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Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence


Replies from the MoD to written questions following the Oral Evidence Session of 8 March 2000 (3 April 2000)

  The Committee wished to know why was there a gap filling the CSA post between Sir David Davies leaving and Sir Keith taking up appointment. The recruitment campaign to select a successor to Sir David Davies identified a suitable candidate at interview during the summer of 1998, but the individual declined to take the appointment during the autumn and the search for candidates had to be re-launched. Sir David Davies kindly agreed to continue to serve as CSA until 30 April 1999. The final selection interviews were conducted in May 1999 and unanimously recommended the appointment of Professor Sir Keith O'Nions as the preferred candidate. Due to existing commitments Sir Keith was unable to take up the appointment until the new year. He did so on 4 January 2000, having undertaken a series of briefings and induction into the Department in the interim.

SIR KEITH O'NIONS SALARY

  The appointment is in the Permanent Secretary pay range (£101,254-£173,828 from 1 April 2000) and Sir Keith's current salary lies within the band of £110,000-£115,000. Individual pay awards for 2000-01 have yet to be determined.

INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH

  As stated in the Ministry of Defence's earlier Memorandum on Defence Research, the UK's most significant collaborative relations for research are with the US, through four umbrella MOUs. These are: a technology, research and development project MOU (TRDP); an MOU on the framework for advanced concept technology demonstration co-operation (ACTD); an exchange of scientist and engineers MOU; and the master information exchange MOU which has a series of subordinate information exchange annexes covering particular topics. In addition there is an MOU on Strategic Defence Initiative/Ballistic Missile Defence (SDI/BMD).

  The Ministry of Defence undertakes research both in bilateral arrangements and within wider, multi-national fora. There are significant numbers of joint programmes and information exchanges with the following countries or organisations:


Country/Organisation
Number of programmes

Australia
44
Canada
9
United States
128
France
85
Sweden
26
Netherlands/Norway
25
Germany
17
TTCP
89
NATO
65
WEAG/EUCLID
30
GARTEUR
8
Miscellaneous multilateral:
          Involving US
36
          Other
5


  Co-operation under NATO takes place under the Research and Technology Organisation which has six panels dealing with the spectrum of research topics. These panels are: Studies and Analysis; Systems Concepts and Integration; Sensors and Electronics; Information Systems Technology; Applied Vehicle Technology and Human Factors and Medicine. There are also more than a hundred identifiable activities underway under these panels in the form of working groups, explanatory groups, symposia and lecture series.

  The Technical Co-operation Programme (TTCP) is a successful research forum which is now over 40 years old and allows the UK to benefit from flexible joint programmes and information exchanges with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Also, a tripartite Chemical and Biological Defence (CBD) MOU with the US and Canada concentrates on high priority immediate topics and on the practicalities of co-operative development and procurement.

  The Western European Armaments Group (WEAG) is an informal grouping of European Defence Ministers providing policy direction for armaments and research issues. European Co-operation for the Long-term in Defence (EUCLID) is based on competition and contracts placed on lead contractors, usually with some industrial funding. GARTEUR is a European aerospace forum involving UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Italy.

  Technologies covered by these research programmes include:

    —  Energetic Materials and Plasmas

    —  Electronic Materials

    —  Structural Materials and Structural Effects Analysis

    —  Chemical and Biological Materials

    —  Sensor Systems

    —  Computer Applications and Information Processing

    —  Photonic/Optical Materials and Devices

    —  Electronic and Electrical Devices

    —  Human Sciences

    —  Defence Analysis

    —  Signature Control and Signature Reduction

    —  Electronic Warfare and DEW Systems

    —  Computing Technologies

    —  Operating Environmental Issues

    —  Communications and CIS Related Technologies

    —  Integration and other Systems Issues

    —  Guidance and Control Systems (Weapons and Platforms)

    —  Design Aspects (Weapons and Platforms)

    —  Lethality and Platform Protection

    —  Propulsion and Powerplants

    —  Signature Related Materials and Materials for Smart Structures

    —  Manufacturing Processes/Design tools/Techniques

ADVISORY COMMITTEES

  The Defence Scientific Advisory Council (DSAC) is an advisory body offering independent advice to Ministers and senior officials. It is chaired by Professor Peter Clarricoats and has over 150 members drawn from industry and academia. It reports annually to the Secretary of State. It also sets up working parties comprising some of its members, to draw up advisory reports on particular scientific topics from time to time.

  The other main bodies providing the department with external advice on scientific or research matters are as follows:

    —  Nuclear Research Advisory Council (NRAC). The NRAC reviews the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) nuclear warhead research and capability maintenance programme. The Council also examines AWE's programme of international collaboration. NRAC submits an annual report to the Chief Scientific Advisor on the AWE nuclear warhead research and capability maintenance programme to enable him to advise the Secretary of State on its relevance to the UK weapons programme; quality; sufficiency in maintaining an independent nuclear capability; cost effectiveness; and collaboration with allies. Membership comprises an external chairman (currently Sir David Davies) and two or three external members, to serve for four years renewable biennially. Assessors are also appointed for areas of specialist advice.

    —  Defence Nuclear Safety Committee (DNSC). The DNSC is the result of a 1998 merger of the Nuclear Weapons Safety Committee and the Nuclear Powered Warships Safety Committee. It is an Advisory Non-Departmental Public Body and as the Department's premier nuclear safety committee, its role is to advise the Secretary of State, other Ministers and officials on matters relating to the safety of the Defence nuclear programme. The DNSC comprises 12 independent Members, including the Chairman, presently Professor Sir John Cadogan CBE FRS, who enjoys direct access to the Secretary of State.

    —  Medical Research Council Gulf War Illness Research Programme Steering Committee. The purpose of the comittee is to keep research relevant to the Gulf War veterans under review. It monitors progress and maintains the scientific direction of the programme by considering the recommendations of the MRC Gulf War Epidemiological Studies Research Liasion Committee; progress reports from the grant holders under this scheme; and organises workshops and scientific meetings in specific areas where this is considered appropriate. The committee advises on behalf of the Council on matters relating to Gulf War veterans on which a formal MRC view is needed. The Committee is chaired by Prof A M McGregor and MoD is represented on the Committee. The Committee formally reports to the Council which provides advice to MoD as appropriate.

    —  The Independent Panel on Vaccines Interactions was established to scrutinise all aspects of proposals for research into the potential adverse effects of interactions between the vaccines and tablets which could have been administered to Service personnel at the time of the Gulf conflict, and to ensure that the programme is conducted in an objective and scientifically sound manner. The Panel is chaired by Professor Donald Davies, Director of Clinical Pharmacology, Imperial College School of Medicine, who was appointed in January 1999. The Panel has met on four occasions since December 1997. The frequency of the meetings is dictated by the research programme. Dr Norman Jones, Royal British Legion and Professor Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Sunderland, were nominated to the panel as representatives of the veteran's groups. The Panel fulfils an independent supervisory and advisory role and does not produce reports.

    —  Advisory Group on Medical Countermeasures was formed in February 1998 in response to the then Secretary of State for Defence's wish to have independent advice on the medical aspects of countermeasures against chemical and (principally) biological weapons. It is chaired by Professor Peter Blain of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with up to seven independent advisers and representation from the Department of Health and MoD. The AGMC works closely with the Surgeon General and provides periodic reports to the Secretary of State. The frequency of meetings is determined by the business in hand, but it currently meets twice yearly.

    —  MoD Navy Personnel Research Ethics Committee is chaired by Professor M de Burge Daly, has nine independent members and two Naval members. It reports to the Navy Surgeon Commander in Gosport. Its purpose is to provide ethical scrutiny of all non-clinical research that involves human subjects conducted by or on Naval personnel.

    —  DERA CBD Ethics Committee is chaired by Professor M H Lader with eight other independent members and four members from DERA. Its main purpose is to make independent ethical assessment of research projects undertaken at CBD, Porton Down which involve human volunteers.

    —  DERA Centre for Human Sciences Ethics Committee is chaired by Professor J H Coote with eight other independent members in addition to five from DERA. Its main purpose is to protect subjects of research from possible harm, ensure they are aware of their legal rights and to approve experimental work involving the participation of human subjects.

    Both DERA ethics committees report to CSA initially.

    —  Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. This independent Committee was appointed in 1996 in response to public and Parliamentary concern over the use of animals in research experiments. Its purpose is to keep under review animal care and welfare arrangements within DERA. The Committee is chaired by Dr Jeremy Lucke, a past President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and has two other members. Since August 1998 the Committee has been an Advisory Non-Departmental Public Body. It reports annually to Minister (DP). Its report is placed in the libraries of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

THE DEFENCE RESEARCH COMMITTEE

  The Defence Research Committee (DRC), which is chaired by CSA, is not an external advisory committee. It is an internal MoD body, although the Chairman of the DSAC is invited to attend meetings. It is required to review and endorse the overall balance and content of the research programme. Its responsibilities also include ensuring that the research programme reflects evolving defence policy and procurement priorities; advising on the appropriate balance between shorter and longer-term research, and promoting the search for value for money in research. It has a counterpart nuclear body, also chaired by CSA, called the Defence Research Committee (Nuclear).

  The DRC is to due to submit, during the spring, a report to the Secretary of State on the overall health of the defence research programme. This report will constitute advice given to Ministers in confidence.

EAC RECOMMENDATIONS

  The MoD's Equipment Approvals Committee (EAC), chaired by the Chief Scientific Adviser, provides advice to MoD Ministers on investment in equipment projects and related matters. The EAC does not advise other Ministers or other committees. By convention, official advice to Ministers is not made available to Parliament.

  Decisions on investment on which the EAC makes recommendations are also subject to Treasury approval (although individual decisions may be delegated to the MoD): As well as the Treasury, other Government Departments are consulted at official level and their views are taken into account in EAC advice to MoD Ministers. Consultation also takes place at Ministerial level, as appropriate, once MoD Ministers have considered the EAC's recommendations, before a final decision is reached.

  In all cases, the Department's Accounting Officer (who is represented on the EAC) also has to be satisfied that the expenditure that is proposed meets the requirements of propriety and regularity and offers value for money. Ministers may decide in certain circumstances to pursue a course of action that fully meets those requirements but differs from the action recommended by the EAC. If, however, Ministers decide to pursue a course that requires them to give a direction to the Accounting Officer, the latter is obliged to notify the Treasury and also the Comptroller and Auditor General, who will in turn inform the Public Accounts Committee.


 
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Prepared 9 May 2000