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Human Rights Act 1998

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps are being taken to ensure that the current terms of service of young people in the armed forces are compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. [100122]

Mr. Spellar: In line with other public authorities, my Department is taking steps to ensure that all personnel policies will be compatible with the main provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 when they fully come into force on 2 October 2000.

Smart Procurement Initiative

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of the Smart Procurement Initiative. [101194]

Mr. Hoon: This initiative, which is at the heart of our efforts to reform the way we procure and support defence equipment, is currently being implemented. The programme to roll out Integrated Project Teams (IPTs) with full industry participation is on course; all the teams will be fully operational by April 2000. The design and implementation of new arrangements to ensure effective relationships between IPTs, their new Equipment Capability Customer in MOD Headquarters and the Front Line Commands is also making excellent progress. We remain on track to achieve savings of £2 billion to which we are committed.

Departmental Research Contracts

Dr. Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many research contracts have been let by his Department since May 1997; what is the value of each contract; and in each case whether the contract included (a) a departmental veto over publication of the research

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results, (b) departmental control over the date of publication of the research results and (c) a requirement that the final research results incorporate departmental amendments. [100146]

Mr. Kilfoyle [holding answer 6 December 1999]: The Ministry of Defence conducts research on a wide range of matters. Details are not all recorded centrally, but information available indicates that since May 1997 the Ministry of Defence has placed over 740 research contracts at a total value of over £250 million, excluding those let by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). DERA has, in addition, placed some £300 million worth of extramural contracts on behalf of the Department. The total number of DERA contracts placed is not readily available. I am withholding the value of individual research contracts under exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, as this information is commercially sensitive.

The Department generally retains control over the publication of research results, and the date of publication, except where ownership of results of work has been vested in contractors. There is no prohibition on publication except where justified under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. MOD and DERA would not seek to change the results of research.

Departmental Staff Targets

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will publish the seventh annual edition of the compendium of current staff targets and staff requirements. [101398]

Mr. Kilfoyle [holding answer 6 December 1999]: The MOD is working towards publication, and aims to issue an updated Compendium early in the new year. Since publication of the last Compendium in September 1998, the Department has undergone major organisational change in the implementation of the Strategic Defence Review. We wish to ensure that the Compendium will represent an accurate view to industry of future equipment needs throughout the MOD.


Dr. Vis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reports he has received regarding the demolition of Iraqi munitions at the Khamisiyah depot in March 1991 and its possible effect on British troops; and if he will make a statement. [102057]

Mr. Spellar: The Government's 1997 'New Beginnings' policy statement set out the way forward for addressing the health concerns of Gulf veterans and included a statement of the MOD's commitment to review specific events in response to Gulf veterans' concerns that they were exposed to chemical weapons during the Gulf Conflict. The work reviewing the incident at Khamisiyah in March 1991 has now been completed and I am today publishing a detailed paper entitled "Review of the events concerning 32 Field Hospital and the Release of Nerve Agent Arising from US Demolition of Iraqi Munitions at the Khamisiyah Depot in March 1991". In conjunction with this I am also publishing a detailed paper to provide the background of how chemical warfare defence was organised in the UK during the Gulf conflict entitled

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"British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict 1990-91)". Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

As a result of our review of the information on the Khamisiyah incident, we do not believe there is evidence that any UK troops were definitely exposed to Iraqi chemical agents on 10 or 11 March 1991. Although some British troops were located within the computer modelled composite plume footprint, such theoretical exposure would have been at a very low level. We judge that if such an exposure took place it would present no risk to health.


Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions the United Kingdom exercised a national veto on proposed actions during NATO operations connected with Kosovo in 1999. [101336]

Mr. Hoon: The reply I gave to a similar question from the hon. Member on 30 November 1999, Official Report, column 85W, explained that NATO decisions are taken by consensus and outlined the procedure for consultation by national commanders in support of Alliance decision-making. Releasing details of the applications of these processes in specific operations would be harmful to defence, security and international relations. I am therefore withholding the information requested in accordance with exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on access to Government Information.

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what articles of international law and international humanitarian law were used as the criteria for the United Kingdom's decisions establishing the legality of the choice of targets during the Kosovo conflict. [101335]

Mr. Hoon: The United Kingdom complied with the requirements of international law in its conduct of air operations in the Kosovo conflict, including its obligations under Articles 48 to 58 of the First Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949.

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the amounts and types of ordnance used (a) during the Kosovo conflict in 1999 and (b) over Iraq in 1999. [101337]

Mr. Hoon: During the period in question, the Royal Air Force used the following munitions in support of operations Allied Force and Bolton:

I am withholding the information requested in respect of the Royal Navy's use of munitions during operation Allied Force under exemption 1 of the code of Practice on access to Government Information (National Security or Defence).

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Nuclear Weapons

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what controls his Department exercises over the storage of nuclear weapons on private land. [101461]

Mr. Hoon: The Ministry of Defence does not store nuclear weapons on private land.

Uranium-based Munitions

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the environmental effects of the use of uranium-based munitions by NATO forces in Kosovo. [101200]

Mr. Spellar: The Government have not commissioned any assessment of the environmental effects of using such munitions in Kosovo but the Joint UN Environment Programme/UN Commission on Human Settlements issued its report "The Kosovo Conflict: Consequences for the Environment" on 5 October 1999. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library of the House. We are aware, however, of the concerns that have been expressed about the use of uranium-based munitions and have commissioned advice from officials within the Department on what further work we might do to improve our knowledge of how depleted uranium in ammunition behaves in the natural environment.


Mobile Phone Reception (Scotland)

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list those areas of the west coast of Scotland not covered for mobile phone reception. [99616]

Ms Hewitt: The information requested is not collected.

The cellular mobile operators have each met requirements to roll out services to an area in which at least 90 per cent. of the UK population lives. Aside from this requirement, the individual operators were free to make a commercial decision about their roll-out plans.

Vodafone and BT Cellnet are jointly currently constructing a mobile infrastructure within the Highlands and Islands, working alongside the local enterprise council.

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