HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 cc18-9
16. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

If he will make a statement on progress on the privatisation of QinetiQ. [58686]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie)

Since the vesting of QinetiQ as a company on 1 July last year, work has concentrated on preparing the company for sale, options for which were through flotation or strategic partnership. Although flotation had always been our preferred route, following a comprehensive review of the available options for the transaction route and timing in conjunction with specialist advisers and QinetiQ's senior management, we decided that the strategic partner route offers the best potential for a transaction in 2002, offers value to the taxpayer and meets our objective of a successful public private partnership. I informed the House of that on 6 March.

Mr. Luff

May I seek an assurance from the Minister that in the run-up to privatisation the Government are not seeking to maximise the short-term value of the company's property portfolio? Specifically, will he assure me that he is putting QinetiQ under no pressure whatsoever to sell land at Throckmorton to the Home Office for use as an asylum accommodation centre? That would be likely to prejudice the site's long-term value as it develops into a science park, following the great success of the science park at Malvern.

Dr. Moonie

On the hon. Gentleman's general point, I assure him that a strategic partner such as we envisage would work closely with QinetiQ and contribute significantly to growing the overall value of its business, from which the taxpayer would benefit through the Ministry of Defence's initial retention of a significant financial interest in the company. The MOD will also retain a special share as a means of protecting United Kingdom defence and security interests.

On property, the management of the property portfolio is a matter for QinetiQ. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there has been no pressure from my office, nor, to my knowledge, from any other in the Ministry of Defence, as regards any sale prospect.