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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 30 March 1999

DEFENCE

Strategic Defence Review (Joint Initiatives)

Ms Beverley Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress he has made on implementation of the Strategic Defence Review joint initiatives. [79609]

Mr. George Robertson: The Joint Rapid Reaction Forces (JRRF) concept builds on the Joint Rapid Deployment Force to provide a pool of highly capable force elements, maintained at high and very high readiness and trained to undertake short notice force projection operations of all kinds. We plan to have this larger, much improved and more balanced capability in place by October 2001. The forces that are needed to meet the JRRF requirement have already been identified and an initial operational capability will be achieved on 1 April 1999.

The Joint Force Headquarters, which is co-located at Northwood with the Permanent Joint Headquarters in peacetime, will be expanded to enable it to command two simultaneous operations. It will be provided with a dedicated signals squadron drawn from 30 Signal Regiment based at Bramcote in Warwickshire.

The authority of the Chief of Joint Operations, based at Northwood, will be increased and he will assume greater responsibility for Joint training, standards and exercises. To assist him in this task, a new 2* post, that of Chief of Joint Force Operational Readiness and Training (CJFORT) will be created from 1 April 1999.

To meet the need for increased deplorability and flexibility in ground-based air defence, a Joint Rapier Training Unit will be formed at RAF Honington on 1 April 1999.

Recognising that the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons programmes presents a continuing threat to our deployable forces, a Joint NBC Regiment will be established from 1 April 1999, initially at RAF Honington for at least four years. The Regiment will consist of Army personnel mainly from 1st Royal Tank Regiment and RAF personnel from the RAF Regiment. It will also include elements of the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

A Defence NBC HQ will be established at Winterbourne Gunner on 1 April 1999. It will control both the Joint NBC Regiment and the Defence NBC Centre, command responsibilities for which will transfer from the Army Training and Recruiting Agency to RAF Strike Command on 1 April 1999.

A Joint Doctrine and concepts Centre will be formed, located at Shrivenham. An Implementation Team will form at the beginning of April in London and will establish an Initial Capability at Shrivenham from September this year. It is planned to achieve a full capability from April 2000.

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Reserve Forces

Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to continue to call out reservists to support military operations. [79665]

Mr. Doug Henderson: A new call-out order will be made under Section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996. This will allow members of the reserve forces to continue to be called out to support operations in Yugoslavia and in the region of Iraq. The order will cease to have effect on 31 March 2000.

Chemical Defence Programme

Ms Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the United Kingdom's chemical defence programme. [79669]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The UK's defence programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the Convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In accordance with the Government's commitment to openness, a copy of the summary which has been provided to the Organisation outlining the UK's chemical defence programme for 1998 has been placed in the Library of the House.

Armed Forces (Uniforms)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the countries whose textile companies have been awarded contracts from his Department for armed forces uniforms for the last five years. [77469]

Mr. Doug Henderson [holding answer 18 March 1999]: Textile companies from the following countries have been awarded contracts by my Department for Armed Forces uniforms over the past three years:







Details are available for the last three years only as before this time information on clothing and textiles procurement was not recorded centrally.

Training Costs

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the average cost of training a new recruit in each of the armed services. [78782]

Mr. Doug Henderson: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my reply will be placed in the Library of the House.

Military Transmissions (Interference)

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of potential interference to military transmissions from the

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development of technology to deliver high-speed internet connections via powerlines; and if he will make a statement. [78868]

Mr. Spellar: The Ministry of Defence and the Radiocommunications Agency have investigated the potential for such technology to interfere with military communications. The indications are that it has the potential to interfere with military and other users of the radio spectrum. I understand that the Radiocommunications Agency is consulting affected parties and is preparing to place limits on levels of emitted radio interference to safeguard military and other transmissions.

Iraq

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost to date of the bombs dropped on Iraq by British forces in Operation Desert Fox and subsequent military actions over Iraq. [78972]

Mr. George Robertson: The costs to date of bombs dropped on Iraq by British forces in Operation Desert Fox and subsequent military actions over Iraq is approximately £4 million.

Mesothelioma

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel have (a) been diagnosed as suffering from and (b) died from mesothelioma in the last five years. [77638]

Mr. Doug Henderson [holding answer 29 March 1999]: There have been no recorded incidents of Service personnel suffering or dying from mesothelioma in the last five years.

Plutonium Processing

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what capital spending is planned on plutonium processing (a) by his Department and (b) by Hunting Brae in Aldermaston; and if he will make a statement; [79512]

Mr. Spellar: I will write to my hon. Friend and place copies of my letters in the House of Commons Library.

RAF Wittering (Air Crash)

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to publish the report on safety procedures in respect of the crash of an RAF harrier at RAF Wittering on 31 October 1997. [79509]

Mr. Spellar: The RAF Board of Inquiry process into the accident involving a RAF Harrier GR7 on 31 October 1997 is nearing completion and a summary of its findings will be published in the next few months.

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Chinook Helicopter

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if the Air Accident Investigation Branch was able to extract a complete full authority digital engine control fault history from the digital electronic control unit that was destroyed on impact following the crash of RAF Chinook ZD576 in June 1994; [78422]

Mr. Spellar: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Departmental Food (Sourcing)

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of pigmeat consumed by his Department's personnel is sourced from outside the United Kingdom. [79337]

Mr. Spellar: The procurement of food for the Armed Forces is contracted to Booker Foodservice who import some 50 per cent. of the bacon and gammon required by the Armed Forces. The balance of the requirement for bacon and gammon and 100 per cent. of the pork requirement is presently sourced in the UK.


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