The Ministry of Defence is to go ahead with the partial privatisation of its defence research laboratories. Two new organisations will be created out of the existing Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. Around 75% of Dera will become a private company, which will be groomed for flotation, possibly during 2001. For strategic reasons, 3,000 staff in Dera’s most sensitive areas, including the chemical weapons centre at Porton Down, will remain employed by the MoD. Defence secretary Geoffrey Hoon said the US Defense Department, which had expressed concern about private firms having access to secret research, had welcomed the plan.