WEDNESDAY 24 MAY 2000 _________ Members present: Dr Michael Clark, in the Chair Mr Paddy Ashdown Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas Dr Ian Gibson Dr Brian Iddon Mr Robert Jackson Dr Ashok Kumar Dr Desmond Turner Dr Alan W Williams _________ MEMORANDUM FROM DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES THE LORD SAINSBURY OF TURVILLE, a Member of the House of Lords, appearing by leave of that House, Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry, and DR JOHN TAYLOR, Director General of the Research Councils, examined. Chairman: Lord Sainsbury, Dr Taylor, thank you very much for coming before this Select Committee once again. Lord Sainsbury, although we have had the pleasure of your company in the past I do not think we have spoken to you formally about the subject of the synchrotron although Dr Taylor has been with the Secretary of State to talk about the synchrotron before the decision was made and the announcement became public. The Committee have decided that after the decision was made they could learn something about the machinery of government decision making by inviting you to come before us this afternoon, and it is in that context that the Committee have got various questions that they would like to put. As usual, of course, Lord Sainsbury, we shall direct our questions to you as the Minister. If you wish to invite Dr Taylor to comment, or indeed to field the question, that is quite all right by us. Also, Dr Taylor, if there is something you wish to add, if you would catch my eye I shall certainly call you so that you can make your comment. With that I would now like to ask Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas to put the first question. Mrs Curtis-Thomas 125. Dr Dexter, the Director of the Wellcome Trust, told us that the original proposal for the synchrotron to be located at RAL was made by the Office of Science and Technology as early as April and May 1999, and that it was the OST which persuaded the Trust that locating the synchrotron at RAL was the best way forward. As the ADD report was not published until June 1999, on what basis did the OST reach these conclusions in April 1999? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) That is not my impression of the sequence of events. The sequence of events is that early in 1999 the Wellcome Trust had said they wanted a competition. We did not think that was right for reasons we can go into if you like. The issue at that point was apart but we said we thought there were only two possible sites for this to go. One was at Daresbury and the other was at RAL. The OST commissioned the investment appraisal of the two sites at that point. It was only when we got the ADD report in June that I think any firm view was taken by the OST that as a whole RAL seemed to be the right direction to go. They may have raised the subject of RAL as the only other possible site before that date. Dr Williams 126. Could I come in with something I have read three or four times? I have got an article here from The Guardian of 11 April. What it says is this, quoting a letter from Michael Dexter to local authorities Warrington and Halton Borough Councils. He says that the Government's Office of Science and Technology had persuaded him to support the Oxfordshire site at a meeting in April last year. He goes on to say that Government persuaded them that locating the synchrotron was the best way forward and that they agreed to this in June last year. That is from Mr Dexter and I have read it in three or four other sources over the months. This is a letter in April to the local authorities where he says that he was invited to OST in April last year and that the idea of going to Oxford came from the OST and that he was persuaded of that. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) As you read it out it is that it was in June that the ----- 127. The decision was taken. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) That this was when it took place. If you read carefully what you read out you will see that what he said was that he was persuaded that this was the best way forward. The position we had reached at that stage was that Wellcome had said that they did not think that Daresbury was necessarily the right site and wanted a competition. We said we did not think that a competition was right, that on balance we thought RAL was the right situation, and therefore what he said was that they were persuaded that that was "the best way forward", and that probably is the right way to put it, given that there were no other options. 128. In the words that you used there you seem to indicate that the first doubts about Daresbury came from Wellcome. That is not the impression that I get at all from my reading of this but that at Wellcome everybody had assumed that it would be Daresbury and that the first suggestion here in April of last year was from OST. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) That, I am afraid, is not correct. I had originally assumed, as I think everyone else had, that it would go to Daresbury. We were proceeding on that basis and it was the Wellcome Trust who made it very clear that they thought that was not the right way to proceed and that we must do an exercise to look at other sites, and it was on that basis that we had the discussion about whether we should have a competition or not. Dr Turner 129. Clearly the Wellcome Trust were setting out a position of unhappiness with Daresbury before the decision making process really started. Can you enlarge on Wellcome's reasons for this? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I think their position was that they believed that it should not be right automatically to accept the idea that the synchrotron should be put at Daresbury, and therefore there should be a competition to look at alternative sites. 130. Are you saying that they were not antipathetic to its location at Daresbury per se, but were as it were site neutral? Is that it? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I think it is difficult to say whether they were site neutral or that they had picked up certain concerns from scientists about the management of the Daresbury site. I do not think it was more than that at that point. They then of course did their own very substantial amount of work on this and went on a number of trips abroad and consulted with synchrotron users elsewhere and I think that may have reinforced their view that there should be a general review of possible sites. Dr Iddon 131. I think it is important to dwell on this a little longer. I have a letter here which is the letter just referred to dated 3 April 2000 from T Michael Dexter, FRS, the Director of the Wellcome Trust, and addressed to both the leaders of Halton Borough Council and Warrington Borough Council, and I will quote one paragraph in detail and then selectively quote from the rest of the letter. The second paragraph says: "As you might already know, when the Wellcome Trust first discussed the location of the synchrotron with officials from the Office of Science and Technology (OST) in January 1999, we suggested holding an open competition to determine the site. Initially they agreed to our suggestion but later proposed (April 1999) that the synchrotron be located at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). Prior to the OST's recommendation for RAL, we had not seriously considered any locations. Government persuaded us that locating the synchrotron at RAL was the best way forward and we agreed to this (June 1999) in order to prevent any further delays to the synchrotron project." Elsewhere in the letter it says, and I highlighted this yesterday: "The suggestion that we" - that is, the Wellcome Trust - "have unduly influenced the site decision is not true ..." Further on in the letter: "... our main dealings with government have been primarily with officials from the OST and the DTI", and even further on in the letter: "Once again, I would like to stress that it was not a Wellcome Trust decision to limit the choice of sites. The RAL option was originally a government proposal." Then again further on in the letter, at the end of one sentence it says, and I continue the sentence, "... and did not agree that RAL and the Daresbury Laboratory were the only options." In other words, Chairman, I see from this letter, and I am willing to show Lord Sainsbury this letter in case he has not seen it, that Wellcome did appear to have an open mind at the beginning, wanted to have an open competition, but seem to have been persuaded by Government agencies that RAL was the only site. Those of us who represent north west constituencies like myself firmly believe that after those dates that I have mentioned here there was a decision to be made between Daresbury and RAL but clearly this letter indicates that Government had already pre- disposed the decision to RAL and that really Daresbury were wasting their time by lobbying north west MPs or lobbying anybody. The decision had already been taken in Government circles. That is the way I saw it. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) There are two points. One is that what that letter of Mike Dexter says very clearly, and I do not think it is in conflict with what I have said here, is that their original view was strongly that they wanted to have a competition. On this particular point Dr Taylor did consult me because it was clearly an important point. I frankly thought at that point (because we were at that point only considering one site, which was the Daresbury site) that to have a competition was in the circumstances a complete waste of time and money. The reason for holding that view was that it seemed to me difficult to conceive how any other site would not be much more expensive to develop, given, among other things, that you would have the costs of running down the Daresbury site. At no point at this stage had anyone mentioned the RAL site. The second point is that siting a synchrotron somewhere is not an easy and simple task to assess. It clearly involves a great deal of work. We thought in a situation where there was a very obvious place to put the site that it was wrong to ask a lot of people to put proposals in which would involve a lot of work of a serious nature and serious costs if in fact it was very unlikely they would do so. There was a disagreement between ourselves and Wellcome on this particular point. If the question is, did we restrict the choice to the two sites, the answer is yes. That was a decision, that it was not sensible to look at other sites, and if anyone makes the case that there was another site, I am perfectly prepared to say that we made a mistake in cutting it off but it seems to me even now that it was right to restrict it to two sites. We then did the work and the view was formed by the OST that the RAL site was the right one. At the same time Wellcome also formed the view that this was the right site and took it to the trustees and in July of last year Dr Taylor, as was appropriate and right in these situations, came to me, having done the work, with a recommendation that it should be put at RAL. At that point it was not at all clear to either myself or the Secretary of State that that was necessarily the right thing to do, and we therefore took steps to have more work done on it and have further consultations before we arrived at a final decision. I think you must make a clear distinction between the action of the officials in arriving at what they thought was the right scientific decision, and bringing it to myself and the Secretary of State to take the final decision on it. 132. I was under the impression that the Secretary of State as recently as the beginning of this year was still in favour of the Daresbury site. What was it that persuaded the politicians otherwise and who took the final decision, Lord Sainsbury? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Basically the decision by Dr Taylor was taken in July and he came with a recommendation to me in July of last year. For another reason it did not get a lot of serious attention until we came back in September. We then had a series of further discussions on Wellcome to try and be clear exactly what their views were and, secondly, it was the view of the Secretary of State and myself that we needed to have further work done. A particular consideration in that was that we had had a very large number of letters from senior scientists about their view about the machine being likely to be located at Daresbury. Some of those I thought were based on misconceptions. People thought that if it went to any other site there would automatically be a dark period. People thought that he was absolutely clear that it would be more expensive to put it at RAL, which again is not correct. In view of the fact that we had had a large number of letters it seemed extremely important to be clear about what was the view of the user community. The question had also been raised by Wellcome that it was their view that there might be serious difficulties if we built a larger machine and located it at the Daresbury site. It seemed to both the Secretary of State and myself that we needed to be absolutely clear about both those two issues, and that is why we asked for a further consultation with the users, which was on a very clear basis of those who had most interest from a user point of view in this, in a situation where they could make their views known and have a proper discussion on it, and equally we asked for a proper site comparison to be made of both sites. That was then fed into our decisions. 133. I did ask who made the final decision. Behind that question was: did it go up to the Prime Minister for a final determination? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) The Secretary of State and I obviously discussed it a great deal. I had made my views known to him. He took the decision and then it was subsequently agreed by the Prime Minister himself. Dr Gibson 134. Just to round up this area, I wanted to ask John Taylor through you, Lord Sainsbury, this question. Up until the end of 1998 when Sir John Cadogan, your predecessor, was in office, it seemed that he and OST and the CCLRC and so on were all in favour of Daresbury. Then you came into position in January and played a role in that. Would you like to say briefly what your role was and at what defining moment did you suddenly see the light of Oxfordshire? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Can I pick this up because I think it refers to a whole period when John Cadogan was the Director General of the Research Councils, and then later on when John Taylor took it over. It is important to realise that from the time of the Woolfson report through to the time that John took over there was no decision ever made about where the site should be located. It was in some way just implicitly agreed that it would go to Daresbury but there was never a study done which said that we would compare different sites. The situation was that it was assumed that that was where it would go. It has to be said that I made the same assumption, that it would go to Daresbury. It was only at the point when Wellcome said, "We think that there should be a competition for this and that we should not accept the Daresbury site without any further inquiry", that we really began to focus on the site location as a specific issue. Then it was obviously John's responsibility to pull together all the issues about specification of the machine, the financial background, the location and all the other issues, which he then did on the timescale that I gave you. 135. Was one of those issues Wellcome's distrust of the CCLRC's financial management? There were doubts about that, were there not? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I think there were a number of issues. As you know, there have been doubts about the financial management of the CCLRC. It is my view, and I think John's view also, that the way the CCLRC was set up and its rather unclear remit and financial planning that it was given, ie, was not given clear resources to do the job it was supposed to do, ----- 136. When were you aware of that? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) It was a view that I formed over the first year that I was Minister of Science, I suppose. I think other people had formed the same view, which was that while the 1993 restructuring as a whole had been extremely successful, the actual basis on which CCLRC was set up was not wholly satisfactory and that made a difficult task for the management of that and that is why this is an issue we will be considering very carefully. 137. It was not influential in the synchrotron siting decision? It was not a factor? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) What, their views? 138. No, the financial management. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I do not think the financial management was a significant issue, no. Mr Jackson 139. Two points, firstly on funding of the CCLRC. The basic point as I understand it, and I would like the Minister to confirm this, is that fundamentally the problem is that this is an organisation that is funded by contracts and does not have any substantial body of resource under its own command. That is the basic problem so far as financial management is concerned. There is no question of any inefficiency or impropriety. Can you confirm that? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No. There is an issue of financial control which was aired and is a matter of public record. The issue is exactly as you said. I do not think it was given a clear task in terms of the management of large facilities and there was no forward plan which said, "This is what we plan to be the facilities we will need in the 10 years going ahead and on that basis we will fund the CCLRC to do that work." It was very unclear what the basis of long term funding was. 140. Chairman, I very much hope this discussion will also look forward as opposed to anticipating work for future historians, and I very much welcome what the Minister has said about looking at the future funding of CCLRC on a long term basis. Because Wellcome have come in for a great deal of stick and criticism, could the Minister please put on record the Government's appreciation of the fact that this private organisation, a charity, is actually putting in œ150 million to this important facility and the helpfulness of the fact that Wellcome are doing this? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Yes, I am very willing to do that. It is œ110 million. As you know, this project had been sitting on the shelf for some considerable time and it was their gesture in coming forward with this large sum of money which has enabled us to give the signal for this to go ahead on what is an absolutely critical facility for British science going ahead. We do appreciate that a great deal. Dr Turner 141. I am sure we do appreciate the contribution that the Wellcome Trust is making. None the less, I think it does bear some further examination because clearly this sort of public/private partnership relationship that we have with the Wellcome Trust needs to be on a perhaps slightly more open footing than it is now. Going back to the Daresbury decision, or non- Daresbury decision making, the Secretary of State was very clear in the autumn that he was minded to put it at Daresbury. There was thereafter a very strong hint that if Wellcome Trust did not see the installation being placed at RAL they would take their money out of the equation and that they would therefore be putting a certain amount of - I believe the word is "blackmail" - pressure on the Secretary of State to make the decision in favour of RAL because the Secretary of State did not have sufficient in his own departmental budget to substitute for the Wellcome Trust money. Would you be prepared to comment on that? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) it seems to me that there are two points one has to make on this. The first is that we now live in a world in which these very expensive scientific facilities increasingly have to be considered on an international basis. The situation exists clearly already in particle physics, it exists in astronomy, it is increasingly an issue in naval research vessels and all sorts of different aspects. If you are going to have these facilities on a partnership basis then the views of your partners have to be considered. It is obviously nicer if you can do these things on the basis of your own funding without having to give any consideration to your partners' views, but that is not the way the world works and in arriving at this decision clearly the Wellcome Trust have also had to do not what they would prefer to have done, which was to have an open competition, for example. I do think you have to accept that if you have partnerships as the basis of this kind of funding, they are partnerships. Dr Turner: But if there is a partnership involving blackmail by if you like the minority financial partner of Government which is putting in the major contribution, do you agree that there is an issue? Mr Jackson: "Blackmail" is a bad word. Chairman: It is indeed an issue. Mr Jackson: There is indeed an issue, Dr Turner, to withdraw the word "blackmail". Dr Williams 142. Could I ask Dr Taylor the question that Dr Gibson put to him earlier and he did not get to it? That is that between January and April of last year there seems to have been a fundamental change of mind within OST. Leave to one side this open competition. Initially there is a presumption for Daresbury at that stage, and yet by April what became anywhere became two and then that became one and that was RAL. What were the factors that changed the view of OST to go for Oxford rather than Daresbury? (Dr Taylor) I do not think that is the correct way to characterise the progression that happened. I think it is much closer to the way that Lord Sainsbury depicted it. That is an advancement of the work that needed to be done. In the autumn of 1998, before I came into the process, it had just been unlocked by Wellcome making the offer which was announced during the Comprehensive Spending Review. I think certainly Wellcome Trust, from my understanding of the situation, went away to start to learn a little bit about synchrotrons. It was not something they had had a great deal to do with. When I came into the post in January I saw what I had been asked to do as having two major elements. One was to understand what was the best recommendation I could make for how to take this forward from the point of view of science. My job is to make the recommendation on what would be best for science here in the UK. The other part of it was how to make a partnership function because again it is not something we have done very much in the UK up to now. We tend to have large facilities that are UK owned. This was the beginning of the dialogue between the two partners and then the three partners as the French started to show an interest. Part of the problem was, could we come to some kind of offering that would be at least plausible or acceptable to the various partners as the basis for recommendations to ministers and their decision making? During that first part of the year the Wellcome Trust also made a lot of further investigations and carried out a lot of their own studies on the scientific merit of the sites. Again they have documented that to you very well, so it is very clear that over the months in the first half of the year they developed a quite clear perception quite independently that if it were a choice between the two sites they would on scientific grounds prefer the Rutherford site, and they also were extremely clear in their statements to us all the way through these exploratory negotiations that their board of governors, their board of trustees, were adamant that the decision should be made on scientific merit. Dr Williams 143. What do you say to several of my colleagues and many commentators outside who see in this decision and in those discussions that took place during those three months a scientific establishment that is based on Oxford, Cambridge and London exercising its power against in a sense what would have been the regions? Is it not true that within the whole of the scientific establishment and simply within the key players here there is a predominance of Oxford, Cambridge and London, and that really all big prestige projects should be somewhere in this whole triangle? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Can I come in on this because this is absolutely a fundamental issue here because these accusations have been made. I think it is very regrettable. John Taylor is I think a Cambridge man. (Dr Taylor) I was born and brought up in Moseley, Birmingham, actually. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Dr Dexter is of course from Manchester. It was on exactly these sorts of issues that the Secretary of State and I believed that there should be a proper study done with the users, the people who are going to use this machine, as to what their views were. We undertook that. It was co-ordinated by the NRC. The report of that is quite clear. It gives the views of the users on these key scientific issues. There was also a series of other things which are a matter of record as to what the views on the science are, which seem to me to make admirable sense, and I think to put this all in the context of some lack of integrity of the scientists involved in this or an Oxford and Cambridge mafia is frankly to lower what is an important and difficult debate in a way which I think is not helpful to considering how we do these things on a scientific basis. Mr Ashdown 144. Chairman, I am new to this Committee so I hope the Committee and perhaps the Minister will forgive me if I, not having been quite so immersed in this as others, ask questions which are self-evident from the documents before us. I have four, perhaps five, very brief questions which I think require only very brief answers. In asking for a competition in that fact from Wellcome did you detect any hostility from Wellcome towards Daresbury or any sense that Daresbury was not favoured by them? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Yes. As I indicated, I think they had some sense that the way that the Daresbury site was managed --- that they had some sense that that was not as high as it should be. I do not think that in the long term that was a major consideration. It may have led them to ask for a competition. 145. So this was not to do with them seeking choice on a level playing field but with them implicitly indicating doubts about Daresbury? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No. We must be fair to them. I think they wanted a competition which would cover the whole country and I do not think there was any implication that that should be other than open and fair competition. 146. Forgive me, Lord Sainsbury, you cannot have it both ways. It cannot be the case that you thought you detected hostility towards Daresbury from Wellcome and yet they wanted a competition simply to have a level playing field. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No, I did not imply that. I implied that they did not in any way suggest anything which would make the open competition other than open and fair. 147. But you detected some concerns from Wellcome about Daresbury? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Yes, I think there were concerns. As I say, I do not think that affected their final decision but it may have affected their view that we should not automatically go for the Daresbury site. I have to say that there were other reasons why I think it would have been wrong anyway just simply to go for the Daresbury site. This is a very large project. It involves a large amount of public money and without doing any work to say, is this the right place to do it, I think that would have been wrong. That was why we did agree that we would do a preliminary look quickly to see if there were any other obvious places to put it. It was at that point that the question of RAL was raised, which had already been considered by other people to be another place which you could put it. It just had never been pursued. 148. Do you accept the point made in this written question that the OST had reached a decision, not final of course, but favourable to RAL as early as April or May? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) The study which was done, which was the ADD consultancy report, was done on the basis that they looked at three sites: Daresbury, RAL and a sort of green field option. On the basis that they asked for that study to be done, it was on the basis that at that point they did not have a clear view that one was preferable to the other. 149. But that is entirely contrary to the information we have now. OST were indicating to others that they were favourable towards RAL as early as April or May. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) The study was done in April. As far as I know up to that point there were no detailed financial figures of the decision and I cannot believe at that point that anyone would have taken --- they may have said it was another possibility. They may have said that there were good reasons for thinking about this. They may even have said that there was logic in putting the synchrotron next to the neutron source, but I do not think a firm view was taken. John Taylor can give his own views on that. 150. But here is a letter of April which clearly indicates that the OST - no decisions have been taken. No-one is doubting the decision is yet to be taken by ministers - has clearly not only reached a conclusion favourable to RAL but is broadcasting that conclusion about before the ADD report had been produced in April or May. One cannot conclude other than that the OST had reached a decision more favourable to RAL than Daresbury even before the ADD report had been produced. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I will let John Taylor answer that question. (Dr Taylor) I really do not think that we were anywhere near that kind of decision making at that time. 151. So the Wellcome Trust are wrong? (Dr Taylor) What the Wellcome Trust are reflecting are sample points around a very complex set of negotiations. When they were developing their own views we were exploring a number of options and we were both trying to come to some kind of position where we could say we had got at least one viable option which would let this project go ahead. We were under a lot of criticism for the delay that this project had already incurred and we were at that point exploring a very complex space with a third partner coming into the picture to find at least one option that would be at least in principle acceptable to some of the partners. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) As we are quoting this letter, let us quote it correctly. What it says is: "Initially, they agreed to our suggestion but later proposed ... that the synchrotron be located at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory." They did not say that this was a final view. All they said was "proposed" and in fact what it was a proposal that this should be looked at. 152. Do you understand why it would undermine the confidence in decision making int his matter if it were true, as Wellcome seems to claim, that the OST had reached a favourable position to RAL as early as April or May when their own ADD report was not going to be published until June? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Clearly if they had had a final and firm view and had made a proposal to me on that basis, clearly that would be ----- 153. Let us be absolutely clear, Lord Sainsbury. I am not suggesting that they reached a final view. The final view was reached by ministers, but it would be a matter which would diminish confidence in decision making if the OST commissioned an ADD report but had reached already a conclusion favourable to one of the two sites as early as April or May when that report was not due out until June. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Of course if the question was, was it a decision which encompassed all the issues, including the financial ones, and they had made the decision without having got the financial information, clearly that would be wrong. 154. Do you regret the fact that it appears that people believed that the OST had reached a decision broadly favourable to RAL even before their own report had been published? That is the conclusion you have to draw from the Wellcome papers. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No. Clearly the OST is the body that commissioned the report. There would be no reason to commission a report, and we did not at that point, and no-one could know what that report would say. They commissioned it and they clearly would not have done that unless they wanted to have that information as part of the decision making process. 155. But that is the point, is it not? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Unless you have some view of the OST as a completely unhinged organisation, why should they make a decision without taking proper account of the information? 156. I just want to ask Lord Sainsbury perhaps a very simple point. The perception behind this question, backed up by the Wellcome report, is that OST were becoming favourable to the RAL and were telling people publicly about that, or at least they allowed that information to be taken as early as April and May, when the ADD report was not due out until June. That is a regrettable impression to have been allowed to be reached, is it not? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I have to say that I am not quite certain what the point of this discussion is. Clearly people were looking at this decision. They were trying to find out, to make an assessment, and they then commissioned a report to do it which had a key part to play in that. I cannot see why they would have done if they had already formed a view. Chairman 157. If I may say so from the Chair, you and Mr Ashdown are both agreed. He cannot see either why they should commission it if they had formed a view. He is saying the view was formed before the report was published. I think you are both agreed on that particular point. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) If I may say so, Mr Ashdown is going from a statement by Mike Dexter that it was proposed, to broadcasting to the world. It was simply, as far as I understand it, that the OST simply said to them, "This is one of the things which we think ought to be considered and that is why we are commissioning a report." I cannot see that that is in any way regrettable. Dr Iddon 158. I thought Lord Sainsbury hinted that there was something wrong with the management of Daresbury and I think it is important that we clear that point up for the benefit of the people who work there. Is that what you said? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I think there is no doubt about the high quality of the research that had been done at Daresbury, no question about that at all. But I think it is equally true that the Wellcome Trust had some reservations about the way that the site was managed. That is not about the people who do the work there. It is about the way that the total site was managed. Mrs Curtis-Thomas 159. By early October 1999 the Secretary of State was clearly expressing his preference for Daresbury and on 1 November 1999 the Wellcome Trust received a letter from him stating that he "had decided to site the synchrotron at Daresbury". OST officials, on the other hand, had spent the preceding months arguing the opposite case and their views eventually prevailed over the decision of the Secretary of State. What does this tell us about the decision making processes in the DTI, about who is really in control and about the accountability of senior civil servants to Ministers and to Parliament? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I think the process was that the OST rightly put forward its views, which it had been asked by the Secretary of State and myself to do. The Secretary of State, and indeed myself at that point, were not totally convinced, which is why we asked for further work to be done. There was also subsequently a whole series of discussions with the Wellcome Trust. It was only at the end of those discussions and when we had the further information that the final decisions were taken. I think as a whole that is how decision making should be taken, ie, the civil servants and the Director General of the Research Council were asked to put forward a recommendation, then that was scrutinised by the politicians in this case. Further discussions took place and final decisions were reached. Those decisions were those of the Secretary and mine, and not those of the Director General of the Research Councils or the OST. Chairman 160. You do not disagree however, Lord Sainsbury, with Mrs Curtis- Thomas's statement that in early October 1999 the Secretary of State was clearly expressing his preference for Daresbury and on 1 November the Wellcome Trust received a letter from him stating he had decided on the Daresbury site? You accept that that is a statement of fact? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Yes, and it is a matter of public record. 161. I just want to make sure where the facts are. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) That is all agreed. Mrs Curtis-Thomas 162. You referred to further information that was received after November. What was that further information and what information and reports are your Department prepared to make public so that other individuals can have the opportunity to scrutinise them to the same degree as yourself? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Of the two critical reports which we asked for, one was a further user consultation. We had had user consultations but we asked for a further user consultation which would specifically cover the question of the site. That was clearly immensely important because we had received large numbers of letters from scientists saying that they thought the Daresbury site was the right one. As I said, I think there were certain things wrong with those letters because they were based on incorrect assumptions. Nevertheless, these were distinguished scientists who had written in about this view and we therefore thought it was right to get a properly constituted view from the user community. That view was extremely important in the decision because it indicated that at least for the physical scientists there was merit seen to be in locating the synchrotron on the same site as the neutron source. The second bit of information went the other way, which was the look at the whole site issues by Allott & Lomax. That refuted the view that there would be any difficulty about putting the synchrotron on the Daresbury site. We had those further bits of information and we also had further discussions with the Wellcome Trust about their views, and on that basis we took the decision. I think both the Allott & Lomax report and the user consultation are matters now of public record and are available to anyone to consider. Dr Kumar 163. Lord Sainsbury, what concerns me most is the whole information about this project as time has gone on emerged slowly, grudgingly, in secrecy, and one of the secrets that emerged bit by bit was in August of last year about the involvement of the French Government. Why was that kept secret until last year? I wonder if you could explain it to us? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I do not think there was any mystery about it. That was simply again, and it is all a matter of public record, that the French had not been involved prior to that and it was only the question of their own Minister of Research and Education taking a decision to cancel the S‚l‚(?) project in France that led them to think about their involvement with our project. I do not think that was kept secret any longer than was necessary for the French to make proper arrangements for it to be announced. 164. You are saying that the French got involved in August last year? As soon as they were involved you put that into the public domain? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No. Before that they had obviously asked us whether that would be a possibility, but I think between them formally asking and we agreeing and then making an announcement was a very short period. 165. What do you mean by "short"? One month? Two months? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) One month or something like that. Clearly there could be no question of us announcing suddenly that this was happening without taking into consideration the French view about when they had to announce it because obviously it was an important decision for them to make. Dr Gibson 166. Are these conversations and agreements all documented in letters and, if so, are you prepared to put them in the library in the House? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I would want to look at what is proper in these circumstances to have documented. I would certainly look at it. I do not think they are minuted meetings where they asked if we would consider this. I would have to look at that in terms of what is proper and right. Mr Jackson: It is not fair. These are letters from a foreign government. I hope that they will be consulted before that. Dr Gibson: I can read French. Can you? Dr Iddon 167. In recent weeks, Lord Sainsbury, there has been a suggestion that the French are going to proceed with a synchrotron project, a new synchrotron project, in their own country. Is that correct? Can you confirm that? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No, I cannot confirm that. All I can confirm is that I had a discussion with the French Minister which I think was on 9 March at which we discussed the taking forward of the work on the UK synchrotron. They raised the question of the possibility of there being a further synchrotron, a low energy synchrotron, in France and we discussed that and the issue there was whether we would participate and I made it clear that we were --- there are two points to make here. One was that the original Woolfson Report always suggested that there should be three energy sources: the high energy source which is the European synchrotron radiation facility at Grenoble, that we should do a medium energy one, which is the new synchrotron source we are doing, and that there should also be a low energy source which he suggested we should look at finding partners on. There is a current working party in Europe which is looking at the whole question of what is a sensible position on synchrotrons in Europe, which is likely to come forward with some view about where there should be a low energy synchrotron. Clearly if there was one and it was a country such as France which decided to go ahead with this, then we would want to look seriously at whether we participated in some way in that in line with our needs. 168. Would that include financial participation? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Yes. We currently have a 14 per cent share of the high energy Grenoble synchrotron, and clearly if we were participating we would have to participate financially. Dr Williams 169. If the French do go ahead with their own synchrotron, is there a danger or a possibility that they could withdraw from the Oxford synchrotron? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No. These are different energy synchrotrons. The French Minister was quite clear that they would continue with their participation in our synchrotron, which is the medium energy one. What they would be doing would a different machine. 170. If the unforeseen were to happen, say, in three months' time or whenever, would the Oxford site then be considered? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I think it would have to depend on what the decision was. Clearly you would look at the decision but whether you would change it I think you would have to do on the basis of a re-look at the situation. Mr Jackson 171. Would the Minister not agree with me that this is a decision that has now been made, that there is a great deal of complicated and difficult work that now has to be done to implement it, and it really is not helpful to try and talk in terms of re-opening this decision, and what is needed is for everybody concerned to get on with the job and to make the new synchrotron work in the national, European and international interests? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I would certainly want to make a strong plea for saying that this is an extremely important facility for UK science and it is the view of all the scientists universally on this issue, that we should now get on with this and get on with the work because it is important that we have this machine as soon as possible, and also that it is the very best machine we can have. They are delighted that it is a larger machine than was originally planned because that is absolutely critical to the performance of this, but they do now want to see the thing move forward as quickly as possible so that we can get the benefits of it. Chairman: Lord Sainsbury, it was my intention from the outset to finish on an optimistic note of the future. We have just jumped to the future two questions before we wanted to. I know that Dr Gibson wants to continue on the French scheme that we were on and then Dr Turner would like to ask a question about open competition that did not take place and then we will move on to the future. Dr Gibson 172. We know that the French say the RAL site was the only one on offer; that has been quoted and said. Who told the French Government this because you said that there were other options, including a green field site? I think you also missed one out. I think there was a rather interesting Cambridge campus as well which was in the original report, I seem to remember. There were four sites possible. Who told the French that it was RAL? How did that come about? On what basis was Daresbury therefore excluded as far as the French were concerned? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I am not quite certain what you mean when you say "when they were told". When we originally agreed that they would come in, it was agreed with them that this would be a decision for the Wellcome Trust and the British Government. They were happy to agree to that, but made it very clear then and on subsequent occasions that they preferred the RAL site. 173. They must have argued about the best of British science and French science or whatever, and there must have been arguments about that. One argument has been about the Human Genome Project, that you should site it where that is going on, in Cambridge. There is very little going on in Oxford relatively speaking. We come to this again, this unsure area of why the French swallowed it going to RAL, that that was the best option. Why did they not drive a harder bargain? After all, they were putting a lot of money into it. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) At the time they were involved it had pretty much narrowed down to RAL and Daresbury. They knew that it was going to be a choice between those two sites. 174. And they would take your word for it? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) If a decision was made by the British Government and Wellcome to go to Daresbury or RAL, they would accept that. 175. Would you do that if you put money into the French synchrotron? You would allow the French to decide where it went? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I would certainly not want it to be known publicly that I was determining where the synchrotron went in France if I were a foreign minister. Dr Turner 176. Had RAL not been chosen as the site for the synchrotron was there any question of closure of RAL? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No. There is a huge operation at RAL which involves the neutron source, a whole range of other facilities, and there is no question of it being closed whatsoever. 177. Was the reason why the open competition was clearly not a welcome suggestion from the Wellcome Trust purely one of timing, because it would have extended the time it took to get to a decision, given that we had taken quite a long time to arrive at the decision that we had? Was that the reason or were there others? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Our objection to it? 178. Yes. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) The situation it seemed to me at that point was rather clear. We had a site which we knew geologically was acceptable. In these decisions the question of geology of the site is extremely important because of the sensitivity of these machines. We had a site which the current machine was located on, the skill base was there, and it was difficult to conceive the circumstances in which another site would be preferable given that if you moved it you would have all the costs of running it down. It seemed in those circumstances to allow a lot of people to do a lot of work on geological surveys, talk about planning permission, the infra structure to go in to put this kind of operation in (this was particularly at a time when we were asking them to do a lot of work on the JIF projects) would be an extremely pointless action. It was on that basis that John Taylor consulted me and I totally accepted his view that this would be a pointless exercise which would incur a lot of costs for no purpose. 179. I accept that, Lord Sainsbury. Finally, in the comparative costings of establishing the synchrotron at both sites do the published costings for RAL include the costs of closing Daresbury? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I think they are perfectly reasonable in assuming a level of redundancy and other costs which would relate to the synchrotron being taken away from the Daresbury site. What they show is that it is more favourable for financial purposes to put it at RAL. I have to say that in my own judgment of it, while that is true on the facts they present, it does depend on the assumptions you make on the number of redundancies and a series of other factors. On that basis it seemed to me it was probably fair to say that there was no significance difference from a financial point of view between the two sites. Dr Iddon 180. My question is based upon that point which has been raised about the running down and the other costs. You must have some idea of the worst scenario. We have been short of money in getting the DIAMOND project going and it is a partnership, obviously, œ100 million from Wellcome, some from the French Government and the rest from ourselves. I have seen figures quoted as high as œ35 million for the running down costs of Daresbury which seemed to me to be a very strong argument for leaving the new synchrotron project at Daresbury and transferring staff across and using other facilities on that site. It just seems a terrible waste of money if that is anywhere the truth in the costs of running down Daresbury. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) This was exactly the situation which we asked the financial appraisal to consider. On what seemed perfectly fair assumptions the ongoing cost advantages of putting it at RAL, where there are considerable synergies by running the two machines together, long term on a discounted basis still outweighs the costs of the redundancy and other payments which would be incurred on a reasonable basis at Daresbury. As I say, my own judgment is that those figures are sufficiently close --- as always with these things, it looks a large figure, like œ20 million saving, over a lengthy period. Nevertheless, when you work through the figures it probably tells you nothing more than that there is not much financially to choose between the two sites. Mr Ashdown 181. I am sorry; I probably test the indulgence of the Committee if I return to this, but I am genuinely confused about the exchange we had earlier on. I want to put a very simple question to Lord Sainsbury which I think actually requires only a one word answer. Here is a statement: by April to May 1999 the OST and CCLRC, together with the new DGRC, Dr John Taylor, were all in favour of RAL. Is that statement true? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) No; incorrect. Chairman 182. Can I just move forward in the 10 minutes that we have got left and turn to RAL where the project is scheduled to go and ask how much progress has been made with the project so far? Is all the funding in place? Has a project leader been appointed and, if so, who is he or she? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I have just come back from spending Monday and Tuesday at the first full tripartite project meeting where we had scientists, both users and machine designers, from both the French team and our own team, from CCLRC and representatives from the Wellcome Trust. We have appointed an interim project manager whose name is David Hull and he will manage the interim phase of the project until we have all of the signed memoranda of agreement for the new joint venture in place. We have set up three major teams: the machine design team, the scientific advisory committee and the financial, legal and contractual group. We have set up an interim steering group which is the shadow for the eventual board of directors for the project and that will consist of Vincent Courtillot from the French Ministry, myself from OST and Michael Morgan from the Wellcome Trust. We had an extremely positive day and a half. The scientists there from all sides were saying they were delighted at the way the meeting went and I think we all went out saying that this project is now running and operational and our first major milestone is to get an agreed design specification for the machine by September. 183. I did ask if all the funding was in place. Is it all in place? (Dr Taylor) Subject to the planning cycles of three year spending reviews and so on, we are all clear that the funding necessary is available from the partners. 184. Why is the project leader only interim? (Dr Taylor) Because we are going through a process which will probably take up to a year or more to create the joint venture vehicle which will be a company jointly owned by the three partners similar to the company that runs ESRF, and until we can get all the legal agreements in place for that to be formally constituted we need to have an interim set of management in place. 185. You are not waiting for B Y Jerberg(?) to become free from the Dome before you appoint a further one? Can I ask whether the system of parallel working which is being established before Daresbury shuts down is working. How long will that work for? What optimism does that give to the Daresbury site? (Dr Taylor) We are working on a number of fronts about those issues. We have made a number of major management changes in CLRC. We have a new acting chief executive, a new chairman, we have split the role of chief executive and chairman to bring it in line with the other research councils and normal governance procedures. We have a set of study teams in place looking at the future chartering mission for CCLRC as a whole and for the funding arrangements and so on. We are strengthening the Council to bring it in line with a new kind of mission. We have changed the management at CCLRC itself. There is a new Director, Hywel Davies, who is driving this forward very well. I think certainly from the meetings I have been to and my staff have been to for the last few weeks that Daresbury staff in particular are thoroughly engaged in driving forward the design of this new machine in a way that is very encouraging for all of us. Their expertise is very important to us and I am very pleased with the way that the design team is now coming together for a new machine. 186. Lord Sainsbury, there has been talk about a cluster of scientific excellence at the RAL, and yet no-one has denied the fact that Daresbury was a centre of excellence in its own right on this one specific topic. Perhaps you would sympathise with the fact that if you have got one piece of isolated excellence and that does not result in a cluster later on, it is very difficult to say how morale in scientific sites can be sustained if, when something new comes along, it does not go to a site of single excellence but goes to a site of multiple excellence. Would you have sympathy with people who have put that point of view forward? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Yes. 187. Perhaps I could couple it with a second question. The fact that Daresbury has shown itself to be a site of excellence up until now, and I am sure will continue to be in the future, but has not got the DIAMOND project, does that exclude it from any other new scientific development in the future or is it indeed a prime candidate for some new scientific endeavour in the future? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) It certainly does not exclude it and the fact that we have set up this north west scientific study is precisely to see how we can maximise the value of that site in the future from the scientific point of view, and we will certainly be seeking to do that. 188. You do accept that there may be need for more than one site of scientific excellence, one cluster, that we do have now a general acceptance across both sides of the house that competition is quite a good thing and that that does apply to scientific clusters as well as it does to other things? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) I am sorry; I should have answered your first question. Yes, I do sympathise with this issue. It is an extremely difficult one, that in this particular case the decision came down on actually putting the facilities together because of the potential synergy and benefits from that. But I am very clear that from the point of view of doing excellent science we want as much diversity as possible and we do not want everything to be simply in either a very limited number of sites or universities. Dr Gibson: A certain sum of money has been mentioned as going to Daresbury, œ25 million or œ30 million. Dr Iddon: To the north west. Dr Gibson 189. How has that arisen? You have a committee that is looking into how you can develop it and yet you are throwing money at the problem. One might say that that was a cynical freebie response. Why did you pick that sum of money? (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) It is not the first time where there has been a situation like this where we have felt it is appropriate that there should be some money for re-structuring. We are very conscious of the fact that we have taken this new project away from that site and we wanted to look at how we could build on the excellence of the north west science base which is extremely high, particularly in areas like health care and biological sciences. We want to see what we can do to build on that to compensate for what we have done in taking away a project from that particular area. Chairman 190. Lord Sainsbury, Dr Taylor, I think we shall draw to a close now. It is very close to 5.30. You will recall that we did look at this subject of the synchrotron earlier. We came to the conclusion that both sites had very considerable merit and I am sure that you too would agree that both sites had very considerable merit. the fact remains however that there is only going to be one synchrotron and a decision had to be made. However the decision was made there would be one site that would be disappointed. That we understand. But as we are doing a major inquiry on scientific advice to government it is interesting to get an insight into how Government uses scientific advice, the process of decision making, and although this particular session this afternoon is not within that particular inquiry it is a similar sort of questioning session. I think we have questioned you hard this afternoon. I may say that I think you and Dr Taylor have answered as fully and well as is possible and very ably. We are grateful to you for coming along to such a difficult session. You knew before you came that it would be a difficult session but you did not back away. You came the moment we asked you and we are very grateful for that. We wish you both well in all that you do to help the scientific community. We know there will always be some people disappointed but the most disappointing thing of all would be if we did nothing in the scientific community. You are doing something. You are breaking eggs and you are making omelettes, but at least we are breaking eggs and getting on with the omelettes. Thank you very much indeed, both of you. (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) Thank you very much indeed, Chairman.