HC Deb 28 January 1977 vol 924 cc810-2W
Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) whether the 14 staff in the Building Research Establishment involved in housing policy are in addition to the 31 staff in its urban planning division; and, if so, what is the budget in the current year of their activities;

(2) whether he is satisfied that sufficient priority is being given, both in staff and resources, to the building integrity division of the Building Research Establishment; and whether he will call periodically for personal reports on the specific results of its work, in view of the importance and public interest involved;

(3) whether he is satisfied with the internal distribution of staff and resources within the Building Research Establishment by which the urban planning division has a staff of 31 and a budget for the current year of £350,000, while the Building Integrity Division has an initially intended, but not yet reached, complement of six and a budget of £86,000; and what action he proposes to take to improve this balance.

Mr. Freeson

The complements of 14 and 31 staff for housing policy and urban planning respectively are distinct, but the combined complement of these divisions is now being slightly reduced. The 1976–77 budget for the former is £220,000.

The balance of staffing at the Building Research Establishment is being reviewed in the context of current manpower cuts, which will by March 1978 reduce BRE's complement by about 10 per cent. from its March 1976 level. Although nearly all areas will be cut, and many cut substantially, growth will continue in a few sectors of highest priority, of which the Building Integrity Division is one. High priority will also continue to be given to the work of the numerous BRE specialists in structural problems, which will contribute heavily to the effectiveness of this division.

Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the current staffing level of the building integrity division of the Building Research Establishment; why it has not yet reached its initial staffing level of six, as outlined in the reply by the Minister for Housing and Construction to the hon. Member for Melton on 7th July 1976; and when the target figure of 15 staff will be reached.

Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why the Building Integrity Division of the Building Research Establishment aiming to reduce defects, danger risks and unnecessary repairs in building consists only of a director and a staff of three when it was initially planned to have a staff of six rising to 15.

Mr. Freeson

Policy has been to build up this division progressively to the initially planned level of seven, including the Division Head. The latter was appointed last May, and processes for selecting six more staff started soon after- wards Three of these are now in post, a fourth is joining the division next month, and candidates for the other two posts initially planned are under urgent consideration.

Substantial cuts in the total staff of the Building Research Establishment, reflecting the Government's decision to cut Civil Service staff costs in 1978–79 by £95 million, will now affect the pace at which the further target strength of 15 for this division can be achieved. These cuts create obvious problems in manning new units such as this where particular experience and skills are needed. But it is, nevertheless, planned to raise strength to 10 during 1977–78.

Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the current staffing establishment of the Building Research Establishment, showing separately the Building Research Station, the Fire Research Station and the Princes Risborough Laboratory; and what were the equivalent figures on 1st July 1976.

Mr. Freeson

The staff complement for the Building Research Establishment (BRE) at 1st July 1976 was 977, of which 681 were at the Building Research Station (BRS), 160 at the Fire Research Station (FRS), and 136 at the Princes Risborough Laboratory (PRL). Complements are now being cut to achieve by March 1978 economies in manpower needed throughout the Civil Service. By March 1978 there will be a cut of about 10 per cent. from the above figures, and the March 1977 complement will be fixed at an intermediate level. With minimal exceptions, external recruitment at BRE has meanwhile been halted, and strength has run down to 914, made up of 628, 154 and 132 at BRS, FRS and PRL respectively.

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