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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 22 December 1988

DEFENCE

Force Reductions

Mr. Patrick Thompson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the force reductions announced by Mr. Gorbachev.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : Her Majesty's Government welcome the reductions in Soviet forces recently announced by Mr. Gorbachev as a significant step towards the elimination of the Warsaw pact's superiorities in conventional forces in Europe. However, even if the announced reductions are implemented, the Warsaw pact will continue to enjoy significant numerical superiorities in key equipments such as tanks and artillery. NATO must, therefore, continue with its existing policy of deterrence whilst seeking balance in conventional forces in Europe through the arms control process.

Military Strategy

Mr. Lofthouse : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with Mr. Manfred Wo"rner, Secretary-General of NATO, on military strategy.

Mr. Skinner : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with Mr. Manfred Wo"rner, Secretary-General of NATO, on military strategy.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence last met Dr. Woerner at the meeting of NATO's defence planning committee on 1 and 2 December. They discussed a range of subjects of mutual interest.

Free-fall Bombs

Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are his latest plans for a nuclear replacement for the Royal Air Force's free-fall bombs.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : I have nothing to add to the reply given on 26 October 1988 by my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) at columns 281-82.

United States Defence Secretary

Mr. Roy Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to meet the new United States Defence Secretary ; and what subjects he expects to discuss.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence hopes to meet the United States Defence Secretary in the new year. He expects to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest.


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Bar Coding

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to improve stock-taking procedures in the armed forces with a system of bar coding ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Neubert : The Comptroller and Auditor General's report on stocktaking in the MOD was published on 1 November 1988 and included observations on the use of bar coding.

The accounting officer, Sir Michael Quinlan, will be giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on the contents of the report in due course. Once the PAC has produced its report, the Government's formal response will be given in a Treasury minute, which is in accordance with usual practice.

RAF Machrihanish

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on changes in the past five years to the readiness status of United States Navy weapons units at RAF Machrihanish designated to support the Royal Air Force Nimrod force in time of crisis or war.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : It is not our practice to comment on the readiness status of military units.

Equipment Expenditure

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what have been recent trends in the proportion of the defence budget spent on equipment ; and what assessment has been made of the reasons for these trends.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : I refer the hon. Member to table 2.2 of volume 2 of the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1988" (Cm 344-II). Planned defence procurement expenditure in 1988-89 allows for a real increase of some 19 per cent. compared with the outturn for 1978-79, using a measure of inflation based on movements in the price of defence equipment. Furthermore, our commercial approach to defence procurement has enabled us to achieve substantially better value for the money which we spend on equipment.

Tornado Aircraft

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what peacetime attrition rates were assumed for (a) Royal Air Force Tornado GR.1 aircraft and (b) Royal Air Force Tornado F.2/3 aircraft under the production plan agreed in 1982 ; and what changes have since been made to these assumed rates.

Mr. Neubert : This information is classified.

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes were made to the deployment plans for (a) Royal Air Force Tornado GR.1 aircraft and (b) Royal Air Force Tornado F.2/3 aircraft as a result of the sale of Tornado aircraft to Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : As a result of the 1985 sale to Saudi Arabia the build-up of the RAF's Tornado GR1 force has proceeded slightly more slowly than had originally been planned.

The recently announced sale of Tornado aircraft to Saudi Arabia and Oman is expected to have no effect upon the Royal Air Force's deployment plans.


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Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the actual attrition rate of the Tornado GR.1 since its entry into Royal Air Force service, expressed in terms of (a) the rate of category 5 accidents per 10,000 flying hours, and (b) the percentage of the total in- service fleet lost in accidents.

Mr. Neubert : Since the entry of the Tornado GR.1 into RAF service in 1980, the major accident rate per 10,000 hours flown was 0.7 as of 16 December 1988. In that time, 17 aircraft (8.5 per cent.) of the total number of aircraft delivered to the service have been destroyed in 16 major accidents.

Vessels (Accidents and Incidents)

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list all accidents and incidents since 1979 involving Royal Navy vessels and civilian vessels for which compensation was paid by his Department to the owners or operators of the civilian vessel, giving for each accident or incident (a) the date, (b) the names of the vessels involved, (c) the nature and location of the incident and (d) the amount of compensation paid.

Mr. Neubert : The information requested is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Territorial Army

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he takes to exclude (i) Fascist groups and individuals and (ii) mentally unstable persons from access to Territorial Army training and weaponry ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Neubert : Prospective recruits into the Territorial Army are required to declare on their enlistment form any affiliations with certain specified causes and must swear on oath that each answer given on the form is a true one. Training of volunteers, particularly of those in their early years of service, is closely supervised and access to weapons and ammunition is, at all times, strictly controlled. All applicants are additionally subjected to stringent medical examinations.

A10 Aircraft

Sir John Farr : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has as to how many United States A-10 planes have crashed (a) in Britain and (b) elsewhere in recent years.

Mr. Neubert : There have been five major accidents involving United States A-10 aircraft in or near to the United Kingdom since 1980, as follows :


Date                   |Location                                     

---------------------------------------------------------------------

18 November 1980       |Yarmouth                                     

9 January 1981         |Donna Nook, Lincs                            

8 May 1981             |Wainfleet, Lincs                             

12 December 1983       |North Sea off Yarmouth                       

29 February 1984       |Suffolk                                      

Accidents involving this aircraft type elsewhere are a matter for the United States authorities.


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Sir John Farr : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will bar the United States Airforce A-10 from overflying built-up areas in the United Kingdom until further notice.

Mr. Neubert : No.

Lance Missile

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has endorsed deployment of a new warhead for the Lance missile ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces on 5 December to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mrs. Ruddock) at column 73 .

AIDS

Mr. Butler : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department will evaluate the implications of papers 8581 and 8582 presented to the fourth international conference on AIDS in Stockholm in 1988 relating to the effects on visuospatial skills amongst males with early HIV infection and relating to a general deficit of vigilance amongst HIV positive individuals ; and if he will make a statement regarding his policy of not screening all pilots for HIV.

Mr. Neubert : The Ministry of Defence is well aware of the content of the papers 8581 and 8582 presented to the fourth international conference on AIDS in Stockholm in 1988. I refer my hon. Friend to my predecessor's reply on 20 May 1988 at col. 611-12.

Property in Scotland

Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what heritable property owned by his Department in Scotland has been sold in the last 10 years for which information is available ; to whom it was sold in each case ; and what price was obtained in each case.

Mr. Neubert : This information is not readily available in the form requested and the need for commercial confidentiality would in any case limit the amount of information that could be disclosed. A review of our records is being undertaken with the aim of providing some information and I shall write to the hon. and learned Member.

Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if, pursuant to his answers of 5 December, Official Report, columns 70-73, he will list the approximate value of the heritable property in each case of the bases and establishments owned by his Department in Scotland.

Mr. Neubert : No. This information is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his Department has any plans to sell any of the bases and establishments owned by his Department in Scotland and listed in his answers of 5 December, Official Report, columns 70-73.


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Mr. Neubert : There are no firm plans to sell off any of the bases and establishments listed in my hon. Friends answers of 5 December, Official Report, columns 70-73. As the hon. Member will appreciate, however, the Defence estate is kept under continuing review to ensure that the area retained is the minumum necessary to meet essential requirements.

Low Flying

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints about low flying were received by his Department in each year since 1979 from addresses in the Cunninghame, North constituency.

Mr. Neubert : Figures prior to 1986 are not available but since then, according to available records, the Ministry of Defence has received a total of 13 complaints or inquiries about military low flying from addresses in the Cunninghame, North constituency. These are as follows :


Year                 |Number of                                

                     |complaints/enquiries                     

---------------------------------------------------------------

1986                 |3                                        

1987                 |6                                        

1988 to 31                                                     

   October           |4                                        

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if the Gazelle AH 1 helicopter, serial number XZ328, operated by the Army Air Corps, was authorised to operate in low flying area 14 on 5 May ; and what information he has on its routing ;

(2) if the Lynx AH 1 helicopter, serial number ZX614, operated by 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron, Royal Marines, was authorised to operate in low flying area 14 on 5 May ; and what information he has on its routing ;

(3) if he will make a further statement on the outcome of the inquiry into the incident involving a helicopter and a civilian car near Dalmally, Argyll on 5 May.

Mr. Neubert : I assume that the hon. Gentleman's questions all refer to allegations from the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) about an incident involving a helicopter and a civilian car in the Tyndrum area on 5 May. During our investigations, the hon. Lady estimated the time of the incident to be between 3.45 and 4.15 pm. These investigations, as reported by my predecessor in his letter to the hon. Gentleman of 10 August 1988 confirmed that no military helicopters were operating in the Tyndrum area during this period. The Royal Marines 3rd Brigade Air Squadron Lynx AH 1 helicopter, serial number ZX614, referred to by the hon. Gentleman, landed near the Kyle of Lochalsh at around 12.55 pm, and remained on the ground for the rest of the day. The Army Air Corps Gazelle AH 1 helicopter, serial number XZ328, similarly referred to, passed some miles west of Dalmally at around 3 pm and landed at HMS Gannet at 3.30 pm. At 3.48 pm it departed and flew south to RAF Church Fenton, landing at 4.58 pm. I have nothing further to add to my predecessor's letter of 6 December.

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will list those medical establishments on the Island of Arran over which military low flying is prohibited ;

(2) what advice is given to military pilots concerning low-level flying over Lochranza, Arran ;


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(3) what advice is given to military pilots concerning low-level flying over Lamlash, Arran ;

(4) what advice is given to military pilots concerning low-level flying over Brodick, Arran.

Mr. Neubert : Military aircraft are instructed not to overfly major conurbations at low level. Unfortunately it is not possible to avoid many smaller centres of population, although pilots will do so if possible. It is not our practice to release details of the United Kingdom low flying system.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what was the total number of low-level terrain-following radar flights in the Highlands restricted area in each year since 1980 ; and how many of these were flown by (a) RAF Tornados, (b) RAF Hercules, (c) US Air Force F- 111s, (d) US Air Force RF-4Cs, (e) US Air Force MC-130Es and (f) other specified types of aircraft ; (2) how many low-flying aircraft movements took place in low-flying area 14 in each year since 1979 ;

(3) how many low-flying aircraft movements took place in low-flying area 14 (T) in each year since 1979.

Mr. Neubert : It is not our practice to publish detailed information about activity in specific low-flying areas. However, the Highlands of Scotland currently experience only a small percentage of the total low- flying activity in the United Kingdom, in comparison with its overall size as a proportion of the United Kingdom low-flying system.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list all the areas in the United Kingdom where instrument low flying using terrain-following radar is permitted.

Mr. Neubert : At present instrument low flying using

terrain-following radar is only permitted in the Highlands restricted area.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence between which hours, and on which days of the week, low flying using terrain-following radar is normally permitted in the highlands restricted area ; and if such flying has every been authorised outside those hours.

Mr. Neubert : Low flying using terrain-following radar is only permitted in the Highlands restricted area between the hours of 1500 and 2300 Mondays to Thursdays, Scottish public holidays excepted. I am not aware of any such flying having ever been authorised to take place outside these hours.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to ensure that foreign military pilots have read and understood the relevant sections of joint services publication 318 and the United Kingdom military low flying handbook prior to being authorised to fly in the United Kingdom low flying system.

Mr. Neubert : Permission for foreign military pilots to fly in the United Kingdom low flying system is conditional on their receiving a comprehensive face to face briefing by a qualified British Forces or USAF officer. This briefing would cover, inter alia, relevant sections of joint services publication 318 and the United Kingdom military low flying handbook.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many local public meetings to explain the


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reasons for military low flying have been held in Scotland by his Department since 1979 ; and if he will list the location and date of each such meeting.

Mr. Neubert : According to available records, the Minister of Defence has held the following public meetings on low flying in Scotland since 1979 :


Location                    |Date                           

------------------------------------------------------------

Inverurie, Grampian         |12 January 1980                

Newton Stewart, Strathclyde |8 July 1980                    

Dingwall, Highland          |18 May 1982                    

Ullapool, Highland          |19 May 1982                    

Tain, Highland              |20 May 1982                    

Jedburgh, Borders           |5 June 1985                    

Kelso, Borders              |6 June 1985                    

Duns, Borders               |6 June 1985                    

Galashiels, Borders         |30 June 1987                   

Perth, Tayside              |15 June 1988                   

Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received from members of the public about the effect of low flying in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Neubert : Between 1 October and 30 November 1988 the Ministry of Defence received 744 inquiries or complaints about military low-flying training in the United Kingdom.

US Military Personnel

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the locations in Scotland other than Thurso, Mormond Hill, Edzell, Prestwick, Machrihanish, Holy Loch and Glen Douglas where United States military personnel were assigned in each year since 1979.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : There are no other locations in Scotland, other than those referred to by the hon. Member, to which United States military personnel have been assigned since 1979.

Aircraft (Noise)

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps have been taken to introduce a formal requirement for quieter engines to power military aircraft.

Mr. Neubert [holding answer 16 December 1988] : The possibility of noise reduction is one of a number of aspects taken into account in the Ministry of Defence consideration of requirements for new military aircraft engines.

Export Services

Mr. Gill : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the achievements of the Defence Export Services organisation in 1988.

Mr. Sainsbury : This year DESO has again made a valuable contribution to the increasing success of British defence companies in the defence export market. The defence White Paper when it is published will as usual give more details.

Chieftain Tank

Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received on the Chieftain tank replacement.


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Mr. Sainsbury : There have been numerous representations from right hon. and hon. Members, industry and members of the public about the choice of a Chieftain tank replacement.

Defence Procurement Contracts

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the estimated total amount saved by cost reductions on defence procurement contracts let on a competitive basis since 1979.

Mr. Sainsbury : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) on 1 December 1988 at column 352. However, I should like to draw attention to an error in this answer ; in line 11 it reads "competition can be used to make it impossible",

it should read

"competition can be used, make it impossible".

War Stocks

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the level of Royal Navy war stocks in each year since 1979, expressed as a proportion of (a) national targets, and (b) agreed NATO force goals.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The information on precise levels of war stocks is classified. Since 1979, Royal Navy stockholdings have, in general, been maintained at a level which meets both national and NATO requirements.

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the level of Royal Air Force war stocks in each year since 1979, expressed as a proportion of (a) national targets and (b) agreed NATO force goals.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : Information on the precise levels of war stocks is classified. Since 1979, Air Force stockholdings have increased considerably and generally continue to meet both national and NATO requirements.

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the level of Army war stocks in each year since 1979, expressed as a proportion of (a) national targets, and (b) agreed NATO force goals.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : Information on the precise levels of war stocks is classified. Since 1979, Army stockholdings have increased considerably and have been maintained at levels which mainly meet both national and NATO requirements.

RAF Fast Jets

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what recent trends have been observed in accident rates to Royal Air Force fast jet aircraft operating at low level ; and what assessment has been made of the reasons for these trends ;

(2) what recent trends have been observed in accident rates to Royal Air Force fast jet aircraft ; and what assessment has been made of the reasons for these trends.

Mr. Neubert : The major accident rates (1971-87) for Royal Air Force aircraft and for RAF fast jet aircraft were set out in columns 336-38 of the Official Report on 18 April 1988. Both have fallen over the years, reflecting the professionalism of the aircrew and support personnel of


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the RAF as well as the continuous improvements in aircraft performance. Time spent at low level is not recorded precisely : it is not, therefore, possible to state the major accident rate for fast jets operating at low level. However, since 1979 such accidents account for some 32 per cent. of the total suffered by the RAF. This is compatible with the increased proportion of low-level flying training undertaken by the RAF since 1979.

BAOR (Artillery Regiment)

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether plans exist to restore the number of nuclear artillery regiments in the British Army of the Rhine to five.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The four BAOR artillery regiments currently equipped with the 105mm Abbot gun will be equipped in due course with a nuclear capable 155mm howitzer which could be deployed in a nuclear role. This change will not, however, lead to any increase in United Kingdom- assigned nuclear shell stocks in Europe.

RAF Machrihanish (P-3C Aircraft)

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes have been made to provision for logistics, weapons and spares support for Royal Netherlands Navy P-3C aircraft at RAF Machrihanish in the past four years.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : It is not our practice to discuss details of any such arrangements.


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