SALISBURY MP John Glen has demanded the government make a decision on the future of Public Health England (PHE) at Porton Down.

During a debate in parliament, Mr Glen bemoaned the amount of time it has taken for ministers to decide whether to move the facilities to Harlow.

It comes as ministers deliberate on the future of the 550 jobs at the site, having previously stated no decision would be made until after the election.

He argued that Porton had an “international reputation” with more than 250 external partnerships and said there was a strong business case for the site to remain in South Wiltshire.

Mr Glen also disputed the findings of a report that claimed Harlow was the most cost effective location for PHE.

He added that the costs to the staff who could be asked to “uproot” their lives and move to Harlow could be great as, for many of them, “Salisbury has been their home for years”.

In a plea to boost an “innovation economy” in the south west, the MP also argued the region had a “reputation for excellence in the life sciences” and said he was concerned Porton could be “cannibalised” if it were partly moved.

Mr Glen added: "I would like assurances that the vaccine manufacturing will be treated with the respect they deserve and not simply sold off to provide a quick win for the government to balance the equation on this matter."

Other key reasons for keeping the Porton facility included its close relationship to DSTL, with whom it collaborates on projects, and its ties with the Salisbury community who “support its staff and recognise the sensitive nature of the vital work they carry out”.

Mr Glen ended his speech by imploring the department of health to make a decision “one way or the other" to help staff know their future adding "we owe the staff based at Porton Down that much".

"I will persist my questioning on this matter because frankly some of my questions have just gone unanswered," Mr Glen concluded.

Junior Department of Health minister Jane Ellison refused to be drawn on the future of the site but did confirm that even if the research facility is lost at least 300 jobs at Porton will not be axed.

These would be in the development and production as well as hosting regional laboratories.

However she said that due to the ageing facilities "doing nothing is not an option".

She added: "He [Mr Glen] rightly focused on the need to support staff in the most appropriate way and how unsettling it is for any group to staff to be not quite sure of where their future lies.

"One third of the posts currently at Porton will remain there even if research facilities functions and staff are relocated. If these are relocated PHE would work with each member of staff at Porton who is working in a post that would move to Harlow."