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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 2 November 2000


Royal Navy Ships

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Navy ships have been ordered since May 1997; and on what dates. [134927]

Mr. Hoon: On 19 June 2000, the Minister for Defence Procurement announced the placing of an order with Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd. for two new Multi-Role Hydrographic and Oceanographic Survey Vessels together with 25 years contractor support. The ships, to be named HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise, will be built under sub-contract at Appledore Shipbuilders in Devon, and are due to enter service in 2002 and 2003.

During the debate on Defence Procurement on 26 October, I announced that we intended to order four alternative landing ship logistic (ALSLs), subject to negotiation of satisfactory terms and conditions.

I also announced that, subject to final negotiations, we intend to sign a 25-year private finance initiative contract with AWSR Shipping Ltd. to provide for the strategic sealift capability. This will involve the construction of six new roll on roll off (RORO) vessels; two at Harland and Wolff in Northern Ireland and four in a German shipyard.

It is also intended that, subject to satisfactory arrangements being agreed, the order for the first new type 45 Destroyers will be placed later this year. It is planned that the first and third ships will be assembled by BAE Systems Marine and the second by Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd.

TRACER Programme

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the future of the TRACER programme as a bilateral programme with the United States of America. [135834]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 31 October 2000]: Bilateral collaboration is continuing on the UK's Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement (TRACER) and the US Future Scout and Cavalry System (FSCS).

The current phase of the programme is of 42 months duration and finishes in July 2002. The programme is proceeding to schedule and both Governments are pleased with progress to date.

In parallel, the UK is conducting studies to examine the use of unmanned air vehicles to complement ground-based reconnaissance. The outcome of these studies will be used to inform the UK decision on the optimum mix of platforms, technology and sensors and the role that TRACER will play in the Army's future battlefield information gathering.

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Neither nation is committed beyond the current phase. At the end of this phase there will be a comprehensive review, and the decision on how to proceed will take account of all relevant factors.

Military Graves

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the non-war graves where maintenance to an appropriate standard is impossible for (a) climatic and (b) political reasons. [134307]

Dr. Moonie: The standard of maintenance of those service graves designated non-world war graves varies according to the prevailing weather and local climatic conditions in the countries in which the graves are located. I am able to confirm however, that in general there are no non-world war graves that are impossible to maintain to the appropriate standard for climatic reasons, though they may not appear the same as those located in a typical war grave cemetery in, for example, north-west Europe. Local conditions are taken into account when selecting the material used for headstones or markers and the design of the cemetery.

The changing worldwide political situation does mean that at times cemeteries containing war graves and non- world war graves are difficult or impossible to maintain. Currently, activity is restricted or impossible in Algeria, Ambon (Indonesia), Iraq and Mogadishu (Somalia). It can be difficult to maintain cemeteries in Northern Cyprus, parts of the Middle East, particularly Libya and China, and even Northern Ireland for political and security reasons. Restoration work on non-world war graves maintained on our behalf by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Trincomalee (Sri Lanka) is resuming.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the responsibilities of the Army Casualty Cell. [134305]

Dr. Moonie: The Army Casualty Cell is responsible for the following:

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Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence from 1 October what will be the annual budget of the Army Casualty Cell at Upavon in respect of non-war graves in (a) the UK and (b) overseas. [134304]

Dr. Moonie: The Army Casualty Cell assumed responsibility for overseas non-war graves from 1 October 2000, but will not take over the financial responsibility until April 2001. £180,000 has been allocated for this task. The maintenance of non-war graves in the UK is the responsibility of Land Command and is funded as part of their overall budget for property management. It follows that the Army Casualty Cell has no annual budget for this purpose.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are the current annual budgets for (a) the Royal Navy and (b) the Royal Air Force in respect of their non-war graves in the UK. [134306]

Dr. Moonie: Both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force meet the costs of funerals, burial plots, headstones, marker stones and related costs for personnel who die while in service. In financial year 2000-01 the Royal Air Force allocation is £70,000. The Royal Navy allocation is not separately identified. The costs of subsequently maintaining non-war graves are met from local works service budgets and are not separately identified by either service.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in each of the past five years what has been the annual contribution from British Government sources to the South African Heritage Committee in respect of Boer War graves. [134297]

Dr. Moonie: Ordinarily, the British Government make an annual donation of £10,000 to the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) towards the maintenance of Boer War graves. In 1999, however, it was decided that an additional donation of £5,000 should be paid for three years, ending in 2001. This temporary increase in the contribution was established in order to support the SAHRA's initiative to employ a single contractor to maintain all British graves throughout South Africa.


Fuel Tankers

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the specification is of fuel tankers used by (a) the Army and (b) the other armed services; how this differs from the specification of commercial fuel tankers in use in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [136061]

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Mr. Spellar: The armed forces currently use three sizes of bulk fuel tanker (12,000 litre, 22,500 litre and 32,000 litre). The 32,000 litre fuel tanker is commercially based and has a similar specification to modern commercial fuel tankers. It employs commercial standard safety systems, is fully compliant with "Accord European relatif au transport des Marchandises Dangerous par Route (ADR) Directive" requirements and approved for use under the petroleum industry's Safe Loading Pass Scheme (SLPS). The 22,500 litre and 12,000 litre fuel tankers are older; they are not fully compliant with ADR regulations as they were constructed to specifications reflecting Carriage of Dangerous Goods (CDG) regulations in force at the time of manufacture.

In general terms, the specification of military tankers is enhanced to optimise them for military use. Military tankers differ from commercial tankers in the numbers of filling and discharge points; they are fitted with an integral pump to permit cross-loading and kerbside refuellng of convoys and tend to be tougher in construction.

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel are qualified to drive commercial fuel tankers of the type in use in the UK; how many were qualified to do so on 1 January; how many are undergoing training which would enable them to drive such commercial fuel tankers; and if he will make a statement. [136060]

Mr. Spellar: Some 300 service personnel are qualified to drive commercial fuel tankers--the figure is the same for 1 January--of which 180 could be made available for this purpose. Around 900 additional drivers are currently being trained to drive commercial tankers.

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