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Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the total financial cost of the United Kingdom's commitment to the Falkland Islands since 1979.
Mr. Soames: The cost of the Falklands commitment to Defence Votes between 1982 83 and 1993 94 was some £3.7 billion at outturn prices, equivalent to £6.0 billion at 1993 94 prices. This covers the estimated costs of maintaining the Falkland Islands garrison as well as campaign costs and the replacement, where appropriate, of equipment and stores lost or consumed during the campaign. Costs other than defence costs, and costs prior to 1982 83, are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the most recently revised estimate of the financial cost to the United Kingdom of the Gulf war.
Mr. Soames: The current estimate of the additional military cost of the Gulf conflict is £2,489,000,000, spread over several years. As part of its normal insurance business, the Export Credits Guarantee Department has paid £658,000,000 of claims arising from the situation in the Gulf in 1990 91 and which have yet to be recovered. Other Departments incurred minor costs in respect of the conflict. The bulk of these costs have been offset by the generous cash contributions from the other Governments totalling £2,049,000,000.
Mr. Trotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the present number of (a) helicopters and (b) fixed-wing aircraft in each of the services.
Mr. Soames: The details requested are as follows:
Service |Aircraft |Number ------------------------------------------------- Royal Navy |Helicopter|155 |fixed wing|48 Army |Helicopter|302 |fixed wing|28 Royal Air Force |Helicopter|173 |fixed wing|939 <1> Including those Chinook undergoing mid-life update.
Ms Rachel Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the £400,000 property management costs mentioned in the C31 consultation document of the defence costs study.
Mr. Soames: The property management costs of option A referred to in the consultation document are estimated to be £534,000 per annum in the longer term. Some £400,000 of this relates to the costs associated with the workforce that is contracted to undertake planned and routine maintenance tasks at Pitreavie. In addition, the estimate includes an amount--approximately £100,000--for average annual expenditure on unplanned maintenance tasks at Pitreavie which is derived from historical data. The remainder represents property management expenditure at Faslane.
Mr. Parry: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Minister of State for Defence Procurement's visit to Liverpool at the Defence Accounts Agency on Monday 16 January.
Mr. Freeman: I took the opportunity to acknowledge the efficiency measures already implemented by the in-house team in preparation for the aware of a three-year service level agreement covering the work of the Directorate of Accounts (Bills) on behalf of the MOD.
Mr. Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will propose the striking of a medal or other certification to recognise the contribution made by men and women who undertook national service.
Mr. Soames: We have no plans to institute a medal or certificate specifically for those who served a period of national service in the armed forces. National service men were, however, eligible for the range of official awards approved by the sovereign at the time.
Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the inhumane weapons convention to be ratified.
Mr. Soames: We expect to ratify the UN weaponry convention by the end of February 1995, and in time to participate as a full state party in the forthcoming review conference.
Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to support an amendment to
Column 692the inhumane weapons convention to prohibit the military use of lasers to blind combatants on the battlefield.
Mr. Soames: The United Kingdom is looking positively at proposals to add to the UN weaponry convention a new protocol covering the use of lasers to blind.
Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his policy in respect of the inhumane weapons review conference in September; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Soames: The United Kingdom is working positively towards strengthening the UN weaponry convention at the forthcoming review conference.
Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the British armed forces possess lasers designed to blind combatants; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Freeman: The United Kingdom armed forces do not possess and currently have no plans to develop or procure any laser weapon designed permanently to blind enemy troops or to disrupt their eyesight temporarily. We are, however, researching the technology associated with laser weapons in order to develop effective defences against such weapons should they be deployed against our armed forces.
Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if Britain has (a) considered and (b) tested lasers designed to blind combatants.
Mr. Freeman: The United Kingdom maintains an interest in all developments in laser technologies, including those related to laser weapons. A major objective of the Department's laser research programme is to understand the nature of the threat which might be posed by the deployment and use of laser weapons against UK forces and, if necessary, to develop appropriate protective countermeasures. The UK has no plans to develop or test a laser weapon designed permanently to blind human targets. The feasibility of making use of temporary dazzle effects was investigated in 1983 and tests on one system were conducted which were subsequently discontinued.
Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many golf courses are sited on land owned by his Department; (2) what has been the total cost in each of the past five years of the upkeep of golf courses sited on land owned by his Department.
Mr. Soames: My noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence will write to the hon. Member.
Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the policy of his Department on the sale of weapons that can be used for torture to countries with poor human rights records.
Mr. Freeman: It is my Department's policy to ensure that all relevant human rights considerations are taken into account when applications are made to promote and supply licensable defence equipment overseas. It is Her Majesty's Government's policy to avoid the transfer of such equipment which would be likely to be used to
Column 693violate human rights. Advice on this matter is normally provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Mr. Sykes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the future of the Army finance and audit office.
Mr. Soames: As part of Front Line First, proposals to devolve the functions of the army finance and audit office, currently based at Ashton under Lyne, down to unit level were detailed in a consultation document issued on 21 July 1994.
During the consultation period, understandable local concerns were expressed both about the loss of jobs in Ashton under Lyne and the weakening of Greater Manchester's long and proud links with the army. Points were also raised about the detailed costings used, and the effectiveness of the proposed alternative auditing arrangements but no new significant defence-related arguments have emerged. Having given careful consideration to these points, I am satisfied that the proposal to close AFAO is sound on both management and financial grounds, and I have decided that it will close on 31 March 1996, whereupon the audit task will be devolved to unit level. We will, of course, continue to consult the trade unions about the detailed implementation of these measures.
Mr. Butler: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to rationalise army storage facilities following the defence costs study; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Soames: As part of Front Line First, proposals to rationalise army storage facilities were detailed in a consultation document issued on 19 August 1994. A total of 35 responses have been received from trade unions, local authorities and other interested parties; all have been subject to the most careful and detailed consideration. Understandable local concerns were expressed on the effect on employment and the local community. No significant new
defence-related arguments have however emerged, nor have any new suggestions been made which
Column 694might cause us to alter our original proposals, which flow from a reduction in the army's storage requirements.
I therefore have to announce that we shall now move to implement our plans to supply the army from a smaller number of larger, more efficiently utilised sites, supported by a new distribution network utilised sites, supported by a new distribution network utilising best practice from industry. I am confident these changes can be introduced without detriment to operational capability.
Our proposals will mean the closure of 13 army static logistic support and engineer support units. The ordnance support unit Liphook will close by 31 March 1995, and the following by 31 March 1996: Regional depot Hereford
Regional depot Stirling
Ordnance support unit Ashford
Ordnance support unit Bicester
Ordnance support unit Burscough
Ordnance support unit Feltham
Ordnance support unit Thetford
Ordnance support unit Weyhill
Supply depot Colchester
320 engineer park Thetford
322 engineer park Hessay York
324 engineer park Stirling
Army storage will in future, with some staff enhancements, be concentrated at the following depots:
Base ordnance depot Donnington
Base ordnance depot Bicester, including the Bicester sub-depot at Thatcham
Ordnance stores depot, which forms part of the Longtown
Training material park Warminster
Training material park Sennybridge
In support, a number of units will be reduced and reorganised to become distribution outlets, by 31 March 1996. These are:
Regional depot Catterick, including stores sub-depot Hessay Ordnance support unit Colchester
Ordnance support unit Old Dalby
Supply depot Aldershot
Supply depot Bulford
In addition, 321 engineer park at Longmoor will re-role and become a detachment to central engineer park Long Marston.
We shall continue to consult staff and trade unions about the detailed implementation of these measures.