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Defence Science And Technology Laboratory

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what estimate he has made of the (a) housing, (b) career development and (c) personal development costs pertaining to each DSTL employee at Rosyth who is being required to relocate; [114574](2) if he will make a statement on the relocation costs of moving Rosyth DSTL staff to Porton Down; [114575](3) what estimate he has made of the cost of recruiting and training replacement staff for DSTL staff at Rosyth who are unable or unwilling to relocate to Porton Down; [114576](4) what the fixed limit is on the assured tenancy of DSTL at Rosyth. [114577]

At present, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) staff are spread over 15 sites across the United Kingdom. Continuing with this level of dispersion will ultimately degrade DSTL's effectiveness and long-term viability. The split of the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency has resulted in DSTL being left with many capabilities that are supported by small teams or individuals. If we are to preserve and develop these capabilities effectively then we need a degree of consolidation to exploit their synergies, achieve critical mass and sustain their technical excellence. We also know that, despite everything that information technology can do, there are enormous gains in communication and knowledge-sharing when people actually work together in the same or adjoining buildings. In addition, career development is much easier when people do not have to uproot themselves simply in order to work in a different technical area. Additionally, there are financial considerations. As a Government agency, DSTL is publicly accountable for how it uses taxpayers' assets and money. In anything but the short term the additional costs imposed by the current level of dispersion are considerable. These costs will inevitably divert funds from more productive uses in maintaining and developing facilities and delivering better quality science for the Ministry of Defence.To address these issues, DSTL intends to move its staff onto three core sites at Fort Halstead, Porton Down and Portsdown Main. This was announced in July 2002 and hon. Members whose constituencies were affected were written to at the time explaining this decision. The site rationalisation plan commenced in August 2002 and it is intended to be completed by late 2006. It will involve the relocation of approximately 1,600 staff during this timeframe. The moves will ultimately reduce the fragmentation of the science and technology base of DSTL, bringing together like capabilities and reducing overheads and duplication of support functions in the organisation. This will ensure that DSTL can sustain long-term capability whilst providing an improved career structure for staff. While there is a possible risk that relocation will have a short-term impact that could affect capability in some areas, any effects will be more than outweighed by the significant long-term advantages these changes will produce. The relocation of the four staff currently employed at DSTL Dunfermline is part of the DSTL site rationalisation plan.The investment appraisal conducted by DSTL to support the site rationalisation plan was independently reviewed and agreed by the MOD Senior Economic Adviser. This work considered both the costs of re-provision of facilities and staff transfer. Staff will be eligible for support under the DSTL relocation procedures and the specific application of the procedures will be discussed on an individual basis taking into account personal commitments. The costs associated with the housing of staff who intend to relocate to the core DSTL sites will depend on the personal circumstances of the individuals but the organisation estimates an average cost of £27,000.DSTL uses the planned goals and objectives of the laboratory to identify the career and personal development requirements for its staff. The career aspirations and personal development needs are obviously specific to individuals and determined by their own personal development plans and all staff in the organisation, regardless of their location, are given equal opportunity to undertake appropriate training and development to deliver the organisation's objectives. Costs for career and personal development are not determined on a per capita basis and depend on the individual's training and development needs. DSTL always looks to develop the talents and capabilities of its current staff and would look to existing staff to fill any vacancies created by the loss of DSTL Dunfermline staff from within the organisation. DSTL does not therefore envisage a significant increase in such costs attributable to their relocation plans. It currently has a relatively low annual turnover of staff and has an effective recruitment and training strategy, recruiting over 100 science graduates each year. Two of the four members of staff based at DSTL Dunfermline are within five years of normal retirement and succession plans and the associated costs to train staff to replace them are required regardless of any individual's intention to relocate.Finally, it has to be recognised that as a result of the split of DERA some moves are unavoidable. On those sites owned by QinetiQ, DSTL only has assured tenancy for a fixed period. Rather than embarking on a number of relocations as each lease expires that would place the organisation into a long-running series of moves, which would cause continuing disruption to staff and delay the benefits arising from rationalisation, it has been decided that a single plan that covers all sites should be adopted. The current lease at DSTL Dunfermline is for a period of five years, ending 12 August 2006. However the other members of their technical group, which is currently based in Farnborough, will be relocating to Porton Down in the final quarter of 2003 and the intention is to consolidate the technical team at Porton Down as soon as is practicable.