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Mr. Freeman: Evaluation of the bids received under the attack helicopter competition is in progress and we expect to make a decision on the purchase of this equipment for use by the Army Air Corps later in the year. I am, of course, conscious of the importance to industry of an early decision.
Mr. Freeman: British defence policy, in common with that of our allies, is no longer based upon defending against a single specific threat or threats. Instead, we aim to provide forces with a flexible capability to undertake a range of operations, from general war to peace support operations, and to respond to the changing demands which may be placed upon them in the future. However, a fundamental part of our defence policy remains the ability of our armed forces to defend themselves against tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles.
We plan to procure an attack helicopter to replace Lynx in the anti-tank role for the early part of the next century. Its primary requirement will be to defeat any present and envisaged main battle tank which may be deployed against our armed forces. It will also be required to have a self- defence capability against enemy helicopters and ground to air threats.
Mr. Jopling: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what review of capability requirements in respect of a new attack helicopter he has carried out to underpin the purchase together with what review of alternative investments he has made.
Mr. Freeman: We have a continuing requirement for a capability to engage in high-intensity conflict, including operations against armoured forces. A series of studies has been conducted to examine the relative cost and effectiveness of various weapon systems with an anti-tank capability. These included multiple-launched rocket systems, ground-launched missile systems, tanks, mines, fixed-wing aircraft and attack helicopters. The studies have shown that the most cost-effective mix of weapons to meet our anti-tank requirement entails the procurement of an attack helicopter.
Mr. Jopling: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to decide which attack helicopter to purchase; from which aircraft he intends to choose; what will be the relevant factors in order of importance which will guide his choice; how many he intends to purchase together with the estimated total cost; whether the alternatives have flown or expect to fly; and if he will
Column 561make it his policy that the choice of machine will not be dominated by considerations of domestic employment.
Mr. Freeman: We expect to make a decision on the purchase of an attack helicopter later in the year. Bids were received from: Agusta--A129; Atlas Aviation--Rooivalk; Boeing-Sikorsky--Comanche; BAe/Euro- copter-- Tiger; GEC/Bell-Textron--Cobra Venom; and Westland/McDonnell Douglas-- Apache AH64/D. Tender assessment is based on four main parameters: operational effectiveness; life cycle costs; risk; and proposals for United Kingdom industrial participation. The precise number of helicopters to be procured will depend on affordability and on the solution chosen and, therefore, has yet to be determined. The estimated total cost of the programme is over £2 billion. Current versions of all the aircraft except Comanche have flown. It is our intention to equip the Army with the most cost-effective solution which fully meets its requirements. To that end, each bid will be considered on its merits.
20. Mr. Heppell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel have been disabled as a result of injury in the armed forces in each of the last three years.
Mr. Soames: There are varying degrees of disablement, not all of which are serious enough to cause the service man or woman to be medically discharged. Statistics are not maintained centrally of disabilities which do not result in discharge.
21. Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the defence of the Falkland Islands.
Mr. Soames: The British Government are committed to defending the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future. As long as Argentina maintains its claim to the Falkland Islands, the United Kingdom will keep forces there to deter, and if necessary counter, any possible aggression. Force levels are kept under review and, if the need arises, can be reinforced at very short notice using the airfield at Mount Pleasant.
Column 562to make a single Minister responsible for all ex-service men's affairs.
Mr. Soames: My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence is usually responsible for those issues relating to former service personnel with which the Department deals directly. The Government do not, however, propose to appoint a single Minister to co-ordinate matters concerning the ex-service community across the range of Government; I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) on 22 November 1994, Official Report, columns 461 62.
25. Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress he has made in the investigation being undertaken by his Department into potentially dangerous German chemical bombs which were buried at Llandwrog airfield, near Dinas Dinlle in Gwynedd after the second world war; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Soames: The Royal Navy's Fishery Protection Squadron comprises nine vessels. The requirements for the provision of fishery protection services are reviewed annually with the fisheries Department. During this financial year, 1994 95, the squadron is contracted to provide these Departments with some 1,380 patrol days dedicated to fisheries work.
27. Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he had made of the current arrangements governing the separation of civilian helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft from low-flying military jets; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Soames: My Department has a wide range of measures in place to minimise the risk of confliction between civil and military aircraft. These are kept under continuous review in consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority and civilian aircraft operators as part of an on-going programme of work to enhance flight safety.
Mr. Soames: Whenever it is cost-effective and beneficial to do so, my Department is seeking to extend the close links which it already has with external training and education bodies and institutions. Unless there are operational reasons for retaining the work in-house, it is our aim to put as much of our training out to the private sector as is possible and draw on the considerable expertise which is available.
Sir Nicholas Bonsor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the number, manufacturer, capacity and year of production of fuel servicing trucks currently held by (i) the RAF, (ii) the Royal Marines, (iii) the Army Air Corps and (iv) the Fleet Air Arm; what consideration he
Column 564has given to (a) replacement of these vehicles and (b) leasing of commercial equipment; what factors led to the proposal to issue tenders for 12 fuel servicing trucks for the Royal Marines under tender No. SMC 31ARAF U15; and if he will make a statement.
Service |Quantity |Capacity |Year of Manufacture|Manufacturer ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Royal Air Force |176 |18000 ltr |1987-1993 |\AEC, |166 |13000 ltr |1970-1982 | |Leyland/DAF, |54 |4500 ltr (Tactical)|1980-1989 | |Bedford, |83 |4500 ltr |1981-1991 |/Scammell Royal Marines |12 |9000 ltr |1987 |Bedford Army Air Corps |122 |4500 ltr |1965-1985 |Bedford |6 |4500 ltr |1987-1988 |Leyland Fleet Air Arm |33 |9000 ltr |1988-1993 |Leyland |20 |18000 ltr |1990 |Leyland
The majority of fuel servicing vehicles in service will be considered for refurbishment or replacement--either by purchase of lease--over the next 10 years. The leasing of equipment is routinely considered as part of the replacement decision. In general, however, there is no commercial equipment which meets the specific requirements for military aircraft refuellers, and the leasing of purpose-built refuellers has been shown to be uneconomic. The operational requirements for 12 fuel servicing trucks for the Royal Marines commando operations and support cell dictates that vehicles must be of a specialised type, particularly in respect of their ability to operate in such extremes of climate as the Arctic and the Gulf. Furthermore, the operational requirement includes provision of a high degree of corrosion protection. The specialist nature of these vehicles ruled out leasing of commercially available types, and the high cost of refurbishment of existing vehicles precluded that option. Purchase was assessed to be the most economic means of meeting this operational requirement.
Mr. Bernie Grant: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) of 29 November 1994, Official Report, column 618, how many foreign students from Sudan who have visited the United Kingdom for military training, were sponsored (a) by the Sudanese Government or (b) by the rebel forces in that country.
Mr. Soames: The details of training provided for overseas military personnel, including numbers, are not normally disclosed as they are confidential between Governments. The inclusion of Sudan in the answer I gave the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) on 29 November 1994, Official Report, column 618, referred to two civilians who attended aviation medicine courses. Both students were sponsored by the Government of Sudan.
Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list by establishment, including agencies, the numbers of (a) military and (b) civilian employees of his Department in the Salisbury constituency in (i) 1990, (ii) 1994 and (iii) an estimate for 1998.
Mr. Soames: It is not our normal policy to divulge the number of employees at individual Ministry of Defence establishments. Although my Department keeps no record of military and civilian employees by parliamentary constituency, we are able to provide the numbers of service and civilian personnel within the Salisbury local authority area. At 1 July 1990, there were 5,187 service and 3,765 full-time equivalent civilian personnel employed in the local authority area. The corresponding figures for 1 July 1994 were 4,923 service and 3, 920 civilian personnel. It is too early to make accurate estimates of the corresponding figures for 1998.
Mr. Soames: During the financial year 1993 94, some £142 million, inclusive of VAT, was spent feeding regular and reserve armed forces personnel in the United Kingdom and overseas. As well as food served in messes, this figure also includes operational ration packs and allowances paid to personnel who were not able to eat in messes owing to the nature of their duties.
Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether service men and women and their families enjoy the same rights as other citizens to make representations during public consultations and public inquiries and to make complaints under the citizens charter; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Soames: The families of service personnel enjoy the same rights as other citizens to make representations during public consultations and public inquiries and to make complaints under the citizens charter. The same rights apply to service personnel provided that the impartiality of the armed forces is not compromised, and that such representations do not involve the disclosure, without permission, of information obtained in the course of their official duties.
Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many vehicles are owned by his Department for use by (a) the Royal Navy, (b) the Army and (c) the Royal Air Force and issued with (i) civil vehicle registration marks and (ii) service vehicle registration marks by the Directorate General (Supplies and Transport (Naval)) for the Royal Navy and by the Directorate of Supply Management (Army) for the Army and for the Royal Air Force.
Mr. Soames: My Department owns 6,225 vehicles for use by the Royal Navy, 87,238 for use by the Army and 151,816 for use by the Royal Air Force. These figures include both operational and administrative vehicle types.
Both service and civilian vehicle registration marks are issued by the Army on behalf of all three services. Of the 19,279 vehicles owned, 11,365 show civilian registration markings; the remainder, service.
Mr. Soames: The only nuclear material stored in south Wales is depleted uranium at the atomic weapons establishment, Cardiff. Although it has not been the practice of this or previous Governments to reveal quantities of nuclear material stored at the AWE sites, in accordance with our policy of greater openness, my Department is seeking to revoke this restriction in respect of depleted uranium.
Details of the depleted uranium wastes arising at and discharged from AWE Cardiff are already in the public domain.
Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 20 January, to the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr Butler), Official Report, column 751, what are the principal details of the decision-making process relating to the decommissioning and subsequent disposal of the site of the atomic weapons establishment, Llanishen, Cardiff; what consultations he has had with the management of the Atomic Weapons Establishment in relation to this decision; and if he will make a statement.
Column 566such acceptable proposal is received, and if there is no alternative defence use which arises in the period before then, the site will close in 1997 as soon as work on Trident components is completed. These proposals have been developed in close consultation between Hunting-BRAE Ltd. and the MOD.
The Ministry of Defence will then be responsible for the immediate decommissioning of the site and it will be disposed of in the normal way.
There is no statutory requirement fully to restore land offered for sale, but it is my Department's policy to seek to identify instances of contamination on sites allocated for disposal. This information is made available to prospective purchasers and taken into account in agreeing the sale price. Decontamination work is generally limited to the removal of ordnance and other contaminants such as explosives, radioactive and microbiological materials.
Mr. Soames: On present plans, there will be 25 RAF Sea King helicopters in the search and rescue role in September 1996. This includes two RAF Sea Kings based in the Falkland Islands. No Royal Navy Sea Kings are dedicated to search and rescue.
Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions departmental officials met representatives of Ian Greer Associates (a) formally and (b) informally on 26 January to discuss matters relating to their client's interests.
Mr. Freeman: To the best of my knowledge, no officials from my Department met representatives of Ian Greer Associates on 26 January 1995 to discuss matters relating to their clients' interests, either formally or informally.
Mr. Soames: The United Kingdom is fully involved in efforts to develop the Western European Union as the means to strengthen the European pillar of NATO and as the defence component of the European Union.
Mr. Freeman: Following my 27 October 1994 announcement, Official Report , column 732 , of plans to withdraw MOD activity from the Army Base Repair Organisation workshop at Old Dalby and to change the agency's market -testing programme to include tests for base and district workshops only after such reorganisation, I have received a wide range of comments from a number of MPs and local authorities. In addition, the trade union representatives of staff at the workshop have submitted detailed comments on the plans and
Column 567provided counter-proposals with a view to continuing operations at the site.
The formal consultation period ended on 23 December. Since then, a detailed evaluation of the comments received and, in particular, the proposals from the workshop has been undertaken. In parallel, I have taken the opportunity to visit the workshop to understand better the local impact. I have also had discussions with representatives from the Donnington workshop, which would import the bulk of the work from Old Dalby.
As a result of the consultation period, changes have been made to assumptions used in the analysis of various options for the future of Old Dalby.
Having now considered all of the proposals, counter-proposals and their implications, I am convinced that the only viable option is to proceed with the withdrawal of MOD activity from the workshop and to implement the restructured market-testing programme which I announced on 27 October. None of the suggestions or counter-proposals resulting from the consultation process can deliver the necessary restructuring or offer of an equivalent level of savings to the taxpayer while preserving service to the Army. Any attempt to maintain MOD activity at the Old Dalby workshop would result in the Army continuing to have excess capacity beyond all foreseeable requirements. The resultant inefficiencies would inevitably be reflected in the costs passed on to the Army and ultimately to the taxpayer. Excess capacity would also disadvantage the agency teams in their attempts to prepare for the forthcoming market-testing process and could undermine their chances of making most cost-effective use of the facilities. The final version of the analysis undertaken changed the net benefit of withdrawal from Old Dalby rather than Donnington, but did not change the preference for withdrawing from the former. I am accordingly instructing the agency to proceed with planning for the withdrawal of MOD work from the Old Dalby workshop. I must emphasise, however, that I recognise the skill and success of the Old Dalby work force and their interest in continuing to undertake ABRO work. Prior to the implementation of the planned move of MOD work later this year, I have asked that, for each discrete package of work at the Old Dalby workshop, an evaluation be undertaken to ascertain whether these should be placed with the private sector, using either their own facilities or by taking over the workshop facilities at Old Dalby, or with other MOD units. Any decision to place work with such facilities must, however, show an improvement over the savings which would be achieved by placing such work at ABRO Donnington. No irrevocable action will be taken by ABRO until at least July 1995 which would prevent the successful placement of such packages of work elsewhere than Donnington.
Representations made have clearly identified the potential effects of these changes on the local community and economy. Given that my Department is no longer able to make effective use of the modern, high-technology facilities at the site, every effort will be made to encourage the private sector to put forward innovative proposals for alternative uses which can capitalise on the skills and expertise of the work force. My Department intends to work closely on this with the local authorities and other employers in the area. An early start will be made to obtain appropriate advice within and outside the
Column 568MOD to market the skills of the work force and the existing facilities for alternative private sector usage in parallel with the cost evaluation of the individual work packages referred to.
Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will provide estimates for the total amount that has been paid to N. M. Rothschild and Sons Ltd. with respect to any work undertaken by them on privatisation programmes in which his Department has been engaged since 1979 after taking account of inflation.
Mr. Freeman: N. M. Rothschild and Sons provided advice to my Department in respect of the privatisation of Royal Ordnance, which was achieved in 1986 and 1987. The fees paid to firms appointed within the privatisation programme are commercially confidential.
Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what steps he is taking in the current review of pay and grading in the Planning Inspectorate executive agency to ensure that he meets the requirement set out in the first report to him of the advisory panel on standards for the Planning Inspectorate executive agency in respect of the need for planning inspectors to be of the highest quality and drawn from a variety of appropriate professional backgrounds; and if he will make a statement;
(2) how many person-days of work were, or are planned to be carried out by (a) contract inspectors and (b) all consultant inspectors in the Planning Inspectorate executive agency in each year from 1993 to 1996; and if he will make a statement;
(3) how many staff in the Planning Inspectorate executive agency he expects will be given early retirement (a) in 1995 and (b) in 1996; from what professional planning inspector or other grades they will be drawn; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Paul Beresford: I have delegated responsibility for all these matters to the Planning Inspectorate executive agency. I have therefore asked Mr. Chris Shepley, the agency's chief executive, to reply.
Letter from C. J. Shepley to Mr. Neil Gerrard, dated 26 January 1995:
The Secretary of State has asked me to provide the replies to your Parliamentary Questions about:
the Planning Inspectorate's pay and grading review
work carried out by the Inspectorate's contract and consultant Inspectors (PQ/904/94/95);
the number of staff expected to take early retirement in 1995 and 1996 (PQ/907/94/95); as these are all matters which have been delegated to the Executive Agency.
The purpose of our pay and grading review is to ensure that all staff are properly rewarded for their skills and their contributions to the work of the Agency. It is my intention to ensure the Agency
Column 569will continue to employ Planning Inspectors of the highest quality and of appropriate backgrounds to meet its needs.
On the question of work carried out by contract and consultant Inspectors, records are not kept in a form that allows us to find the information in the precise form you request. The figures given below are estimates based on our financial records and include not only days employed on casework but also attendance at the office for training, etc.
|Contract |Consultant |Inspector days|Inspector days ---------------------------------------------------------------- 1993-94 |12,800 |11,200 1994-95 (forecast) |11,100 |8,750
The use we make of these resources in 1995 96 will depend on the financial allocation we receive and the targets we are set for the coming year.
We expect two Inspectors to leave the Agency in 1995 following approval of their applications under our 1994 Voluntary Early Retirement scheme. There may also be departures following applications for early retirement on medical grounds. Currently we have no plans to run any further early retirement schemes. No staff have been asked to leave the Agency.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: On 11 January, I said, in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), Official Report, column 134, that I was placing in the Library a list of local authorities ranked on the basis of numbers of management vacants as at 1 April 1994.
The Audit Commission for Local Authorities in England and Wales requires local authorities to publish information annually about the number and percentage of dwellings that are empty and the average time taken to relet dwellings available for letting or awaiting minor repairs. The commission will publish comparative data for 1993-1994 at the end of March this year.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: Appeals may be made against the entries in the non-domestic rating list for a variety of reasons. As at 31 December 1994, there were 8,788 appeals outstanding in the offices which cover Lancashire and 293,644 in total in England. Only a small proportion of these will have resulted from an increase in the rateable value of a particular hereditament, and these figures are not collected separately.
Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will detail in the form of a table similar to that provided on 1 November 1994 to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West, (Mr. Butcher) Official Report , columns 1005 6, showing the estimated increase or decrease in business rate bills for properties in each region in England between 1994 95 and 1995 96 as a result of the 1995 revaluation, in the absence of transitional relief.