HL Deb 26 January 1987 vol 483 cc1234-5WA
Lord Kennet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the number of British-trained and British-employed (a) scientists and (b) engineers now working (or expected in 1987 to work) on SDI contracts, entered into (a) by government and (b) by firms, and what was the cost to the taxpayer of their education and training and whether these costs and the opportunity costs of this employment have been fully taken into account and whether the Government will provide the relevant figures.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

For SDI research awards already made to the Ministry of Defence, it is estimated that the full-time equivalent of about 100 scientific or engineering staff will be employed during 1987, about 90 per cent. of them in industry. Corresponding details are not maintained by the Government in the case of SDI contracts awarded direct to British firms and research organisations, but the value of these suggests that numbers of staff employed will not exceed 25–30 per cent. of the number employed on the MoD-lead work referred to.

The charges raised for the services of government staff are calculated on a standard basis for use with non-exchequer customers and include an element reflecting training costs incurred by the Ministry of Defence. The charges for staff effort provided under sub-contract arrangements generally have been or will be determined in competition; or, in the absence of competition, the charges will be negotiated. In neither case is it possible to identify any specific element of the charge as reflecting training costs. As regards the cost of education, it is not expected that such costs will be recovered in contract prices.

The Ministry of Defence has not made, and is not aware that any assessment has been made of the opportunity costs of this activity. It must be doubted that any such assessment could produce meaningful results, given the small scale of the manpower effort involved and the study or experimental nature of the work. No evidence has come to light of any strain on manpower resources as a result of participation in SDI research.