HC Deb 21 February 1978 vol 944 cc608-9W
Mr. Michael Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether, and on what basis, civil programmes of work at the Microbiological Research Establishment at Porton will continue in 1978–79.

Dr. Gilbert

The Government have considered the future civil requirement for MRE in the light of studies carried Out by the Central Policy Review Staff and of a review of the scientific capabilities of the establishment made by the Medical Research Council. The Government have concluded that many of the capabilities and facilities of MRE represent a national asset of value. The establishment supports programmes of work sponsored by a number of civil departments, and some of its activities are attracting commercial support. The Government have decided therefore to retain MRE as a civil establishment subject to satisfactory administrative arrangements being made.

Proposals for the transfer of responsibility from the Ministry of Defence to DHSS and the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) are under discussion. The Board of PHLS is considering the matter, entirely without commitment. A further announcement will be made in the near future.

The MOD will continue to manage the establishment in 1978–79 and reduce it to the size appropriate for the civil programmes now foreseen. This is expected to be about two-thirds of present strength. During this period civil programmes of work on repayment will continue undisturbed and will be expanded where possible.