Blair sticks to decision to site X-ray at RAL

March 24, 2000

Tony Blair was this week resisting pressure from Northwest MPs to reverse his decision to locate the Pounds 550 million synchrotron project at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford rather than at Daresbury Laboratory in Warrington.

The MPs, who met Mr Blair to voice their anger over the decision, were told that the prime minister feared that project partners, the Wellcome Trust and the French government, would pull out if it were sited at Daresbury, home to previous generations of the machine for more than 20 years.

Mr Blair said he had hoped to shift the French and Wellcome Trust position so that the instrument could be sited at Daresbury. Unable to do so, Mr Blair felt there was a risk that the trust might support a rival French project, endangering Britain's overall scientific base.

Derek Twigg, (pictured) chair of the Northwest group of MPs, said members were "bitterly disappointed" at the prime minister's decision.

Trade unions have asked the Public Accounts Committee to carry out an inquiry into the decision. In a letter to David Davis, chairman of the PAC, five unions said the Wellcome Trust, which proposes to put up 16 per cent of the Pounds 550 million costs of the project, "appears to have determined government policy despite strong scientific and socioeconomic arguments in favour of Daresbury".

Opinion, page 14

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