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Non-departmental Public Bodies (Scotland)

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the non-departmental public bodies responsible to him which have duties relating to Scotland, indicating their budget and staffing in Scotland, the number of Scottish board members and their emoluments. [137697]

Dr. Moonie: None of the non-departmental public bodies sponsored by the Ministry of Defence have duties which relate specifically to Scotland, but the following have a remit which covers the United Kingdom:

The remaining information is not held centrally in the form requested. General information on expenditure, staffing, board members and levels of remuneration is published annual in the Cabinet Office publication "Public Bodies". Copies of "Public Bodies 1999" are available in the Libraries of the House and "Public Bodies 2000" is due to be published next month. Information on all Government non-departmental public bodies is also available at the Cabinet Office Public Appointments Directory website; information on Ministry of Defence bodies is available at the MOD website

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Zero-point Energy

Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research is being funded by his Department into zero-point energy. [138298]

Dr. Moonie: None.

Mustard Gas (Pigs)

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what new research his Department is undertaking in Porton Down on the effects of mustard gas on pigs; and how many pigs were involved in the testing of mustard gas in Government centres in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999 and (d) 2000. [138299]

Dr. Moonie: The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency has been undertaking research on behalf of the Ministry of Defence on the effects of mustard gas on pigs at its Chemical and Biological Defence laboratories at Porton Down as part of its studies into improved methods for the treatment of wounds on the battlefield.

Previous research studies to evaluate the technique of dermabrasion as a treatment for established mustard burns were completed at the end of September 1998. The results of this work have been published in the open technical literature. The current research programme is solely concerned with the evaluation of novel protective creams that have the potential to significantly reduce the severity of mustard burns to the skin following exposure.

The number of pigs that have been used in both phases of these studies for the years in question is as follows: two animals in 1997, six animals per year for 1998 and 1999, and a total of 10 animals in 2000 to the current date.

UK Military Equipment Sales

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the occasions on which defence personnel have attended, as part of their duties, promotional events for UK military equipment sales in (a) 1998-99 and (b) 1999-2000; and what the estimated costs were of such attendance in each year since 1996. [138310]

Dr. Moonie: Within the Ministry of Defence the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) is responsible for co-ordinating Government support to industry in promoting sales of UK military equipment, with other parts of MOD assisting as required.

Promotional events in the United Kingdom and overseas attended by defence personnel range from major defence equipment exhibitions and Defence Industry Days (DIDs) to demonstrations of individual items of equipment for potential customers. DIDs are held onboard HM ships when in foreign ports as part of the Fleet visit programme.

There is no central record of visits to such events or the associated attendance costs and it is therefore not possible to provide the information requested.

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Major exhibitions and DIDs at which DESO has been represented in support of the UK defence industry between 1998-2000 include:

Asian Aerospace, Singapore
TRIDEX, Abu Dhabi
FIDAE, Chile
DSA, Malaysia
Aerospace Africa, South Africa
Eurosatory, France
Farnborough International Air Show, UK
Defendory, Greece
MADEX, South Korea
Euronaval, France
Seoul Air Show, South Korea
DEXSA, South Africa
Aero India, India
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Valparaiso, Chile
Gdynia, Poland
Baltimore, USA
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
La Guaira, Venezuela
Australia Air Show, Australia
IDEX, Abu Dhabi
LAD, Brazil
IDET, Czech Republic
IMDEX Asia, Singapore
Paris Air Show, France
Aerospace North America, Canada
IDEF, Turkey
Dubai Air Show, Dubai
LIMA, Malaysia
Durban, South Africa
Norfolk, USA
Manila, Philippines
Sydney, Australia
Vera Cruz, Mexico
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Athens, Greece
Pacific 2000, Australia
Asian Aerospace, Singapore
TRIDEX, Abu Dhabi
FIDAE, Chile
DSA, Malaysia
SOFEX, Jordan
Eurosatory, France
Farnborough International Air Show, UK
Africa Aerospace and Defence, South Africa
Defence Asia, Philippines
Defendory, Greece
Euronaval, France
Alexandria, Egypt
Mumbai, India
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Sydney, Australia
Pusan, South Korea
Tokyo, Japan
Istanbul, Turkey

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Royal Fleet Auxiliary

Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what industrial action has been taken by Royal Fleet Auxiliary crews in the past six months; which ships were involved; and if he will make a statement. [138431]

Dr. Moonie: Industrial action involving Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary commenced in February this year following their rejection of the 1999 pay offer. The action was initially restricted to two days every fortnight; it then became weekly and, from 28 June, continuous. The RMT suspended the industrial action from mid August until the beginning of October to enable talks to take place at the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

The industrial action involved the refusal by RMT members to undertake certain tasks, such as cleaning officers' cabins, while ships were in port. The most significant measure was the refusal by deck and engineering personnel to carry out unmooring activity thereby preventing the ship from sailing.

Prior to the action becoming continuous on 28 June, no record of the ships affected was kept, principally because it was possible to adjust ships programmes to minimise the impact. Following that date, three ships were affected: RFAs Sir Geraint, Sir Bedivere and Fort Austin were prevented from leaving port for a period of between four to six weeks during the summer.

All operational commitments have continued to be met throughout the period of the industrial action.

While the industrial dispute arose following the rejection of the 1999 pay offer, the focus changed to a demand by the RMT for additional earned voyage leave (EVL). As part of the 2000 pay round, ratings were granted an additional eight days leave per year. Unfortunately, this was not considered by the RMT to be sufficient to resolve the dispute. However, I am pleased to be able to report that, following agreement in principle to the terms of reference of a working group to set in place a timetable for further improvements to leave, the RMT has now suspended the industrial action. I am also advised that the RMT has written to its members recommending that the industrial action is called off.

Meteorological Office

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he made of the strengths and weaknesses of the bid from Norwich research park for relocation of the Meteorological Office; [138555]

Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to my hon. Friend.

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Letter from Peter Ewins to Dr. Ian Gibson, dated 16 November 2000:

I am replying to your three questions to the Secretary of State for Defence about the relocation of the Met Office. This matter falls within my area of responsibility as Chief Executive of the Met Office.
As you know, the Under Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Lewis Moonie announced in the House on 9 November that the Met Office has chosen Exeter Business Park as its preferred site for relocation. Exeter was chosen from a shortlist of four sites that also included Beaufort Park in Bracknell, Shinfield Park in Reading and Norwich Research Park. These four sites were those that the Met Office believed could best meet its needs, following a thorough search and careful evaluation of potential sites throughout the United Kingdom.
For Norwich to reach our short list of sites it had performed very favourably against our evaluation criteria. However, only one of the four short-listed sites could be chosen as our preferred site and when evaluating the business benefits and risks, including staff preference, financial appraisals, availability of land with planning consent, local access and other factors, Exeter was the clear choice. It was not an easy decision, but we are certain that Exeter is the best location from which to build a secure and successful future.
In relative terms, the Norwich Research Park site had a number of strengths, notably the opportunities it offered for lower operating costs and improved living standards for our staff compared with the other sites in the Southeast. There would, in addition, have been good opportunities for collaboration with the University of East Anglia (UEA), which would also have been a valuable source of high quality graduate staff. Moreover, there was strong local political support and also from key organisations in the area, including Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council, the Regional Development Agency and the University.
The site also had some weaknesses in comparison to our preferred site. For example, there were serious doubts, raised at a late stage in the evaluation process, as to whether the site was actually available. We also had some concerns that the site was somewhat isolated on the fringe of the City and would not offer the profile we were seeking as a world-leading science based organisation. Moreover, our staff demonstrated a preference for Exeter. We have offered to give Norwich City Council's Chief Executive and her team a detailed de-brief in order that lessons may be learnt for similar initiatives in the future.
We recognise the UAE's particular strength in the field of climate science and impact analysis and the importance of maintaining and strengthening the close working relationship we have with them. There are, of course, many other organisations throughout the United Kingdom and around the World with whom we have close links on a range of subjects, and others with whom we will develop links as we pursue our strategy of diversification into wider environmental services. With modern communications we are firmly of the view that such relationships can be achieved very well indeed from Exeter.
As a trading fund agency, the choice of preferred site rested with me as Chief Executive and was made with the support of my Management Board, taking full account of the interests of the Met Office's customers--both in the public and private sectors--and our staff. This choice was made in the very best, long-term interests of the Met Office, following a thorough and rigorous evaluation process based on pre-determined criteria. I presented the choice of preferred site to both Dr Moonie and the Secretary of State for Defence who, having weighed all the issues, were content to endorse the decision.
The two consortia with whom the Met Office is negotiating over the provision and ongoing maintenance of the new accommodation will now work up detailed proposals for the Exeter site. Tenders are due to be submitted by the end of February 2001 and a contract is expected to be placed by June 2001.

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