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Chemical Weapons

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will set out the quantities of (a) precursors for chemical weapons and (b) chemical weapon agents held at Porton Down research establishment, used for prophylactic research; on what dates the United Kingdom disposed of its chemical weapons; and what amount was disposed of on each occasion, in the last 10 years. [130852]

Dr. Moonie: The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) permits the retention of toxic chemicals and their precursors, where they are intended for purposes not prohibited under the Convention. Such permitted purposes include research, medical, pharmaceutical and protective purposes. Toxic chemicals and precursors are classified according to three Schedules, primarily on the basis of their usability as chemical weapons, the risk they pose to the Convention, and their commercial utility.

The UK, as a State Party to the CWC, is permitted to hold up to an aggregate of 1 tonne of Schedule 1 chemicals. The Chemical and Biological Defence Sector of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency at Porton Down is licensed by the CWC National Authority to hold Schedule 1 chemicals for permitted purposes and is required to make an annual declaration of holdings and usage.

The declaration is not made public for reasons of national security and so I am withholding information about specific quantities under Exemption 1 of the Code Of Practice on Access to Government Information. However, total holdings are substantially less than the permitted maximum of 1 tonne.

In addition to Schedule 1 chemicals, Porton Down holds smaller quantities of Schedule 2 and 3 chemicals.

The UK abandoned its offensive chemical weapons capability in the 1950s. The bulk of residual stocks of munitions and agents were disposed of at that time. Approximately 4,500kg of bulk chemical agent dating from before 1946 was destroyed between 1993 and entry into force of the CWC in 1997. In addition, from time to time, munitions suspected of containing chemical agent dating from before 1946 are found in the UK, for example, during land remediation, and brought to Porton Down. Disposal takes place throughout the year as operational constraints permit. Over the last 10 years, 3,418 items of this type have been disposed of.


Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if Sir William Wratten and Sir John Day knew the extent of his Department's legal claim against the FADEC manufacturer, Textron Lycoming, at the time of their investigation into the fatal crash of RAF Chinook ZD576; [131259]

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Mr. Spellar [holding answer 18 July 2000]: In the short time available it has not been possible to establish whether, at the time of their investigation into the crash of RAF Chinook ZD576, Sir William Wratten and Sir John Day knew the extent of the Department's claim against Textron Lycoming. This litigation sought redress for faulty test procedures that caused a Chinook helicopter undergoing tests on the ground at Wilmington, USA to be severely damaged. We know that in their report to the RAF Board of Inquiry, the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) states:

The report goes on to say that:

Thus, as the evidence available indicated that the engines were working normally up to the point of impact, it was reasonable to conclude that FADEC could not have been a factor in the accident. The action taken by MOD arising out of faulty test procedures in the early days of the system's development programme had no relevance to the accident under investigation. It is therefore irrelevant whether Sir William and Sir John were aware of the litigation against Textron Lycoming. Similarly it is irrelevant whether the engineering member of the RAF Board of Inquiry into the Chinook ZD576 accident advised the other members of the Board about the test at Wilmington.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if Textron Lycoming was required to demonstrate it had validated the design of FADEC software for the Chinook Mk2 prior to its release into operational service; and if he will make a statement; [132454]

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

RAF Carlisle

Mr. Martlew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department received for the sale of the RAF Carlisle site; what the estimated value of the site was at the time the decision was taken to close the base; and what the cost to his Department was of the clean-up of the site. [131407]

Dr. Moonie: The core sites at RAF Carlisle were sold to Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council in March 1999. The outlying sites, with the exception of site

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four which remains on the market, were sold to Alard Properties in March 2000. The prices paid by the purchasers remain commercially confidential and I am therefore withholding the information under exemption 7 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. Archive research is needed to address the other points raised and I will write to my hon. Friend when this exercise has been completed. A copy of this letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Departmental Computer System

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he takes to ensure the security of information held on, or transmitted via, his Department's computer system. [132145]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 24 July 2000]: The Defence Manual of Security mandates the baseline security requirements, which must be met before Communications and Information Systems are allowed to handle official information. Before any IT system is allowed to operate it must obtain a security approval known as accreditation from the security authorities. Electronic protective measures that are employed include the use of firewalls to protect systems, the identification and authentication of users and audit of user activities. All Ministry of Defence staff are required to read and agree to comply with the Security Operating System for the system that they will use.

The Ministry of Defence is continuously reviewing and seeking ways to improve, both the procedural and electronic security of its systems.

Service Personnel Children

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many military personnel by rank are currently working for the (a) British Army Education Service and (b) Army Training Service in the education of service personnel children. [131633]

Mr. Spellar: There are no military personnel employed to educate children of Service personnel attending Service children's school overseas. There are, however, two Warrant Officers Class 1 employed in Headquarters Service Children's Education in support functions.

Welbeck College, the Army's sixth form college, employs one Captain to teach core skills and one Warrant Officer Class 1 to teach physical education.

Service Pensions

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the total cost to public funds of service pensions (a) nationally and (b) by region for the most recent financial year, indicating the number of ex-service personnel to which these are paid. [131593]

Mr. Spellar: The total expenditure on Service pensions for financial year 1999-2000 was £2.205 billion and is paid to around 335,000 pensioners. Analysis of this expenditure by region is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Gulf War Syndrome

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will give a breakdown of the cost of potential claims

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resulting from Gulf War related illnesses for (a) the UK and (b) Scotland, indicating for each the estimated numbers of claimants. [131596]

Mr. Spellar: As at 4 July 2000 the Ministry of Defence had received 1,841 notices of intention to claim from veterans and members of their families in respect of illness allegedly arising from the Gulf conflict, although no writs or properly formulated claims have so far been received. It will not be possible to estimate the overall cost of these claims until such time as specific allegations of negligence have been submitted together with an indication of an individual's symptoms, degree of disability and personal circumstances, which would determine the level of any award.

The Ministry of Defence does not record the number of intentions to claim by region.

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people claiming to be suffering from Gulf War related illnesses there are in Scotland; and how many of these are in receipt of (a) pensions and (b) benefits as a result of these illnesses. [131637]

Mr. Spellar: The information required is either not available at all or is not held in the required form. I will write to the hon. Member setting out such information as is available and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

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