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127. Miss Widdecombe : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the current balance between nuclear and conventional forces in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : At the summit meeting in May, NATO reaffirmed its position that, for the foreseeable future, there is no alternative to the Alliance's strategy of deterrence for the prevention of war. That strategy is based upon an appropriate mix of adequate and effective nuclear and conventional forces, which will continue to be kept up to date where necessary.
105. Mr. Latham : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the visit by the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Melton Mowbray, on 24 November.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : My noble Friend's visits to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps Centre and to the dog training squadron of the RAF police school on 24 November had the aim of helping to inform his decision on the proposed service animal centre. I understand that he found the visit to be most useful.
109. Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will give details of his policy to offer small companies in the United Kingdom the opportunity to tender for defence contracts ; and if he will make a statement.
Between November 1986 and October 1988, about 4,000 companies sought guidance and information on how to sell to the Ministry of Defence from the then MOD small firms advice division. A further 1, 800 companies have sought advice since the division was relaunched in November 1988 as the new suppliers service, which contains a specialist small firms group. The group provides advice to new companies on how to sell to the MOD. Over the past three years, MOD has made direct payments to small firms totalling around £1 billion each year, and the number of small firms receiving direct payments has increased from about 4,000 in 1986-87 to over 5,500 in 1988- 89. Registration of new companies on the defence contractors list remains high. In 1988, about 300 small firms were registered, the same as in 1987. To help companies gain visibility of our requirements, we publish
Column 245our contract opportunities in a fortnightly "Contracts Bulletin". Small firms are encouraged to bid for work direct, or as sub-contractors to our major suppliers.
We shall continue actively to encourage the important contribution of small companies to obtain better value for money.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : Since this subject was last discussed in the House on 19 July 1989 at columns 490-98, my officials have had further discussions with West Glamorgan county council, concentrating on the preparation of a special safety scheme.
124. Mr. Kennedy : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he is yet in a position to announce whether he will consult hon. Members over the local detail in drawing up and revising the advisory maps used for the purposes of low-flying activity ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : The Government keep overall British force levels under continual review. At the same time, it is our policy to maintain our commitments to NATO, of which the British forces in Germany form an important part.
Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the Warsaw pact in military terms ; and how the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is proposing to respond to recent changes.
Mr. Hamilton : NATO remains committed to seeking improved security at a lower level of forces. This policy has contributed to the political changes now under way in almost all the Warsaw pact countries.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : The response to the campaign launched in September 1988 has been most encouraging. Pledges of support for the volunteer Reserves have been received from over 600 major employers representing over half of the United Kingdom work force. We are confident that the campaign has widened public understanding of the importance of the volunteer Reserves.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : There are no fixed allowances for live weapon firing for JMC exercises. The firing levels are derived from the requirements of those vessels or aircraft taking part in the exercise, but do not vary appreciably from one exercise to another.
Mr. Macdonald : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what use was made of (a) Stornoway airport, (b) Benbecula airport and (c) the Cape Wrath ship-to-shore gunnery range during exercise JMC 89/3.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : During Joint Maritime Course 89/3, no use was made of Stornoway airport. Benbecula airport was used as a command and control centre, and Cape Wrath ship-to-shore gunnery range was used on 17, 20 and 21 November by NATO ships participating in the exercise.
Mr. Macdonald : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the purpose of the special extension to the danger area of the Royal Artillery range, Hebrides, between 29 November and 8 December ; what units are involved in the activity ; and whether live firing has been authorised.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : The danger area of the Royal Artillery range, Hebrides is being extended between 29 November and 8 December while missile testing takes place, to ensure that spent missiles fall within the designated area. Aircraft of No. 5 Squadron of the Royal Air Force will fire the missiles, with their warheads removed.