HC Deb 28 February 1995 vol 255 cc506-7W
Mr. Riddick

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what decisions he has taken on the proposals contained in the consultative document, "The Way Ahead for Test and Evaluation", issued on 14 July 1994 as part of the defence costs study.

Mr. Freeman

Proposals recommending the closure of four establishments in the Directorate General of Test and Evaluation—Pendine, Kirkcudbright, Lavington and Hum—were announced as apart of the defence costs study last year. During the period of consultation, which closed on 14 October, representations were made by trade unions, local authorities, several environmental bodies which we had consulted and by a number of hon. Members. All the points raised have been carefully considered, against the background of the need to match demand and capacity within the directorate. The decisions we have now reached are as followsa. We received a number of very constructive responses to our proposal to close Pendine, notably from the Pendine steering group. In the light of these, and of our own further analysis of the costs of reproviding certain facilities, we have decided that Pendine should stay open and that the dynamic test tracks and associated static warhead trials together with the small arms and cannon work should remain there. Administrative, stores and engineering support will in future be provided from Aberporth and mortar trials will be transferred from Pendine to Shoeburyness in the course of 1995. The net result will be that about 110 jobs will remain at Pendine. b. Kirkcudbright, too, will stay open but numbers will fall slightly from their current level of about 120 to about 90. We expect numbers to remain broadly at this level for two to three years to support the current tank armament development and integration work. On completion of this work and subject to there being no significant change in the anticipated workload, the intention would be to reduce test and evaluation activities to a small permanent level of about six staff with trials conducted on a "campaign" basis and trails teams brought in as required from other T&E facilities. However, in this eventuality, the army has declared a significant interest in using Kirkcudbright for training purposes. This idea, which would bring with it the possibility of additional recruitment of civilian support staff and significant capital spend on the range, is currently under study. c. Lavington will close four months from now and its work, but not its personnel, will be transferred in the main to Shoeburyness. d. Hurn will close as a manned site four months from now. Thereafter it too will be operated on a "campaign" basis but large plant will be transferred to Chertsey.

Compared with the current costs of running the establishments, these measures are estimated to save about £83 million over the next 10 years and a little over £8 million per year thereafter.