HC Deb 04 June 1996 vol 278 cc338-9W
Mr. Cash

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the planned collocation of the Army Technical Support Agency. [31476]

Mr. Soames

I am very grateful to those hon. Members, local authorities, other organisations and individuals who have responded to the consultative document issued on 8 December 1995.

Our objective remains to bring together more of the staff of the agency, currently dispersed over six principal sites. This will enable them to make better use of new logistic systems and processes in support of customers in the Army and the other two services.

Our analysis of the options for the site of a collocated ATSA takes into account a number of considerations. The site must provide best value for money in terms of the balance between transition costs and longer-terms savings; it must provide good business benefits, including ease of communication with ATSA's principal customers, located at Andover; it must be a reasonable location for the staff of the agency, taking into account the fact that a large number will have to relocate whatever the choice of site; and it must also take account of regional and other economic factors.

These complex and potentially conflicting issues have been fully reflected in the responses to the consultative document. The additional information which has been provided has been taken into account in an independent analysis of the investment appraisal by my Department's senior economic adviser. Reassessment of some of the factors has shown that formal consideration needs to be given to Andover and Ludgershall as potential sites for ATSA. In addition, it now appears that there would be room for ATSA at Chilwell even when taking account of the requirements of the engineer resources organisation which is planned to move from Long Marston by 1998. This is a material change from the circumstances set out in the consultative document.

As a result, I have concluded that more work is required to take account of the points that have emerged during consultation and to consider formally Andover, Ludgershall and Chilwell. Although I am anxious to resolve the uncertainty felt by ATSA staff at all the current locations, our priority is to reach a conclusion in the best long-term interests of the agency, its customers and its staff. The results of this work will be subject to a further consultative process when it has been completed, and I hope to make a final decision of the location of a collocated ATSA by the end of the year.