Green Light for Pounds 250m Sale of UK Defence Research Labs
The Government gave the go-ahead for the controversial pounds 250 million sell-off of most of its defence research laboratories last night.
Defence Secretary Mr Geoff Hoon said the privatisation of about three- quarters of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency would encourage the development of commercial spin-offs from military technology while boosting funds available for the forces.
The Tories warned that the sell-off would damage Britain's close defence relationship with the US, with UK scientists excluded from American military research.
Under the Government plan, Dera will be split in two with the most sensitive facilities - including the chemical and biological research establishment at Porton Down - retained by the Government.
The remainder of the organisation - covering 9,000 of the 12,000 staff - will be turned into a private company in preparation for a stock market flotation, probably next year.
There will however be a period of "shadow" operation, with the two organisations working together to demonstrate the "robustness" of the new arrangements, before the flotation goes ahead.
Mr Hoon said the sell-off would enable the privatised company to "flourish" in the commercial sector, with significant opportunities to use defence technology to develop new consumer products.
"Our approach will offer the best value for money to the taxpayer while ensuring that our armed forces retain access to leading edge technology," Mr Hoon said.
"It will also provide a stimulus for the exploitation of science within the wider UK economy, strengthening the links between civil and defence technology. …