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Hyderabad Barracks, Colchester

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons new buildings are being erected at Hyderabad Barracks, Colchester; what the buildings are for; and what is the cost for the development. [26290]

Dr. Reid: Hyderabad and the adjacent Meeanee Barracks, Colchester are currently being modernised and extended to rectify, as a matter of urgency, serious deficiencies in the living accommodation for single soldiers. The refurbishment is expected to cost £6.7 million.

Trident

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what new assessment he has made of the role of Trident. [26345]

Mr. George Robertson: Trident will contribute to maintaining strong defences while we press for multilateral negotiations towards mutual balanced and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons in line with our manifesto commitment. As part of the Strategic Defence Review, we are considering the minimum level of capability required for this role in current strategic circumstances.

Staff College Camberley

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what plans he has for the future use of the buildings of the Staff College, Camberley; [26364]

Dr. Reid [holding answer 30 January 1998]: A number of options are being examined for the future military use of the former Staff College buildings at Camberley, but no final decisions have yet been taken.

Recruits

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many recruits to (a) the Royal Navy, (b) the Army and (c) the Royal Air Force aged 16 to 18 years came from (i) a family background and (ii) local authority care for each year since 1990. [26838]

Dr. Reid: The number of recruits under 18 years of age who entered the UK regular Armed Forces are detailed in the table:

Financial yearRN(7)ArmyRAF
1990-91(8)n/a8,2701,410
1991-92(8)n/a7,100661
1992-934994,85067
1993-942322,93870
1994-952293,50870
1995-965794,397299
1996-971,1035,727401
1997-98(9)5703,025319

(7) The Army figures includes Apprentices and Junior Soldiers.

(8) RN figures for FYs 1990-91 and 1991-92 are not available.

(9) Data for FY 1997-98 covers the period 1 April 1997 to 30 September 1997.

The further information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


2 Feb 1998 : Column: 469

Attack Helicopter (Training)

Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements will be made to provide ground-based and simulator training for the Army's Attack Helicopter air and ground crew. [27241]

Mr. Spellar: Subject to satisfactory completion of contract negotiations, we intend to place a Public/Private Partnership contract with a Joint Venture Company (JVC) formed by GKN Westland Helicopters Limited and the Boeing Corporation. The JVC will provide a service to meet all our requirements for ground based training and simulators in support of Attack Helicopter.

This contract will ensure that we can take full advantage of the capabilities of the Attack Helicopter. The contract will run for 30 years and the JVC will be responsible for supplying all the equipment and instructional staff necessary to provide the required level of service.

Mid-air Collisions

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the results of the study called for by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch on the probability of a random mid-air collision. [27250]

Mr. Spellar: The study, by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, concluded that the principle of 'see-and-avoid' in the open Flight Information Region below 2,000 ft resolved confliction in over 99 per cent. of occasions. This implies a worst-case collision rate of 0.118 per 10,000 flying hours for single seat military fast jet aircraft and 0.005 per 10,000 flying hours for General Aviation aircraft.

The Study acknowledged that certain conspicuity measures could further increase the effectiveness of see-and-avoid. We have already initiated a programme to paint the majority of training aircraft black including the Hawk, the Tucano, the Dominie and the Jetstream; training helicopters and the Firefly aircraft are painted in a combination of yellow and black. In addition, the majority of military aircraft are being fitted with High Intensity Strobe Lights, and RAF aircraft with High Power Light Assemblies where installation is not cost prohibitive.

The Study also concludes that an effective safety enhancement would be the installation of a collision warning system to military fast jets. The procurement of CWS is under consideration as part of the Strategic Defence Review.

Flight safety is, and will remain, a key priority and we will continue to pursue initiatives that promise further improvements in that area.

Copies of the Study Report and an accompanying MOD commentary have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Correspondence

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how long on average it takes his Department to answer letters from hon. Members; what target date his

2 Feb 1998 : Column: 470

Department sets; what percentage receive replies within the target date; and what assessment he has made of how long it takes to deliver a letter after it has been typed.[27042]

Mr. Spellar: Statistics are not held in the form requested. My Department has a target of reply to letters from hon. Members within 15 working days of receipt. Since 14 May 1997, ministers have replied to 63 per cent. of letters within this target and to 79 per cent. within 20 working days. All replies are normally taken by hand to the mail room at the House of Commons, unless we have been asked to make other arrangements by the hon. Member concerned, within 1 working day of being signed.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Land Mines

Dr. Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which existing land-mine clearance projects the Government assist financially; and what clearance methods these projects use. [26060]

Clare Short: We are currently directly supporting clearance projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos, Northern Iraq and Mozambique. We are also supporting demining activities through the United Nations and the European Community. Directly supported projects all involve manual clearance methods though some also use mechanical devices and dogs.

Dr. harris: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the Dervish land mine clearance device, developed at Edinburgh University; and if she will provide financial assistance to support its forthcoming trials in Bosnia.[26059]

Clare Short: Dervish Mine Clearance recently submitted a funding proposal for three years support costs. This is presently being technically appraised. The proposal makes no mention of trials in Bosnia.

Correspondence

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how long on average it takes her Department to answer letters from hon. Members; what target date her Department sets; what percentage receive replies within the target date; and what assessment she has made of how long it takes to deliver a letter after it has been typed. [27036]

Mr. Foulkes: The Department for International development has a target of 15 working days in which to answer letters from honourable Members and 90 per cent. of letters are answered within that target. Every effort is made to ensure that letters are copied, despatched and delivered within 24 hours of signing.

Zimbabwe

Mr. Faber: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office concerning United Kingdom aid to Zimbabwe. [26954]

2 Feb 1998 : Column: 471

Clare Short: We co-ordinate closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the formulation of Government policy.

Mr. Faber: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with her fellow EU Ministers concerning EU aid to Zimbabwe. [26953]

Clare Short: We co-ordinate closely with our European Union colleagues on a range of issues, including EU aid to Zimbabwe. We support EC's approach on land reform and balance of payments support for Zimbabwe.

Mr. Faber: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with representatives of the (i) World Bank and (ii) IMF concerning (a) loans, (b) United Kingdom bilateral and (c) EU aid to Zimbabwe. [26958]

Clare Short: We co-ordinate closely with the World Bank and the IMF on a range of issues including aid to Zimbabwe.

Mr. Faber: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans she has to impose conditions on United Kingdom bilateral aid to Zimbabwe similar to those attached to the most recent EU aid package. [26959]

Clare Short: Following publication of the White Paper on International Development, we are discussing with the Government of Zimbabwe whether we can form a partnership with them to eradicate poverty. This discussion will include their approach to achieving the International Development Targets, economic management and land reform.

Mr. Faber: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list the conditions attached to the EU aid programme to Zimbabwe. [26952]

Clare Short: The European Union has agreed to release the second tranche of its Structural Adjustment Support programme which was agreed in 1994, based on assurances that the Government of Zimbabwe would meet their budget deficit targets. The Government have assured the EC that the land reform programme will be implemented in a transparent manner and in accordance with the Government of Zimbabwe's administrative and financial capacity to acquire and resettle the land successfully. The EC has encouraged the Government to consult international partners to make a clear statement of how they intend to proceed with land reform.


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