§ Mr. Couchman
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the planned collocation of the Army Technical Support Agency. 
§ Mr. Soames
I have decided, in the light of the Government's determination to exploit fully the potential offered by the private finance initiative, that the collocation of the Army Technical Support Agency should be taken forward as a PFI project.
On 4 June, Official Report, column 388, I described the further work to be undertaken following the responses to the earlier consultation document. This has included a further investment appraisal—including the Andover, Ludgershall and Chilwell options—and the production of a new business case.
The work has shown that Andover is the preferred location for ATSA because of its proximity to the agency's main customers, principally the Director General Equipment Support (Army) and his staff who are already based at Andover. I am arranging for copies of the investment appraisal and business case to be placed in the Library of the House.15W
Andover will therefore be the public comparator in the PFI exercise and the Andover north site will be available to bidders if required. Bidders will be able to put forward alternative options, including existing ATSA sites, so long as these satisfy ATSA's business needs and the PFI requirements for risk transfer and value for money. We shall shortly be seeking expressions of interest and I would expect to be in a position to decide on the preferred option by the middle of 1998, allowing collocation to be achieved around the end of 1999.
A formal period of consultation is not required until either a PFI solution is identified or we decide to follow a conventional public sector delivery route. I should, nevertheless, be very pleased to receive any further representations from hon. Members, ATSA staff and other interested parties at this stage.