Asked by Lord Astor of Hever, 26 Jan 2009 : Column WA3
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they retain full ownership and control of all the assets of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, notwithstanding the appointment of a consortium company to manage the establishment; and, if so, (a) in whom that ownership and control is vested; and (b) in what documents their working arrangements with that management company are set out. [HL771]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) operates under Government-owned contractor operated arrangements. AWE has been contractorised since 1993. The UK Government have retained full ownership and control of all AWE assets, vested in the Secretary of State for Defence.
The management and operation of AWE have been contracted to AWE Management Limited (AWEML) since 1 April 2000. Day-to-day operations are undertaken by a separate company, AWE plc, which is owned by AWEML and has its own board of directors with no AWEML parent company affiliations. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) holds a special share in AWE plc, which would allow intervention in the management of AWE or the transfer of responsibility to another contractor if that became necessary.
The AWE contract is managed by the Directorate Strategic Weapons (DSW) in the Defence Equipment and Support area of the MoD. DSW works with a wide range of stakeholders in the MoD and other government departments.
The primary document that defines the relationship between the MoD and AWEML is the contract between the parties. This requires the MoD to be consulted in respect of any changes to the composition of AWEML. Such consultation took place in respect of the recent changes in ownership of AWEML, which has no bearing on the ownership and control of AWE assets. Strategic requirements and the UK deterrent programme are set by the UK Government. UK nuclear forces will remain fully operationally independent; decision-making and the use of the system remains entirely sovereign to the UK.