§ Baroness O'Cathain
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have reached a decision on the future of the Health and Safety Laboratory.
It was announced on 23rd November 1995 that the Health and Safety Executive was to undertake a prior options review of the Health and Safety Laboratory. The review concluded that the functions performed by the Health and Safety Laboratory are needed and that it should remain in the public sector as an agency of the Health and Safety Executive. Since 1st April, the Health and Safety Laboratory has been subject to a net running cost regime, a move which is radically transforming the way in which it performs as a contractor for scientific services. The Government are content with this progress and have asked, in addition, that a framework be established for procurement by the Health and Safety Executive against challenging targets for competition in both research and reactive work.
The Government have agreed with the recommendation of the steering committee for the review that the development of a rigorous competitive framework is important in ensuring that the size of the core functions carried out by the Health and Safety Laboratory for the Health and Safety Executive is kept to an effective minimum.
The Health and Safety Executive is committed to procuring its research and reactive work in a competitive regime involving the Health and Safety Laboratory and other suppliers. In addition, the executive will aim to increase the proportion of its research that is carried out in collaboration with industry. The Health and Safety Executive's performance as a customer will be monitored through statistics which will be published in the annual Forward Look of Government-funded Science, Engineering and Technology.
These steps will enable the Health and Safety Laboratory to build upon the success of its first year as an agency, while continuing to ensure that the Health and Safety Executive has access to the best advice available when dealing with issues relating to health and safety.
We have today placed in the Library of both houses copies of a memorandum by the Health and Safety Executive on the Prior options Review of the Health and Safety Laboratory.