Session 2010-12
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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Trading Fund Order 2011

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr David Amess 

Blunkett, Mr David (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab) 

Byles, Dan (North Warwickshire) (Con) 

Cairns, Alun (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con) 

Donaldson, Mr Jeffrey M. (Lagan Valley) (DUP) 

Ellwood, Mr Tobias (Bournemouth East) (Con) 

Francois, Mr Mark (Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household)  

Gilbert, Stephen (St Austell and Newquay) (LD) 

Grant, Mrs Helen (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con) 

Hart, Simon (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con) 

Heaton-Harris, Chris (Daventry) (Con) 

Hilling, Julie (Bolton West) (Lab) 

Horwood, Martin (Cheltenham) (LD) 

Jones, Mr Kevan (North Durham) (Lab) 

Luff, Peter (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence)  

Mearns, Ian (Gateshead) (Lab) 

Michael, Alun (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op) 

Winnick, Mr David (Walsall North) (Lab) 

Wright, David (Telford) (Lab) 

Mark Etherton, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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Third Delegated Legislation Committee 

Wednesday 4 May 2011  

[Mr David Amess in the Chair] 

Draft Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Trading Fund Order 2011 

2.30 pm 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff):  I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the draft Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Trading Fund Order 2011. 

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess. The role of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory is to maximise the impacts of science and technology for UK defence and security. DSTL was established in 2001 after the previous Administration decided that the majority of the science and technology functions carried out by its predecessor organisation, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, which was a trading fund at the Ministry of Defence, could and should be carried out by the private sector. 

The operation of DERA as a trading fund was governed by three separate orders, dating from 1993, 1995 and 1996. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Trading Fund Order 2001 amended those orders, specifying which of the operating divisions of DERA should cease to be funded activities and thereby become part of QinetiQ. The one remaining division—the security division—was to continue as a trading fund under the name of DSTL. 

The requirement for a new order follows the review that was undertaken in 2009 of the formulation and delivery of science and technology in the Ministry of Defence. As a result, DSTL assumed responsibility for the formation of the MOD’s research programme on 1 April 2010, working with industry and academia. Although that has not led to any expansion in DSTL’s funded activities, as described in the 2001 order, we decided that it would be helpful to take the opportunity to rationalise the existing legislation in order to remove any doubt and avoid future ambiguity. This order therefore repeals the existing three orders and replaces the list of funded activities, based on a division of DERA which has long ceased to exist, with a more generic description of funded activities, similar to that used previously. 

Creating the new order has, technically, widened the description of funded activities. However, I must stress that our policy remains that DSTL will continue to undertake only that work which is inappropriate for the

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private sector. That requirement and, in particular, the operational requirement, will inevitably change somewhat over time, but a number of mechanisms are in place to ensure that DSTL does not undertake work that could be done by industry. 

2.32 pm 

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab):  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess. I do not want to detain the Committee unduly—Members will know of my brevity. The Opposition will not be opposing the statutory instrument, but I should like the Minister to answer four questions. 

First, who decides the appropriateness of work to be done in the private sector? Secondly, what criteria will be used to make that decision? Thirdly, will the Government publish the review of the DSTL trading fund and, if so, when? Fourthly, does this delegated legislation relate to the long-awaited White Paper, which I understand the Minister will introduce later this year? 

2.33 pm 

Peter Luff:  The content of the MOD research programme is driven by MOD custom requirements and priorities, and is sourced in line with a robust procurement strategy process. The clear expectation is that any work will be outsourced to industry or academia unless there is a compelling reason for it to be done in Government. We have put in place a comprehensive Government regime in relation to those decisions, and I assure the Opposition that Ministers are strongly committed to that principle. 

The criteria for allocating work are in the process of being revised, following the review that has taken place. I will happily share those with the hon. Gentleman and, of course, the industry in due course. 

I am afraid that I am not able to give the hon. Gentleman all the comfort he would like on the publication of the review of DSTL status. It is not usual to publish internal reports, although a summary of the report’s findings will be provided to interested parties, including industry representatives. I would be happy to share those with the hon. Gentleman, too, if he would like to have them. 

Finally, I am happy to add a categorical reassurance that nothing being debated today changes anything that is in the forthcoming White Paper. I attach great importance to science and technology. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the issues that we are debating will have no impact on that, but I think that the White Paper will have some important things to say about the future of science and technology in defence. 

Question put and agreed to.  

2.35 pm 

Committee rose.