Select Committee on Defence Tenth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  The MoD appears to have been a supportive owner of the Met Office. While we note the close connection between the Met Office and DEFRA in particular, we see no grounds for recommending any changes of responsibility. However, we note the former Chief Executive's concerns about the level of support from the MoD for the Met Office's international role and look to the MoD to address this. (Paragraph 12)

2.  We have discovered no compelling reason to remove the Met Office from public ownership at present. (Paragraph 18)

3.  We found no suggestion that the Met Office's obligations to generate income and pursue commercial opportunities had an adverse effect on its public service role, or its service to the MoD and Armed Forces. (Paragraph 19)

4.  We recommend that the MoD consider further whether to co-locate the UK Hydrographic Office and Met Office in Exeter. (Paragraph 22)

5.  We welcome the Minister's commitment that the MoD will fund investment in the Met Office if a robust business case is made. That investment will need to be substantial if, as it should, the United Kingdom is to maintain its competitive edge and remain a world leader in meteorology. We also look to the MoD to continue to allow the Met Office to decide on its own investment priorities. (Paragraph 30)

6.  The evidence suggests that the move to Exeter has been successful, both in financial terms and staff satisfaction terms. Both the Met Office and the MoD are to be commended for this. (Paragraph 33)

7.  We consider it desirable, whenever possible, to provide consistency in Key Performance Target measures so that year-on-year comparisons of performance are more easily made. (Paragraph 38)

8.  We acknowledge that Key Performance Targets are not necessarily the best guide to performance of an agency and accept the view expressed by several witnesses that the customer-supplier relationship was at least as, if not more, important in driving the direction and performance of the organisation. Nevertheless, the Key Performance Target process should provide value in assisting the Met Office to identify its management priorities. (Paragraph 43)

9.  We consider the Key Performance Targets from previous years to have been insufficiently focussed on the real purpose of the Met Office. We welcome the greater focus on the Met Office's purpose in the Key Performance Targets for 2006-07. (Paragraph 44)

10.  We welcome the Chief Executive's view that the customer-supplier relationship is an important driver of the Met Office's performance. (Paragraph 45)

11.  The importance of the Mobile Met Unit to the United Kingdom's Armed Forces should not be understated. We recommend that its role and work be more fully reported in the Met Office's Annual Report and Accounts. (Paragraph 50)

12.  We support the MoD's continuing development of the Future Military Meteorology Requirement. We suspect that MMU personnel will continue to need to deploy in order to maintain military meteorological capability on operations. (Paragraph 53)

13.  We do not consider it necessary for the MoD to set the Met Office a specific defence-related Key Performance Target. The MoD's status as the Met Office's principal customer should ensure defence issues remain a priority for the Met Office. (Paragraph 54)

14.  We recommend that future annual reports and accounts for the MoD's agencies and trading funds provide details of non-executive directors and the skills which they have been appointed to provide. (Paragraph 57)

15.  The weatherXchange experience has led to greater awareness of the pitfalls that can arise. Although the lack of success is a regret, the level of loss should be placed in context. More than £20 million was generated by commercial activity last year. The total cost to the tax payer of the weatherXchange joint venture was of the order of £4.5 million. (Paragraph 64)

16.  We would not wish to see the Met Office and the MoD overreact to the weatherXchange experience. We were reassured by the comments of the Minister and the Met Office's Chief Executive that commercial opportunities will be pursued. (Paragraph 65)

17.  The MoD and Met Office must ensure that future joint ventures are established with indisputably concrete governance arrangements and that no conflicts of interest are possible. Furthermore, the Met Office must do more to test the business case of commercial ventures, and seek to bring greater business acumen into the organisation. (Paragraph 66)

18.  The volatility among the Met Office's senior management is regrettable. The MoD and Met Office should work to ensure the organisation does not suffer as a result of that instability and that staff morale is supported. (Paragraph 69)

19.  It seems absurd, given the calibre of the person the MoD is seeking, and has so far failed to find, that the MoD has reduced the grade of the post of Chief Executive of the Met Office. If the candidate is from outside the civil service, as seems probable given the importance of commercial experience, their grade will still be important in their relationship with the MoD and the international meteorological community. (Paragraph 73)

20.  We can find no justification for the proposed down-grading of the post of Chief Executive. Despite the MoD's protestations, it is inconceivable that a reduction in grade of the Chief Executive will have no effect on how that post or person is perceived within the MoD or international science and meteorological communities. Given the difficulties in identifying a suitable permanent replacement as Chief Executive down-grading cannot assist in finding someone with suitable experience and skills. We recommend that the MoD reverse its decision and retain the three-star grade for the Chief Executive. (Paragraph 74)

21.  We look to the Government, through the MoD, to maintain the support and investment that enables the Met Office to retain its world-leading position. That support must include doing everything to encourage the best possible candidates to apply for the post of Chief Executive. (Paragraph 75)

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