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Commachio Group Royal Marines

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence where the Commachio Group Royal Marines is based; how many companies it comprises; what is the function of each company; and what plans he has for their relocation. [46820]

Dr. Reid: Commachio Group is based at RM Condor, Arbroath, and comprises an HQ Company and 3 Rifle Companies. The latter rotate in protecting the UK's strategic deterrent assets at HMS Neptune, Faslane, the RN Armament Depot Coulport, and during related road movements. Following public consultation, I approved earlier this year the Group's permanent relocation to HMS Neptune by April 2001.

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 12

HMS Ocean

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 11 June 1998, Official Report, column 638, when he expects to receive details of the costs and the liability in respect of the damage to the tail shaft bearings of HMS 'Ocean'; and if the (a) costs and (b) inquiry conclusions will be made public. [47074]

Mr. Spellar: The Formal Inquiry currently underway into the cause of the damage to HMS Ocean's port shaft "A" bracket bearing is expected to conclude in the autumn of this year. The Inquiry is being conducted by the prime contractor, Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited. The costs of, and liability for, the damage will be the subject of negotiation between MOD and the company following the Inquiry and is not expected to be resolved before the end of the year.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 11 June 1998, Official Report, column 638, what assessment his Department has made of the cause of the damage to HMS Ocean on her launch in October 1995; and what changes to operating arrangements have been made as a result. [47063]

Mr. Spellar: The hull damage sustained by HMS Ocean during her launch on 11 October 1995 was attributable to the accidental collapse of a forward launch cradle. It is the responsibility of the prime contractor Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited to ensure that launch arrangements are safe and acceptable and, where necessary, adapted to reflect lessons learnt from previous experience. The damage will not require any change to the proposed operating arrangements of HMS Ocean once she enters service.

SA80 and M16 Rifles

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the bullets used by British forces using (a) SA80 and (b) M16 rifles have tumbling action. [47044]

Dr. Reid: The large majority of bullets used by British Forces in SA80 and M16 rifles are known as ball or tracer rounds. Armour-piercing rounds are also used. These bullets are categorised as spin-stabilised, non-deforming bullets. All spin-stabilised bullets will tumble to some degree when they hit a human target.

UFOs

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of RAF Brawdy, Pembrokeshire in the investigation of sightings of unidentified flying objects. [47318]

Mr. Spellar: Brawdy ceased to be an RAF station on 31 March 1996 when the establishment was transferred to the Army.

Generally, my Department examines reports of unidentified flying objects only to establish whether there is any evidence that the United Kingdom's Air Defence Region has been penetrated by hostile or unauthorised foreign military activity. Unless a report reveals evidence of a potential threat from an external military source, no attempt is made to determine the precise nature of what might have been seen.

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 13

Underwater Monitoring

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the hydrophonic cables connected with SOSUS Network that extend from the ex-US Navy facility at RAF Brawdy, Pembrokeshire are currently used for underwater monitoring. [47319]

Dr. Reid: The sound surveillance system (SOSUS) cables extending from former US Navy Facility at RAF Brawdy are no longer used for underwater monitoring. The facility has now been passed to the Defence Estate Organisation for disposal.

Air Traffic Control

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the effect on defence aviation of the sell-off of NATS. [47404]

Mr. Spellar: The Government intend to sustain the principle of equal access to national airspace for all classes of user, and to maintain a joint and integrated civil-military system of air traffic control. We will, therefore, ensure that future arrangements for NATS can continue to accommodate the existing close working relationship with the Ministry of Defence, although there would of course be some structural changes.

Training Aircraft

Mr. Maples: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons he chose the Grob 115D aircraft in preference to the Slingsby Firefly as the aircraft to be used by University Air Squadron and Air Cadet Experience. [47321]

Dr. Reid [holding answer 24 June 1998]: As I said in my announcement on 18 June 1998, Official Report, columns 265-66, the Grob 115D was selected in preference to the Firefly because it offered best value for money. The Grob is better suited to the particular requirements of the University Air Squadrons and Air Cadet Air Experience Flights and is both quieter and cheaper to operate than the Firefly. Furthermore, the Grob was the preferred choice of the Royal Air Force for this task.

Territorial Army (Shropshire)

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the 5 Shropshire and Herefordshire Light Infantry and the Royal Mercian & Lancastrian Yeomanry Territorial Army battalions. [47681]

Dr. Reid: The future role of all arms and services within the Territorial Army will be decided as part of the Strategic Defence Review. An announcement will be made as soon as possible, but it may be some time before we can say how individual units will be affected by the outcome of the Review.

Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take further steps to ensure that the projected multi-role armoured reconnaissance vehicle is delivered to the British Army on time. [47806]

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 14

Mr. Spellar: We will continue to work with our French and German partners to make sure that the contract for development and initial production of the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle, which is currently under negotiation with the preferred bidder, includes the conditions necessary to ensure that deliveries are made to meet the requirements of the British Army.

Nuclear Accidents

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many exercises to test procedures for dealing with accidents involving nuclear weapons are to be held by his Department during 1999; when and where these exercises will be held; and what are the titles of these planned exercises; [46800]

Dr. Reid: The following Grade A, B and C nuclear weapon accident exercises are planned to be held in the United Kingdom in 1999:

Nuclear weapon accident exercises--1999

DateExerciseLocation
June 1999Exercise Dimming Sun(5) Norfolk
To be decided Exercise BowlingCoulport
To be decidedRAF weapon convoy StandardisationTo be decided
To be decided RAF Station NARO team Standardisation(6)To be decided

(5) Exercise Dimming Sun will be a joint UK/US nuclear weapon accident response exercise, the planning for which is being led by my Department. The exercise will test the response to an accident as described in the Local Authority and Emergency Service Information on Nuclear Weapon Transport Contingency plans

(6) RAF Station NARO teams provide immediate response forces for the air transportation of nuclear weapons

Note:

Details of minor exercises, organised at either UK or US unit level is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost


Nuclear Weapons (Transport)

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when his Department plans to publish the third edition of the Local Authority and Emergency Service Information on Nuclear Weapon Transport Contingency Plans. [46814]

Dr. Reid: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 26 January 1998, Official Report, column 33.


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