MPs blast plans for part sell-off of defence labs

MPs this week criticised the government’s plans to partially privatise Britain’s defence research laboratories, condemning them as relying on `a wing and a prayer’. Members of the House of Commons defence committee are concerned that the sale could impair the country’s ability to make military equipment. They are also worried that there is no guarantee […]

MPs this week criticised the government’s plans to partially privatise Britain’s defence research laboratories, condemning them as relying on `a wing and a prayer’.

Members of the House of Commons defence committee are concerned that the sale could impair the country’s ability to make military equipment.

They are also worried that there is no guarantee that the proceeds of the sale would stay with the Ministry of Defence.

Committee chairman Bruce George said he believed the idea of turning the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency into a public-private partnership had been pushed by the chancellor because the sale could raise as much as £1bn.

Under the plans, 75% of Dera would be sold, while the remainder, including the Porton Down chemical and biological warfare establishment, would be kept by the MoD. Previous plans to sell the whole of Dera were criticised by the defence committee, trade unions, the defence industry and the US government.

The proposals have raised new concerns about the two organisations that would be formed from Dera, according to the committee’s report. Unions say the plans could cost up to 3,000 jobs.

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