. Friend is anxious for a decision. So am I. However, substantial sums of public money are at stake and it would be wrong to announce a decision until we have thoroughly concluded our studies.

Mr. Bruce

I wonder whether the Ministry of Defence has got this quite right, because surely no other buyer would seek to put its quality assurance in a building that was separate from its other functions. Surely it would be far more sensible to locate geographically close to suppliers, users and research facilities—in Portland for instance.

Mr. Carlisle

There is a considerable overlap between our research establishments in the technologies of quality assurance. A very good centre is in Portland in my hon. Friend's constituency. As I have said, in view of the high expenditure that is envisaged for any move, we must finish our studies properly before reaching a decision on the future of DGDQA.

Mr. Frank Cook

We are well aware that considerable sums of public money are involved in the decision. A letter from the National Audit Office to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) dated 19 June categorically states: A core project can be accommodated within the available finance. That is some sort of reassurance. Will the Minister guarantee that a decision will take account of the numerous youngsters who have been taken on for training as a result of the original decision to take this to Teesside? Will he also take account of the numerous instances of other Government relocations that have been directed away from Cleveland on the strength of 1,500 jobs that were to go there in the first place?

Mr. Carlisle

Of course we shall take various circumstances into account, but under "Options for Change" our aim has to be to reduce the support areas within the Ministry of Defence in line with the armed services. This means that we have to look carefully at our plans to ensure that they are truly justified in the new circumstances.

Mr. Cartwright

Will the Minister spare a thought for the quality assurance staff at Woolwich, who have been operating under a cloud of continuing uncertainty for 15 years? How does he expect them to do a good job when they still do not know where they and their families will end up? Is not it time that the Government took a decision on this and, having taken it, stuck to it?

Mr. Carlisle

I am aware of the need to come to a decision on this important issue as soon as we can.