HL Deb 05 March 2003 vol 645 cc111-2WA
Lord Harrison

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for the future management of the defence research programme. [H L2002]

Lord Bach

The defence research community has been subject to major change in recent years. The public private partnership arrangements for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, which led to the formation of QinetiQ, and the establishment within the Ministry of Defence of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, coupled with a move towards increased competition in contracting for defence research, have required a major change in the management of the defence research programme.

A review of science and technology in defence, commissioned in 2000 by the Ministry of Defence's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Keith O'Nions, recommended the establishment of a new research management organisation to meet these challenges. This new organisation, called the Research Acquisition Organisation (RAO), comprising up to 80 technical and support staff, will be responsible for formulating a coherent research programme, drawing together the many requirements from across the Ministry of Defence, determining optimum procurement strategies and placing appropriate contracts.

The majority of staff working in this organisation are currently located in two Ministry of Defence buildings in Central London (Northumberland Avenue), although some research directors work from other defence sites across the country. This is clearly a sub-optimal solution if the organisation is to function at maximum effectiveness. Recruiting new staff has also been hampered by the lack of sufficient accommodation at a single site. There is therefore a strong business case for collocating all staff in the organisation in one location.

Following an extensive review, the existing Ministry of Defence site at Shrivenham has been identified as the most suitable to collocate the RAO, both from a cost-effectiveness perspective but also driven by the requirement for the new organisation effectively to interface with its many customers. Close contact with the Defence Academy at Shrivenham will also be of mutual benefit. Consultation with the trade unions on this proposal has now been concluded and no concerns were raised. Ministers have therefore agreed that the move to Shrivenham should take place and it is our aim to commence the move by September this year and that full collocation will be completed by March 2004.

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