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DEFENCE

Range Facilities

Dr. John Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what facilities are available at the Shoeburyness range that are not available at any other range of his Department. [10153]

Mr. Arbuthnot: This is a matter for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the chief executive, DERA, to write to the right hon. Member.

Letter from John Chisholm to Dr. John Cunningham, dated 13 January 1997:









13 Jan 1997 : Column: 120

Dr. Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his Department's policy for the long-term provision of range facilities for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency; and if he will make a statement.[10274]

Mr. Arbuthnot: DERA's ranges are provided to meet the current and future needs of the Ministry of Defence and its prime contractors in a competitive and cost-effective manner. Because current requirements are declining, especially for ranges in support of the land programmes, DERA is at present undertaking a study to determine the most cost effective way to provide these essential capabilities. Major users of DERA's land ranges, both within the Ministry of Defence and UK industry, are being consulted. No final decisions have been taken, but if the study recommends significant changes to the way in which the land ranges are run, then staff, unions and other interested parties will be fully consulted in the normal way.

Nerve Agents

Mr. Livingstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what studies have been carried out by the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down, to test the new treatment of a combination of the drugs physostigmine and hyoscine against nerve agents; when

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these tests (a) began and (b) ended; what were their conclusions; and when the new treatment entered service with the armed forces. [10245]

Mr. Arbuthnot: This is a matter for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the chief executive, DERA, to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from John Chisolm to Mr. Ken Livingstone, dated 13 January 1997:





Franco-British Naval Agreement

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the text of the Franco-British naval agreement signed at the recent Franco-British summit at Bordeaux. [9768]

Mr. Soames: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis), on 13 November, Official Report, columns 214-15, to the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson). A copy of the UK-French naval letter of intent is in the Library of the House.

Auxiliary Oilers

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he intends to announce the award of an order for auxiliary oilers for the Royal Navy. [10544]

Mr. Arbuthnot: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence hopes to be able to make this announcement within the near future.

Organophosphate Pesticide Investigation Team

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the cost of the work of the organophosphate pesticide investigation team set up on 11 October; and what budget is allotted to support its future work. [9591]

Mr. Soames: The organophosphate pesticide investigation team has not been assigned a separate budget, and costs incurred by its activities currently form part of the budget of the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff

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(Programmes and Personnel). The estimated net staff cost associated with the production of the substantive report dated 6 December is £30,725.

Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to rectify the failings of his Department to keep files in accordance with standing procedures to which reference is made at paragraph 1.B.15 of the report D/OPPIT/3 of his departmental organophosphate pesticide investigation team, dated 6 December. [9594]

Mr. Soames: Steps have been taken to ensure that the administrative support necessary to keep files in accordance with standing procedures is available to those areas of the Department referred to in paragraph 1.B.15 of the organophosphate pesticide investigation team report.

Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will extend the remit of his organophosphate pesticide investigation team to examine the methodology of earlier studies into effects of organophosphates, to which reference is made in paragraph 1.A.9 in his departmental substantive report of the organophosphate investigation team, dated 6 December. [9672]

Mr. Soames: The earlier MOD documents referred to in paragraph 1.A.9 of the Departmental substantive report of the organophosphate investigation team are concerned with the use of, not the effects of exposure to, organophosphate pesticides. As it made clear in paragraph 3.H.12 of the report, the organophosphate investigation team is not qualified to assess the effects of exposure to pesticides.

Chapelcross and Calder Hall Reactors

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost to his Department of operating the (i) Chapelcross and (ii) Calder Hall reactors for each of the last five years. [9636]

Mr. Soames: The reactors at Chapelcross and Calder Hall are owned and operated by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. Details of the contracts between BNFL and the Ministry of Defence for services provided at these sites are commercially confidential and therefore under the code of practice on access to Government information are not given as such information could harm the effective management and operations of the public service.

Gulf War Syndrome

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment was made of the quality control applied to the production of the pertussis vaccine purchased from France, to which reference is made in his departmental memorandum issued in support of the statement made about Gulf war illness on 10 December Official Report, columns 119-23. [9633]

Mr. Soames: No assessment was made of the quality control applied to the production of the pertussis vaccine purchased from France for use during Operation Granby. The Department of Health acted as agents for the import of the vaccine, and arranged for it to be tested by the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control before it was released for use.

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Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the basis of the difference in assessment between his Department and that of the United States Government concerning the likely threat posed by plague in the Gulf war; and which is now assessed to be more accurate. [9568]

Mr. Soames: The factors influencing US Government assessments are not a matter for my Department. The UK assessment at the time of the Gulf war was that Iraq had probably developed plague as a biological weapon. We have had no cause to revise this assessment since then.


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