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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 3 November 1994

DEFENCE

RAF Board of Inquiry

Mr. Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he intends to divulge to the next of kin of those killed in the accident between a helicopter and a RAF Tornado on 23 June 1993, in Cumbria the results of the board of inquiry.

Mr. Soames: A summary of the findings of the board of inquiry into this accident has already been provided to the next of kin of those killed.

Mr. Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the RAF board of inquiry to report into the accident involving a civilian helicopter and an RAF Tornado in Cumbria on 23 June 1993.

Mr. Soames: The board of inquiry into this accident is complete and a summary of its findings has been placed in the Library of the House.

VSEL

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the powers accruing to him from the Government's golden share in VSEL.

Mr. Freeman: The principal rights attaching to the special share in VSEL are:

(a) to veto disposal of the whole, or a material part, of the assets, and any voluntary winding-up, of the company;

(b) to speak at shareholders' meetings; and

(c) to veto changes to certain of the Articles of Association which prevent any one party controlling more than 15 per cent. of the equity and require that the Chairman, Chief Executive, Managing Director and a majority of all Directors are citizens of the United Kingdom.

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with (a) GEC Marconi and (b) British Aerospace over a takeover of VSEL.

Mr. Freeman: Ministers and officials of my Department have had a number of discussions with both GEC and British Aerospace on this subject.

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the implications of the possible takeover of VSEL by (a) GEC or (b) British Aerospace for future decisions for the procurement of batch 2 Trafalgar class nuclear submarines;

(2) what assessment he has made of the implications of a takeover of VSEL by (a) GEC or (b) British Aerospace for the Government's competition policy in the defence sector.

Mr. Freeman: My Department will, in the usual way, be giving its views to the regulatory authorities on the


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competition and any other relevant aspects of the possible takeover of VSEL. Those views are confidential.

Competition

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his Department's policy concerning competition in the defence industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman: My Department recognises the importance of a healthy and competitive defence industry. Any restructuring of the defence industry is primarily a matter for the market, subject, of course, to the regulatory authorities, to whom my Department makes its views known, in confidence, on particular cases.

Gulf War

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what exposure to chemical agents was experienced by United Kingdom forces in the Gulf war.

Mr. Soames: This is a matter for the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, Porton Down, under its framework document. I have asked the chief executive of the CBDE to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Graham Pearson to Dr. David Clark, dated 3 November 1994:

1. Your Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Defence asking him what exposure to chemical agents was experienced by United Kingdom Forces in the Gulf War has been passed to me to reply as Chief Executive of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment.

2. During Operating GRANBY, the potential hazard to Service personnel resulting from the bombing of Iraqi targets at which chemical weapons were stored was recognised by the Ministry of Defence. The Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment made an assessment of the potential downwind hazard distances based on various assumptions for the quantity of agent that might be released as a result of a bombing attack and for the associated meteorological conditions.

3. The result of the assessment indicated that even assuming simultaneous release of the majority of agent from several bunkers under meteorological conditions which favoured the downwind travel of the agent cloud and ignoring the fact that chemical agents are organic materials which are destroyed by combustion, the maximum distance at which there would be any hazard was of the order of a few tens of kilometres. In practice, simultaneous release is unlikely to occur, agent will be destroyed by combustion and meteorological conditions will be less favourable resulting in a significantly reduced downwind hazard distance.

4. The conclusion was that there was no evidence that British Servicemen and women would be exposed to chemical warfare agent as a result of bombing attacks. Our appreciation is that the US Department of Defense carried out similar studies and reached similar conclusions. In addition, there was no confirmed detection of chemical warfare agents at any time by the UK Forces in the Gulf War.

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what purposes organo-phosphate malathion pesticide was used by British forces in the Gulf war; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Soames: A dusting powder containing 1 per cent. malathion was used by British forces environmental health personnel to treat about 50 lice-infested Iraqi troops at the prisoner of war enclosure at Quaisuma. Owing to the small number involved, each prisoner was treated individually and no lengthy collective treatments took place.


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Malathion is recommended in standard therapeutic textbooks as a treatment of choice for lice infestation and several preparations are commercially available in the United Kingdom, including body lotions and hair shampoos.

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British troops were exposed to organ-phosphorous pesticides, including malathion, during the Gulf War; and what research his Department has undertaken into the links between the use of these pesticides and Gulf war syndrome.

Mr. Soames: I am aware of only 10 British service personnel who would have been involved with organ-phosphorous pesticides used by United Kingdom forces during the Gulf conflict. These 10 were members of a medical team involving in delousing some 50 Iraqi troops with a dusting powder containing 1 per cent. malathion at the prisoner of war enclosure at Quaisuma. Malathion is recommended in standard therapeutic textbooks as a treatment of choice for lice infestation and several preparations are commercially available in the United Kingdom, including body lotions and shampoos.

No clinical evidence indicative of exposure to organo-phosphates has been found among the service personnel who have come forward with concerns about their health related to service in the Gulf. No specific research into organo-phosphorous has therefore been carried out in relation to the alleged Gulf war syndrome, though evidence from all relevant sources is closely monitored.

LSD Experiments

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the use of LSD in experiments on British service personnel; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Soames: This is a matter for the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, Porton Down under its framework document. I have asked the chief executive of CBDE to write to the hon. Member. Letter from Graham Pearson to Dr. David Clark, dated 3 November 1994:

1. Your Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Defence asking him if he will make a statement on the use of LSD in experiments on British Service personnel has been passed to me to reply as Chief Executive of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment.

2. The role of the Chemical and Biological Establishment is to carry out research to ensure that the UK Armed Forces are provided with effective protective measures against the threat that chemical or biological weapons may be used against them. As part of that programme, evaluation is carried out of chemicals that may be utilised by an aggressor as a chemical warfare agent.

3. An appreciation of the effects of LSD on man and the knowledge that LSD could be synthesised led to research in the 1960s at the then Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment which was renamed the Chemical Defence Establishment in 1969 into whether LSD might be used by an aggressor as an incapacitating CW agent and one which might lead to the loss of will to fight.

4. The work carried out by CBDE Porton Down was solely to determine that protective measures were appropriate and were largely concerned in assessing the effects of LSD on troops in a military setting, where the behaviour of volunteers who had taken LSD was compared with that of control volunteers who had not


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taken LSD. All volunteers were subjected to stringent medical and psychological screening.

The assessment was made that although LSD could be synthesised, it was immensely expensive and being a solid it would be difficult to disseminate further and as the effects were not highly predictable, the conclusion was reached that LSD would not present a significant battlefield hazard.

Kuwait

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what documentary evidence he has regarding the nature of the substances found by 21 EOD Squadron, British Royal Engineers in August 1991 at a school in Kuwait.

Mr. Soames: The report by 21st EOD Squadron was received by my Department in August 1991 and, in accordance with its recommendations, samples of the substance collected in Kuwait city were submitted for laboratory analysis. The CBDE analytical report showed that the samples were consistent with being fuming nitric acid, a rocket motor propellant; there was no evidence of any chemical warfare agent being present.

Defence Industry

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when he last met the chief executive of British Aerospace; (2) when he last met the chairman of GEC-Marconi.

Mr. Freeman: Ministers of my Department meet senior

representatives of the defence industry frequently. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence met Mr. Dick Evans, the chief executive of British Aerospace plc, on 11 July and I met him on 1 November. I met right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) joint chairman of GEC-Marconi Ltd., on 31 October.

Defence Procurement Policy

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department's defence procurement policy requires the availability of more than one facility to build large naval vessels.

Mr. Freeman: My Department's procurement policy is based on competition wherever practicable.

Departmental Property

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what properties are owned or leased by his Department for the use of Ministers; what was the total running cost for each property for the latest year available broken down into (a) furniture and fittings, (b) maintenance, (c) staffing, including the number of butlers, cooks and housekeepers, (d) food and hospitality and (e) other costs; what is the estimated value of each property; and how many times in the latest year the property was stayed in overnight by a Minister.

Mr. Soames: The only property available to Ministers in my Department is a flat in Admiralty house, Whitehall, which is occupied by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. Admiralty house is a freehold property managed by Property Holdings--a division of the DOE--to which my Department pays and annual rent of £56,276 for the flat, together with an annual


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maintenance charge of £18,396. The estimated value of the property is unknown. During the last financial year, 1993 94, £13.35 was spent on furniture and fittings for the flat; £13 was spent on official entertainment; and £245 was spent on other costs. There are no staff costs attributable to the Defence budget as the Secretary of State employs his own cleaner. The flat is used regularly by the Secretary of State during the working week.

Spencer Stuart Consultants

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many contracts his Department or Government agencies responsible to his Department have entered into with Spencer Stuart consultants in the last two years.

Mr. Soames: There have been no centrally placed contracts with Spencer Stuart consultants. While lower value contracts many have been let with the company by subordinate budget-holders, the information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Lockheed

Mr. Eastham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 11 July, Official Report, column 440, when he expects to write to the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley, on visits to Lockheed facilities in the United States of America.

Mr. Freeman: I have written to the hon. Member today. I regret the delay in responding to his original question.

RAF Doctors (Training)

Ms Corston: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what circumstances it would be possible for a civilian junior hospital doctor-- house officer--in general medicine to take up a post in a Royal Air Force medical centre as a Royal Air Force medical officer without attending the courses at RAF Cranwell, RAF Halton and RAF Farnborough.

Mr. Soames: I am not aware of any circumstances in which a house officer would be employed in a Royal Air Force medical centre, as the term "house officer" implies that full medical registration has not been achieved.

Ms Corston: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are the lengths and locations of the courses for junior doctors entering the Royal Air Force as junior medical officers for (a) officer training, (b) medical administration, occupational health and forces classification training and (c) aviation medicine training.

Mr. Soames: The lengths and locations of the courses are: a. Officer Training - eight weeks at RAF Cranwell.

b. Initial Medical Officer Training (Administration) - two weeks at the Institute of Health and Medical training, RAF Halton. c. Initial Medical Officer Training (Aviation Medicine) - two weeks at RAF Farnborough and the Aviation Medicine Training Centre at RAF North Luffenham.

Market Testing

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his current calculation of the costs of preparation for market testing in his Department in terms of (a) payments to consultants and (b) other costs.


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Mr. Freeman: The MOD's competing for quality programme, which includes the market testing of activities, aims at achieving long-term savings and quality improvements in relation to the resources required to undertake the services involved. In the period April 1992 to September 1993, some £346.2 million of activities were exposed to the competing for quality process, creating gross savings of £19.8 million. Final details for the year ending September 1994 are not yet available, but activities in excess of the target £216 million have been exposed to the competing for quality process with expected saving of 20 per cent. A breakdown of the Department's costs from April 1992 to June 1994 is as follows:

Consultancy costs £3.1 million

Other costs £5.4 million

Mr. Jamieson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what circumstances individuals or companies will be prohibited from bidding for his Department's work in respect of market testing or contracting out.

Mr. Freeman: In selecting companies to tender for MOD work, the Department has a responsibility to ensure that the companies are satisfactory in terms of financial standing, and that they have the technical capability and capacity to perform the work.

Turnhouse Airport

Dr. Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what facilities his Department operates at Turnhouse airport; and what plans he has to close them.

Mr. Soames: The following units are located at RAF Turnhouse: East Lowlands University Air Squadron

No. 12 Air Experience Flight

No. 3 Flt Army Air Corps (Volunteers)

Joint Maritime Operational Training Staffs

Headquarters Provost and Security Services (Scotland)

The Air Cadets Regional Headquarters (Scotland and Northern Ireland)

Air Cadets (CCF) RAF Liaison Officer for Scotland and Northern Ireland

RAF Turnhouse also parents a number of minor off-site units. There are no current plans to close any of these units. The defence costs study concluded, however, that there was scope for rationalising university air squadrons, and this work is currently underway. Should any proposals be made which would affect the East Lowlands UAS, or any of the other units at RAF Turnhouse, they would of course be subject to consultation in the normal way.

Al Yamamah Agreement

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 24 October, Official Report , column 495 , on the Al Yamamah agreement, if he will now make it his policy to request from The Sunday Times the original tape recordings and other evidence.

Mr. Freeman: No.

Slovakia (Low flying)

Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what response he has made to the offer from the Government of Slovakia about low flying; and if he will make a statement.


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Mr. Soames: My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence visited Slovakia in August. During informal discussions, the then Slovak Defence Minister proposed a range of areas for closer bilateral defence co- operation, in the context of partnership for peace; including opportunities for low flying. We are looking closely at those proposals.

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. David Shaw: To ask the Lord President of the Council if he will investigate the methods by which procedures could be changed so that hon. Members could table questions for written answer during parliamentary recesses, other than in August, and receive answers.


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Mr. Newton: My hon. Friend may wish to ask the Procedure Committee to look into his suggestion.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Quangos

Mr. Grocott: To ask the President of the Board of Trade which former hon. Members of this House have been appointed since 1988 by his Department to quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations; and if he will list, in each case, the title of the post, the salary, the duration of the appointment, and the party which each represented as an hon. Member.

Mr. Ian Taylor: The information available is as follows:


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Name                        |Post                       |Salary                     |Duration                   |Party                                                  

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

Sir Julian Ridsdale         |Member of the Simpler      |Unpaid                     |27 October 1992-           |Conservative                                           

                            |Trade Procedures Board                                 | 31 December 1994                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                                        

Charles Longbottom          |Non-Executive Director of  |£5,000                     |Since 1988                 |Conservative                                           

                            |British Shipbuilders                                   |(renewed on a                                                                      

                                                                                    | yearly basis)                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                        

Robin Hodgson               |Member of the West Midlands|Unpaid                     |1 January 1989-            |Conservative                                           

                            |Industrial Development                                 | 31 December 1994                                                                  

                            |Board                                                                                                                                      

Oil and Gas Industry

Mr. Macdonald: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultations will be held regarding the possible withdrawal of any nominated blocks from the 16th round on environmental grounds.

Mr. Charles Wardle: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answers I gave the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) on 25 October, Official Report , columns 556-58 and 559-60 .

My officials recently met members of the Wildlife and Countryside Link consortium to discuss their views on the nominated blocks for the round. I will, of course, take the WCL's comments into account when deciding which blocks should or should not be offered for licence in the 16th round.

Mr. Macdonald: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what environmental criteria were used to exclude blocks from the 14th offshore oil and gas licensing round; and whether it is planned to use the same criteria for the 16th round.

Mr. Charles Wardle: A number of blocks were not offered in the 14th round because it was felt that, on balance, it would not be possible to agree licence conditions which would allow the prospective operator to carry out exploration activities without compromising the interests of other users of the sea and environmental sensitivities.

Decisions on which blocks can be offered for licence in the 16th round and what conditions will be attached to them will be taken on the basis of consultations with interested parties, including the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and other environmental bodies, about the sensitivities present in individual areas.


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Mr. Macdonald: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what environmental criteria will be imposed on licences granted in the 16th round; and what special conditions there will be upon activity which might affect protected areas.

Mr. Charles Wardle: Any environmental conditions applied to blocks offered in round will be consistent with our commitment to protect the environment. As such, we will take account of the views of our consultees in formulating them. In some cases, the conditions may include restrictions on the timing and extent of seismic and drilling activities.

Nuclear Review

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if there will be a further period of consultation following the publication of the nuclear review.

Mr. Eggar: No decisions have yet been taken about publication of the conclusions of the nuclear review. An announcement will be made in due course.

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he expects to publish the findings of the nuclear review.

Mr. Eggar: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) on 19 October, Official Report, column 239.

Fluorocarbons

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if it is his policy that refrigeration systems that avoid the use of fluorocarbons are best practice and eligible for inclusion in his Department's best practice or DEMOS programme.


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Mr. Ian Taylor: DEMOS--DTI's environmental management options scheme --is no longer open to applications for grant assistance. The joint DTI/DoE environmental technology best practice programme aims to promote better environmental performance and to increase the competitiveness of United Kingdom industry and commerce. Emphasis will be on waste minimisation and reducing pollution at source in the manufacturing process. In the selection of projects for inclusion in the programme, preference is given to those lying within the areas to which the programme is currently giving special attention. These areas are currently foundries, metal finishing/surface engineering and releases of volatile organic compounds. However, any project encompassing the use of cleaner technology can be considered for inclusion in the programme if it has sufficient merit and satisfies the announced selection criteria, including those relating to potential for stimulating national cost savings.

Those wishing to propose technologies and techniques to the programme should in the first instance contact the environmental helpline on 0800 585794.


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