HC Deb 13 January 1998 vol 304 c191W
Mr. Baker

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on the management performance of the Joint European Torus undertaking in respect of the European Fusion Project at Culham, with particular regard to the use of public funds and the consequences for future energy policy. [21170]

Mr. Battle

[holding answer 16 December 1997]: The Joint European Torus at Culham is the European fusion programme's most important facility, and is in fact the largest of its kind operating anywhere in the world. The management achieved record results last month for fusion power and fusion energy. However, the report of the European Court of Auditors on JET's 1996 accounts raised some issues of concern. It identified a number of weaknesses in JET management's application of JET's Financial Regulations concerning the awarding of contracts, most notably in the areas of contract personnel and invitation to tender. The JET Director, Dr. Keilhacker, has responded disagreeing with the conclusions drawn by the Court in some of the specific examples quoted. He accepted some of the recommendations and rejected others.

We are concerned about the apparent weaknesses in various areas of JET management's performance, and we shall ensure that the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority pursue this issue in the JET council and other committees on which it is represented. I expect the JET Council either to satisfy itself that the JET Director's response is adequate or to ensure that he implements the audit recommendations.

JET's expenditure is around £60 million a year, and it is important that this money is spent with proper regard to propriety and the need for value for money.