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Animal Genome Mapping

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which is the lead Department for (a) animal genome mapping in the United Kingdom and (b) following up the recommendations of the committee of inquiry on ethics of emerging technologies in breeding of farm animals under the chairmanship of the Rev. Professor Michael Banner. [20421]

Mr. Boswell: (a) Whilst there is no one lead Department, research on animal genome mapping is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Biotechnological and Biological Sciences Research Council. The BBSRC is administered by the

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Office of Science and Technology, which is part of the Department of Trade and Industry. There is close liaison between MAFF and BBSRC.

(b) The lead Department taking forward the recommendations of the committee to consider the ethical implications of emerging technologies in the breeding of farm animals is MAFF.

DEFENCE

Trafalgar Class Submarines

Mr. David Martin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to place a contract for batch 2 Trafalgar class submarines; and if he will make a statement. [20655]

Mr. Arbuthnot: I am pleased to announce that a contract has been placed with GEC-Marconi as prime contractors for the design, build and initial support of three batch 2 Trafalgar class submarines. The new boats will be known as the Astute class, and are expected to enter service early next century. The submarines will be built at GEC-Marconi's VSEL shipyard in Barrow.

The new vessels will be powered by the Rolls Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor, fitted with the updated weapons system of batch 1 Trafalgar class submarines, and armed with the Spearfish torpedo and Submarine-Harpoon anti-ship missile. They will be able to carry conventionally armed Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Astute class will replace the Royal Navy's existing Swiftsure class boats as these vessels reach the end of their operational lives in the early part of the next century. They will perform a wide range of roles including anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.

The order was won in competition with VSEL, before the company was taken over by GEC-Marconi, and the decision was based on what would provide the best value for money for the taxpayer. The contract will be worth nearly £2 billion to GEC-Marconi and its sub-contractors, and will help to sustain around 7,000 jobs. It has been warmly welcomed by the Royal Navy, and is good news for Barrow and the many sub-contractors who will be working on the project across the UK.

Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn) of 6 March, Official Report, columns 710-11, if he will provide figures for his Department's PFI projects in the same form as used by the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, in his answer to the hon. Member for Darlington of 6 March, Official Report, columns 692-93. [20398]

Mr. Soames: I have nothing to add to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement to the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn) on 6 March, Official Report, columns 710-11.

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Eskmeals, Shoeburyness and Pendine Ranges

Mr. Ainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will publish the consultative document on the land ranges rationalisation at Eskmeals, Shoeburyness and Pendine; and if he will make a statement. [20190]

Mr. Soames: The range at Pendine is not being reviewed as part of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency land ranges rationalisation study, which is considering defence requirements at Eskmeals, Cumbria and Shoeburyness, Essex. In the reply my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, gave my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) on 12 March, Official Report, column 234, he said that he hoped to be in a position to approve the issue of a consultation document on the way ahead within a few weeks, and this remains his intention.

Works of Art

Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes have been made for the care and protection of works of art following the publication of the National Audit Office report in March 1996. [20323]

Mr. Soames: My Department has responded positively to the NAO's recommendations. A new system of accountability has been introduced whereby the senior staff who borrow works of art are now held personally responsible for them. Staff who move works of art without permission will lose their entitlement to borrow works and may face disciplinary action. Works of art in our London headquarters buildings are now inspected every night by our guard force and these checks will soon be extended to all our works of art.

The NAO guidance on management of works of art has been circulated throughout the Department and a seminar on this subject will be held during March.

All works of art owned by the Department or borrowed from public collections will be managed centrally and a photographic record has been compiled.

Mr. Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many of the 190 works of art missing from Defence establishments have been located since the publication of the National Audit Office report in March 1996; [20324]

Mr. Soames: The National Audit Office report states that, in November 1995, 184 works of art were missing. Of these, 107 were the property of my Department and the remainder were loans from other institutions. Since the publication of the NAO report, two of those belonging to my Department have been found.

Every effort is made to recover missing works of art. Details have been circulated to all staff and an inspector in the Ministry of Defence police has been given responsibility for finding missing works. Photographs of these have been published in my Department's staff magazine with a request that they should be notified to the police inspector if they are identified. We continue to make periodic searches of our buildings.

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Mr. Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many paintings have been sold at auction by his Department in each of the past 10 years; and what were the sums realised. [20326]

Mr. Soames: No paintings have been sold at auction by my Department.

Mr. Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the painting of an officer of the 28th Foot on loan from the national army museum has been located. [20327]

Mr. Soames: My Department's response to the National Audit Office report stated that, despite a thorough investigation by the Ministry of Defence police, the portrait of an officer of the 28th Foot has not been found. This remains the case.

Nursery Vouchers (Overseas Personnel)

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements his Department is making for those personnel stationed overseas, in respect of the Government's nursery voucher scheme; and if he will make a statement. [20807]

Mr. Soames: My Department is committed to making sure there is no educational disadvantage to families who would otherwise be entitled to receive vouchers if serving in the UK, so it intends to provide, wherever practicable, nursery education for four-year-olds overseas.

The MOD will endeavour to provide the same standard of nursery education as that on offer in the UK, but there will be a difference in the way it is run. In the UK, where there will be open competition between playgroups and schools, parents will potentially have a wide choice of places to use a voucher: overseas, the Service sponsor both schools and playgroups and the choice will inevitably be limited.

Therefore, rather than adopt the voucher system, the MOD intends to provide direct funding to schools and playgroups and nursery education will be free at source for all four-year olds who attend an accredited provider.

It is expected that there will be some locations with both schools and playgroups, some where there are only schools and some where there are only suitable playgroups. To reach the standards required by the Department for Education and Employment scheme, schools and playgroups overseas will need additional staff and training and pass inspection of an accredited authority.

Because the MOD needs to study the various option available to deliver nursery education and obtain funding, it has been necessary to delay introduction overseas from that anticipated in the UK. It is aimed to phase introduction from September 1997 to September 1998.

There will inevitably be some areas overseas, particularly smaller isolated detachments, where it will not be possible to offer the scheme that will be available in countries such as Germany and Cyprus. The MOD is though looking at ways to provide the best possible provisions wherever practicable and within the resources available--some form of voucher system to cover these locations may be considered. However, in some areas it

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may simply be impossible to provide any facility; parents will be warned of this in advance of being posted to such locations.


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