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Council For The Central Laboratory Of The Research Councils

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 28 February 2001

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asked Her Majesty's Government:When the outcome of the First Stage of the Quinquennial Review of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils will be announced; and what are the principal recommendations for the future governance and organisation of CCLRC. [HL983]

I am today able to announce the outcome of the First Stage of the Quinquennial Review of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils.Reviews of Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) are a key part of our programme to modernise government. The Government are committed to achieving better public services that are of higher quality and are more responsive to the needs of the people who use them. Regular NDPB reviews are an important element in ensuring that we have in place the right structures to deliver the Government's agenda effectively and to provide a strong focus on improving future performance.

The terms of reference of the review required the First Stage to examine the role, composition and funding mechanisms for CCLRC, by reference to its Charter and mission, its past performance, recent CCLRC-instigated studies on future vision and funding, current best practice for NDPBs and its contribution to the work of other research councils. The review was further required to consider all relevant options for the future of the council, including abolition, continued N DPB status, rationalisation, privatisation or strategic contracting out.

The review has been conducted in accordance with the latest Cabinet Office guidance (published on 31 January 2000) and has included consultation with members of council, the executive and CCLRC's customers and key stakeholders. The review board, chaired by Sir Peter Williams, met on six occasions, including visits to the Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury laboratories.

The principal recommendation is that the relationship of the Research Councils and CCLRC as customer and supplier has proved to be sub-optimal and should be changed to a strategic ownership model, in which CCLRC is brought under the joint ownership of the grant awarding research councils. To facilitate this change, CCLRC should be reconstituted, as soon as practicable, as a limited company, to provide a similar governance structure to existing research council institutes.

This model ensures a clear commitment by the research councils to meet the planned funding needs of CCLRC based on scrutiny of strategic and operating plans, and should provide efficiency savings. Within this framework, CCLRC should seek to fulfil a more strategic role in the provision of access to leading edge, large-scale facilities for UK researchers. investment in new facilities should be based on long term requirements agreed by all the different research communities.

Stage two of the review will now examine the issues associated with the implementation of the strategic ownership model, addressing in particular the implications for the status of CCLRC and its accountability to Ministers and Parliament. Stage two will also examine how the strategic role can be implemented, such that it is not compromised by CCLRC's role as a facilities operator.

I warmly welcome these recommendations and offer my thanks to Sir Peter Williams and the rest of the review board.