Saturday, 7 November 2009

Reisgnation on nuclear submarine disposal programme

A government adviser has resigned in protest at the sacking of a colleague from the MOD advisory group which is deciding how to dispose of the UK's decommissioned nuclear submarines. Peter Lanyon says his position is no longer tenable as his views and those of his sacked colleague were not being considered. Dr Jane Hunt, a specialist in Environmental Projects at Lancaster University was sacked from the advisory group of the Submarine Dismantling Project and has now resigned from its steering group. In a letter to the project Dr Hunt said that the MoD is adopting a "decide, announce, defend" approach and feels she must resign as a member of the Steering Group as her membership implicity condones the actions of the MoD.

The UK has 27 nuclear submarines, of which 8 decommissioned subs are being stored at Devonport in the South West and 7 at Rosyth in Scotland waiting to be dismantled. The project has to decide how to deal with the radioactive and non-radioactive hazardous wastes in the short and long term.

Below is the text of her resignation letter.

3rd November, 2009

To: All Members of the SDP Steering Group

I have been saddened and disappointed by the path that is being trodden by the SDP. During the ISOLUS consultations there appeared to be a genuine attempt by the MoD to engage with public concerns and to manage the project with a degree of openness and transparency. Since that period, the MoD has increasingly abandoned this approach, has failed to implement its commitments both in relation to its responses to earlier consultation and to the Advisory Group, and has exhibited a growing reversion to ‘decide, announce, defend’.

Some examples of this are:

· The Advisory Group has been repeatedly presented with MoD decisions with little or any opportunity for comment. When the Advisory Group has given advice, this has often been ignored, or when apparently accepted, not implemented. Information on the MoD progress and project developments has not been provided to the Advisory Group in a timely fashion which would enable scrutiny, comment and advice.

· Most recently, the MoD announced at the July Advisory Group meeting that they were starting the process of selecting potential sites. I reminded the MoD they had previously agreed to involve the Advisory Group in the process of site selection, most particularly in determining the criteria to be used. This, I believe, would have led to a more robust and defensible list of potential sites, as well as being good practice. The MoD said they would take account of this agreement. At the next meeting, without any further communication with the Advisory Group, the MoD announced two possible dismantling sites and made clear there was a list of potential storage sites. They did not provide a rationale or explanation for their decision.

· Commitments given to the Advisory Group – such as the adoption of peer preview – have not been implemented.

· Commitments in response to previous consultation recommendations are similarly not being implemented; it is also clear that strong public preferences are also being ignored. For example, the influence of industry on the selection of sites is apparent: there are other viable sites for dismantling, despite strong public rejection of industry influence on decision making. There are numerous commitments contained in the MoD’s responses to consultation which the MoD have not implemented.

· A Ministerial statement confirmed that the Advisory Group’s remit included scrutiny of the project. It has been impossible for the Advisory Group to properly fulfil this role, as we have not been provided with sufficient information or involvement.

The apparent lack of respect that the MoD has for the Advisory Group and its advice seems to be manifested in the poor management and servicing of the Group, which range from lack of consideration of facilities for the disabled to late and inadequate paperwork to poor and inaccurate note-taking.

The role of the Advisory Group, despite its Terms of Reference, appears to be to add credibility to the Project rather than being any genuine attempt to seek and consider advice. The Project can make no claim to good governance, and the legitimacy of its decision making is seriously undermined , when its Advisory Group is continuously sidelined in the way that it has been.

It seems my own advice is uncomfortable for the MoD and therefore ignored and seen as trouble making rather that what it is: a genuine attempt to improve the governance of the project through fair and honest consultation and open and transparent decision making. The MoD seems to have no proper understanding of what these terms mean in practice and it appears they are unwilling to learn. The current trajectory of the SDP is, in my opinion, leading it towards increasing problems in this domain.

The MoD have made it impossible for me to advise the Steering Group appropriately as I have been excluded from membership of the Advisory Group and its consultation sub group.

Given that the MoD is reneging on previous commitments taken in response to consultation, is failing to properly elicit and consider expert advice, and is adopting a ‘decide, announce, defend’ approach , I do not feel I can continue as a member of the Advisory Group, as my membership implicitly condones the actions of the MoD. I therefore submit my resignation to the Steering Group.

Yours sincerely

Jane Hunt (Dr)

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